All Bite, No Bark
“Necessity is the mother of invention” often applies to makers and entrepreneurs who stumble upon a small business idea after they have been busy solving a problem of their own. Kate McCarron’s own story is no exception. Her efforts to find a sufficiently nutritious food that her aging dog would find palatable led her to start researching both online and in books. She began to see that it was possible to make a quality cooked dog food that would be both sufficiently nutritious as well as tasty to her finicky canine. The nutritional requirements for dogs are different than for that of humans, however. When McCarron realized there was a market for what she was creating and decided to make it a business she, armed with a copy of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) handbook, contacted Portland’s Food Innovation Center. They worked with her on formulations and recipes, a lengthy process of testing and retesting. There are numerous markers for proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that need to be met before a dog food can officially be labeled “full and balanced.”
McCarron’s recipes are made with the highest-quality natural, human-grade meats, vegetables and grains – all sourced from local, sustainable farms – but the end result is still a few degrees short of what is required for full certification as a single-diet food by AAFCO. But she is happy with the “supplemental” and “rotational” meal designation, as her foods are well formulated for a dog’s nutritional needs. It also satisfies the needs of her customers, who tell her it is a welcomed addition to their elder dogs’ diet; good for dogs whose teeth can no longer chew hard kibble; the perfect food in which to disguise supplements and medications. Starting out originally at the Beaverton Farmers Market, she now also sells to local pet food retailers, grocery and specialty stores, as well as directly from her web site.
Recently she has added a line of dog treats into the mix – a “brew biscuit” made with local spent grains as well as a grain-free option – and has an eye toward the future to be able to provide a “shelf-stable” food that doesn’t require freezing/refrigeration. This would enable her to ship farther away – frozen food is heavy and expensive to ship – and McCarron has her eye toward expansion. Five percent of her profits are donated to various dog organizations, and during the holidays she makes sure a bag of dog treats gets tucked into Meals on Wheels food boxes. It’s all a part of the dedication that McCarron has to the quality and consciousness of her dog food. “You wouldn’t want to eat the same thing every day, why should your dog? Plus, we do the dishes.