Consumers seek out farm-fresh ingredients in the foods they eat, so it’s only natural that pet parents would want the same for their four-legged friends. Family-owned and proudly independent, CANIDAE pet food company believes in doing what’s right for pets, which now includes growing their own ingredients for their farm-fresh pet foods.
While growing your own ingredients has become common in the restaurant world, it’s a new notion for the pet industry. There are currently no other pet food brands that grow their own ingredients. This move brings transparency to consumers about the source of the ingredients in the food they feed their pets, and gives them comfort in knowing that CANIDAE uses sustainable farming practices.
Pet Foods Straight From the Farms
Since 1996, CANIDAE’s goal has been to create the best pet food possible—products that pet owners can trust—along with the promise that “what it says on the bag, is exactly what’s in the bag.” To provide quality ingredients, the company developed a network of trusted suppliers, retailers and independent farmers. They opened their own Ethos Pet Nutrition cooking facility and distribution center in Texas to have more control over the quality and safety of their products.
Owners Scott Whipple and John Gordon plan to live up to their company’s commitment in an even bigger way, by introducing their own farmed ingredients to the products they sell to consumers. With sustainable farming methods, the company can incorporate natural farming into the production process. “This is an opportunity for us to learn how to farm in a sustainable way,” says Rafi Kalachian, Vice President of Global Marketing.
Transparency in the dog food world is important, and as consumers become more aware of the health issues associated with low-quality dog food, they want to know more about what they feed their pets. “I’d like to have as much transparency around the quality of food I’m buying for my kids. I want to understand where it’s coming from, and who are the folks that are cooking the food. If they’re growing the food and also cooking it, that’s very appealing to me,” says Kalachian. “The how is as important to us as the what. How [we] grow our ingredients is as important as the quality of the ingredients we use.”
Farm-Fresh Pet Foods
CANIDAE Farms is up and running, and has generated 159,000 pounds of crops last year—but that success didn’t come without hurdles. Luckily, fate stepped in, and CANIDAE received help from a friendly farmer. Local farmer Clint Brauer was introduced to Whipple and Gordon to share his expertise in environmentally friendly farming.
Thanks to Brauer’s help, the company estimates that it will harvest nearly 1 million pounds of ingredients this year. While CANIDAE currently still relies on a trusted network of farmers and suppliers for its quality ingredients, the creation of their own farm is a more hands-on approach. “Our ultimate goal is to be actively involved in growing all of the ingredients we use. The way I see it is that we’ve taken the first step in a long journey,” says Kalachian.
“We’re trying to find solutions to big, big problems in farming. One of them is how you control weeds or pests. We’re far from solving these big problems, but we are proud of the steady progress we are making,” Kalachian remarks about the challenges of starting your own farm. “If you’re not having failures, you’re not stretching the envelope. If you’re not stretching the envelope, you’re not learning and getting better.”
In addition to growing crops for pet food, CANIDAE Farms is also focusing on utilizing “integrated farming,” which uses elements of nature to enrich and protect the soil, conserve water, protect against pests and control weeds. The company’s goal is to rely less on pesticides. According to a recent study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health), 65% of streams contain traces of one or more pesticides. Roughly 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year. Studies show that pesticides have been linked to health issues like Parkinson’s Disease, asthma, allergies, cancers and more.
To help address pests, CANIDAE is looking to other insects and plants. Natural predators like green lacewings are used to control aphids, and predatory mites have been used to combat mite pests. To protect tomatoes, rosemary is grown around the greenhouse perimeter as a natural pest repellant. Rosemary also soaks up excess moisture and fights weeds.
Where to Find These Ingredients
Crops currently being grown at CANIDAE Farms include yellow peas, milo, millet, parsley, rosemary, sage and greenhouse tomatoes. These ingredients can be found in the company’s budget-friendly Under the Sun Grain-Free lamb recipe adult dry dog food. Recipes include Under the Sun Grain-Free with whitefish, chicken dry dog food, and lamb formula canned dog food.
The company is testing additional crops for future recipes, including lentils, zucchini, butternut squash and pumpkin—all popular pet food ingredients straight from the farms.