As you all know, I’m always exploring and learning more about pet nutrition. It’s one of my favorite topics. I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I rotate the dogs’ food, and one of my regular brands to rotate in is the Honest Kitchen. After reading Made out of Love, their recipe book, I asked founder Lucy Postins if she would be available for a e-mail interview, and she very kindly agreed.
Above all, I was really fascinated that in a business dominated by a handful of large pet food companies, a person with an innovative idea was able to jump in and create a unique product. The concept of home cooking, once considered almost blasphemous, is steadily gaining ground these days, but if you go that route- the choices! The controversy! Raw versus cooked? Is it BALANCED? It can be very intimidating. For those who are interested but maybe not quite there yet, their product is one way to bridge that gap.
This post isn’t a product review, nor was I approached to do it or compensated for writing it. I wouldn’t say that CEOs of pet food companies are generally the most accessible of people (ever try e-mailing the head of Ralston-Purina?), so I wanted to take advantage of Lucy’s accessibility to learn more about her background, her philosophy, and what it’s like to run a pet food company. I find it all very fascinating. Regardless of your feelings on nutrition, I hope you find it interesting too!
What made you make the leap from kibble to home-prepared foods? Did you have a pet with a specific condition or was it just a change in the way you thought about food?
I had been working for another pet food manufacturer (who makes kibble and canned foods) for about 5 years and just became interested in the raw diet when I got my first puppy. I started off making his meals from scratch but found it to be very messy and time consuming. So I started thinking about how to create an alternative that would provide many of the same benefits as fresh food but without the mess, storage issues and inconvenience of having to defrost raw ingredients.
What is your background in animal nutrition? Did you find it difficult to access the data you needed to formulate balanced recipes?
I have a bachelor’s degree in equine business studies form the UK (horses and business management). I started off working in the equine department for another manufacturer and then migrated over to canine and feline products. I’ve now been in the industry for over 12 years! The product development process is rather involved, with consideration for both palatability and nutritional calculations with a pretty strong emphasis placed on laboratory testing as well.
Do you really have a person taste every batch of food? (That is not to be construed as me volunteering 😀 )
Yes! We taste everything we make, from the raw ingredients to the finished products. We eat the raw ingredients we are using as part of the R&D process to choose which products we’re going to utilize in new recipes, as well. I’ve eaten all our recipes.
What was the motivation to develop a dehydrated food? Was it based on a human product, or just experimenting to create a dog food in this form?
It was really just the desire to bridge the gap between the health attributes of a fresh diet and the convenience of a dry product. Cooking destroys so much of the natural nutrition but dehydration is a slow, gentle process that helps to preserve many of the natural nutrients in the raw ingredients.
It seems like owners are too scared of nutritional imbalances to even attempt feeding at home, even if they are interested in doing so. What advice would you give to an owner who is interested in home cooking, on a regular or intermittent basis?
Yes that’s right. I think many of the major manufacturers in our industry have brainwashed pet owners and vets, and made people think they somehow don’t have the skills to take charge of their pets’ nutrition. Many of us manage to feed our children and ourselves on an almost exclusively home-prepared diet. The key is dietary variety. We humans would never expect to achieve optimal health if we ate a diet of nothing but processed ‘balanced and complete’ breakfast cereal for every meal of every day of our lives.
When one single type of food is the sole source of nutrition, it’s true that nutritional balance becomes pretty key. But if we’re offering different foods throughout the week, the animal gets to benefit from a wider array of nutrients, amino acids and so on. Even if you start off just adding an egg to your pet’s food a couple of times a week, maybe some fresh meat or a little plain yogurt – your pet will benefit.
Ultimately, my goal is to get people to go ‘back to basics’ by feeding their animals a really varied diet with all sorts of different foods – or at the very least, feeding less processed food and rotating between different recipes to get a broader spectrum of nutrition. There’s no logical reason why our domesticated pets should eat a homogenous product day after day. We don’t do that ourselves and our pets’ wild counterparts don’t either.
What’s an average day like in the life of one of your pets?
We have a great routine! We spend the mornings together as a family, then the dogs and I drop of the children at school and head to some local hiking trails or to a local dog beach. We then come in to the office where they greet their canine co-workers and then we settle down to work. They sleep on their dogs beds next to my desk or on the sofa in my office.
They don’t get to lounge around all day though. There’s often some tasting to be done in our test-kitchen, or pictures to pose for if we have a journalist come by or special feature going on, on our Facebook page. They love to show off at any opportunity! We take a lunch time stroll around downtown where we work and then head home in the evening. We play in the yard or go for a walk in the evening after dinner and then read or watch TV for a short while, before bed.
Daisy the Curly Cat says
Awesome! I eat the Prowl dehydrated raw as part of my rotation diet. The warm, reconstituted food feels good in my belleh.
the 7msn ranch says
Fascinating! Thanks for opening my eyes to this idea.
We switched our dogs from a high quality kibble to The Honest Kitchen’s Force product in December 2009. First, our dog’s LOVE IT. Ty lays down in front of the cabinet where the food is kept when it gets to be feeding time. Buster creates a puddle of drool when while waiting the short time it takes to prepare the food. Second, the dehydrated product is great for the road trips we take in the RV. It packs well and, obviously, keeps well until the last box is used up. We’ve really been pleased in every way with the food – but I can’t say we’ve tasted it yet!
caren gittleman says
this was a very interesting post. Where do you get this food?
I currently feed my Sheltie “Nutrish” do you have any thoughts about this dog food? (it is the brand owned/created by Rachael Ray who is hugely into pet nutrition and 100% of her proceeds to go pet organizations) is “Nutrish” bad?
We give our Sheltie fruit as well (peaches, nectarines, apples, he LOVES FRUIT), occasionally I make him a hamburger or turkey burger and he also loves carrots and broccoli. Comments welcome!
Take a look at the first 5 ingredients. This handy tool should help you evaluate that brand: http://www.k9cuisine.com/RateYourDogFood.aspx
Nutrish has corn meal, corn gluten meal not a good sign. 🙁
We use Force in combination with another food for our 12 yr. golden’s megaesophagus condition. I’m glad that there is an easy, healthy product for us out there. Thanks, HK!
What perfect timing for this post, Dr. V! I had my Hank at the vet just this morning for passing blood and, for the third time in a year, the culprit is his bacterial flora being all out of whack. Yet again, my vet prescribed a Rx bland food and FortiFlora. Hank’s a 2 year old chihuahua-poodle mix, and he’s been eating Beneful his whole life, first the puppy variety and now playful life. I’m thinking of trying some of the Honest Kitchen products to see if he fares better on them. Thanks for the great info!!
Tabitha W says
OH how I would love to try this for my cats!! But they do not ship to Canada!!
I think this would be perfect for them, especially my Little Mini who has a picky digestive track.
Please send to canada!
I actually had a client whose 10 year old dachshund had been contending with IBD and lymphangectasia for some time. My boss kept prescribing I/D, and it would get better temporarily and then get worse again. I saw her a few months ago in a crisis where her albumin had dropped so low that she ended up with pulmonary edema.
The last time I called her to check up on her, she bashfully told me she had tried Force. Not only did the dog love it, but her stools firmed up, and all the clinical signs… went away.
I was surprised, thinking the garlic in the ingredient list would be too irritating for such a sensitive dog, but I encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing since it was working!
I still probably wouldn’t recommend that food for such a case, but I was trying to encourage the owner to do a home-made diet, and Honest Kitchen is certainly the next best thing.
I brought home some rotisserie chicken for lunch (for myself), and all the pets were enthralled. Between that and this post, it’s really got me thinking about some new food alternatives for the animales.
i love honest kitchen!! when i first got Astrea she was losing her hair from demodectic mange. I didn’t want to subject her to the dips or high dose ivermectin so we got her on Honest Kitchen and got her immune system up, her hair grew back and she hasn’t had an outbreak since!
Yes…definitely ship to Canada!!! I researched this as an alternative to my mini-doxie’s raw diet for a 12 day road trip…unfortunately, it can’t be found in Canada! Great idea & now I might be adding yogurt, etc into his existing air dried raw diet. Thanks for the post 🙂
As with Tabitha, I wish they shipped to Canada! I would love to find a good quality dehydrated diet, because right now with the raw diet I feed Percy, it’s sometimes tough to get enough time to prepare everything. (plus it would be a good way to intro raw to my other two cats who are fussier eaters.)