Pet Age recently spoke with Kate McCarron, founder of Portland Pet Food Company, a family-owned and operated pet brand located in the Pacific Northwest.
Why is it important to you that your food and treats are sourced and made in the U.S.A.?
To begin with, we know that sourcing and making our products in the U.S.A. creates a higher quality product that is better for pets. Beyond just sourcing domestically, we believe in sourcing locally as it supports our local economy, while also creating a more sustainable supply chain. We also believe in providing full transparency of our ingredient sourcing and vendors to our consumers as they are the ones who are ultimately making purchasing decisions that are important for their pets. Finally, while there are many human-grade brands on the market, we are proud to source meats that are USDA approved and edible for human consumption — not just USDA approved and then deemed unfit for human consumption — to ensure we are creating the highest quality product for our consumers’ pets. Most vitamins and additives are sourced internationally, and standards for quality control can be difficult to monitor. Working with local USA suppliers that we can visit and trust is the core to our business; it allows us to ensure the quality in the goods we are producing while also creating a more sustainably value-chain that works to support the local economy.
How do your shelf-stable packages benefit pet retailers?
The shelf stable pouches offer retailers the ability to provide customers with a fresh cooked meal that is convenient and easy to use. Our pouches do not require refrigeration or freezer space and thus do not take up valuable retail space in the stores. In addition, the pouches provide an easy solution to pet owners that are looking for a palatable nutritional solution as a rotational meal or mixer. The pouches are versatile and can be used by pet owners who are feeding raw but looking for a shelf stable all-natural meal solution for traveling, for those that add mixers to kibble to make the meal palatable for the pickiest eaters or for customers wanting a fresh nutrient dense meal for their pets while participating in outdoor activities. In addition, our pouch meals provide an easy solution for the customer seeking a highly palatable option to hide medications or use as a soft treat for dogs recovering from tooth extractions or injury. Retailers have several options for displaying our meals which encourages purchasing across several categories. For instance, the pouches can be displayed as an alternative or fresh category; a complement to kibble and cans; or as a point of purchase at the counter register.
How would you describe your sustainable practices?
We take a holistic view of sustainability starting with our ingredients and ending with our packaging. When it comes to our ingredient sourcing, we work to source from local suppliers, which cuts down on shipping emissions. We also are creative with our ingredient sourcing; we work with local breweries to upcycle over 12,000 pounds of spent grain, which is a brewer’s largest waste product, but it is nutritiously rich full of protein and fiber, annually for our line of Brew Biscuits. Finally, when it comes to our packaging, manufacturing pet food in a retort pouches requires 75 percent less energy and 1/10 the carbon dioxide used to manufacture a metal can of pet food, and a standard 45-foot tractor trailer truck can ship 2.3 million retort pouches at once compared to just 200,000 eight ounce cans. Beyond our existing efforts, we are always looking to find additional ways to operate more sustainably like our partnership with TerraCycle, which is a free recycling program for consumers who can sign up to recycle our retort pouches. We are proud members of the Pet Sustainability Coalition and Upcycled Association.
What are your views on a rotational diet for dogs and cats?
We believe that a rotational diet is critical to a healthy, happy life for dogs and cats. By mixing up the proteins, fruits and vegetables your dog is exposed to frequently, your pet will be exposed to a broader variety of vitamins and minerals, which in turn improves their gut health and keeps mealtime more exciting. Our meals make feeding a rotational diet simple since once a pet is transitioned onto the product, you don’t need to transition significantly between flavors; we have many consumers who are constantly rotating through our flavors for their pets so they can provide a healthy dose of variety in their diet. This will not only make mealtimes more interesting for your pup but feeding a rotational diet will also help prevent food allergies. Many allergies are developed by feeding the same ingredients over time. Thus, a rotational diet is not only good for the dog but can save the consumer payment on veterinary bills too. You would not want to eat the same thing every day, so why would your dog?
How did a pet motivate you to enter the pet care industry?
It all started with a dog named Rosie, my standard poodle. She was 14 years-old, not thriving and had lost her appetite. While many felt she was near her death, I decided to research natural human grade diets for dogs and started cooking for Rosie, who gobbled them down and lived another two and half years just eating our meals. I continued to spend time researching the nutritional formulas for pet food and decided that I wanted to create a whole food human grade meal formulated for a dogs’ needs but stopped shy of adding synthetic nutrients or additives. If this simple solution could benefit Rosie, then I wanted to share it with others so that they could witness the value of whole food nutrition. When looking at ingredient lists, I tell my customers, “If you can’t pronounce it or know what it is, why would you feed it to your best friend?”