Pet Age recently spoke with Stephen Trachtenberg, president of Chasing Our Tails, to discuss the recent developments with the treat manufacturer.
Q How do you maintain ingredient integrity with Chasing Our Tails products?
A All of our protein at Chasing Our Tails (COT) is derived from USDA-inspected production lines. We utilize the offal, from food that is produced for human consumption, in our pet treats. We do not use byproducts, downed animals or non-offal products labeled inedible, like many of our competitors use every day. We own USDA facilities that produce ingredients that are produced for human food consumption. You cannot have a USDA facility and not produce food for the human food system. We take pride in the quality USDA-inspected proteins that we provide to both the human and pet industries. Supply chain integrity is one of our primary missions here at Chasing Our Tails.
Q Why did you pull your treats from Chewy and other major online retailers in January?
A At Chasing Our Tails, it is our mission to provide quality single-ingredient treats to pet owners and pets. We take our brand very seriously and want to maintain high standards at every level, from ingredient sourcing down to maintaining a MAP policy. As an independent pet products company, we want to support our independent pet retailers. We want to keep the experience of retail alive. We must have sustainability and accountability to maintain the integrity of Chasing Our Tails. This model does not lend to the high volume and low prices that are needed to entice big-box retailers and e-retailers. Our treats and chews complement a pet’s diet. Like our products, we want to complement the other high-quality food, treat, chew and toy companies that support brick-and-mortar stores.
Q How would you describe the “Farm to Pet Bowl” revolution?
A Chasing Our Tails owns and operates our own facilities; we are the only privately owned Farm to Pet Bowl manufacturer—that we know of—in the pet industry. These facilities include a commercial farm, USDA slaughter facilities, a mobile USDA slaughter facility to go direct to farms and schools, a USDA meat processing facility and FDA-registered dog treat manufacturing in two states. Being a single-ingredient line, you have to start with the best raw materials to have the best end product. Having these facilities gives us complete vertical integration, transparency, traceability and quality that is unparalleled in the pet industry. Farm to Pet Bowl is not a tag line; it is the way we operate every day!
Q Who are some of your mentors who’ve helped guide your path with Chasing Our Tails?
A I have been very fortunate to have two mentors that have been integral in keeping me focused on creating and executing to the best of my ability. I met David Murray, former VP of sales for Kent Nutrition Group, over seven years ago. With well over 30 years in the pet industry, his insight and guidance have enabled me to develop things like defined brands and specific channel strategies. He has also been able to keep me driving forward on product innovation, and has always been a sounding board for all of my abstract “mad scientist” ideas. Additionally, I have been blessed to have Martin Bell as a mentor in the meat industry. Marty has been in the meat industry over 60 years, and has provided me with guidance on everything from sourcing to ultimately purchasing my first USDA facility. I consider these two men more than mentors, I consider them family, and we have only just begun the next chapter together.
Q How are you reinvesting in the community?
A We have started more than just the Farm to Pet Bowl revolution; we have started a community reinvestment revolution as well. As a company and family, we believe that the key to the American Dream is home ownership. We have begun a program to provide low- to no-cost housing to our team. We have purchased several homes with financing by Red Rock Bank in Minnesota, who shares our vision of community reinvestment. Once our employee has been employed for five years, and has proven ability to care for the home, we will work to transfer ownership of the home directly to the employee, and provide down payment support. In addition to COT’s contributions, I have contributed to the Tracy Development Corporation and the Minnesota Association of Development Organizations. It’s my belief that we need to support the non-profit development teams in the communities we work and live, as they provide a path to future success.
Finally, as a company, we place tremendous importance in education. Today’s youth may not be aware of all of the careers that currently exist in our industry. We own and operate a USDA Mobile Slaughter Unit (MSU) to bring processing directly to small and mid-sized farms. We can also bring food processing education to the kids with this amazing mobile unit. For example, agricultural and farming educators can discuss the production of pork from farrowing the piglet to finish. Now with the MSU, they can go one step further by actually processing pork, under USDA inspection, right at the school. Increased awareness and excitement about food processing and food science nourishes and sustains our future by empowering our youth to explore those options. We all must pay it forward to be able to support agriculture, small town ideals and our industry.