‘What are you feeding your dogs?’ is the 2nd most important question people ask me on PackPeople. I always recommend the food I’m feeding and recommend friends and interested dog owners to the shop where I buy my dog food. Pet food is a complex subject in the pet owners’ world and one of our most-discussed topics. I’ve experimented a lot, tried many foods… kibbles, canned, raw… and decided to feed them holistic food, also adding Omega 3 (Fish Oil), raw veggies (like a carrot or a piece of apple, bananas, potatoes). Sometimes I take the time to cook for my dogs – I want them to be happy and healthy. I’m pretty happy with the food I’m feeding (Blue Buffalo and Lotus), but still not 100% convinced about the ingredients.
I found “The Honest Kitchen” on the exhibitor list of the Vegas Pet Expo this year. Premium dehydrated whole food sounds great, right? The Honest Kitchen makes human grade pet foods from dehydrated whole food ingredients. After I explored their great and informative website I wanted to learn more about the food Lucy and her dedicated team has been producing for cats and dogs since 2002. I contacted The honest Kitchen and they promptly agreed to do an interview.
We had the great pleasure to send the president and founder of “The Honest kitchen” Lucy our questions and to receive expert knowledge about processing the food (actually it’s not processed – read why not), what dehydration means, she talks about the customer satisfaction and the benefits of feeding whole food to our pets. Lucy also shared her insights with us and explained why and how “The Honest Kitchen” has found success with their variety of foods, treats and supplements.
Start today and get 10% off by using the code Lucy mentions in the interview. Give this excellent food a try – it’s worth it!
It’s a pleasure interviewing “The Honest Kitchen” as one of our first pet food producers on PackPeople.
Where did you get the idea to start “The Honest Kitchen”? What is your personal background?
I’ve always had an interest in food and nutrition. We grew produce at our family home in England and I love to cook, too.
I think I’ve always had a strong understanding of the link between good food and good health – we were brought up eating whole foods not junk food – and I think it was a natural progression that I became interested in doing a homemade diet for my dog.
I began making his homemade meals from scratch and while I loved the results and saw his ear infections clear right up, it became quite time consuming and messy. So I began trying to think of a way to still feed him whole foods, but in a more convenient format. I have a bachelor’s degree with honors in Equine and Business studies, from Moreton Morrell Agricultural College in England.
What was the first meal you prepared for your own dog?
I think it was a concoction of ground beef with spinach, carrots and oats – the very first prototype for what would eventually become The Honest Kitchen’s inaugural diet, Verve.
What are the benefits of raw ingredients?
High heat and high pressure can destroy the natural nutrients, enzymes and pigments in raw foods. When you keep the ingredients in a raw state, or prepare them very gently as we do with dehydration, more of the natural nutrition is maintained.
Your company uses a gentle dehydration process. What does this mean?
Dehydration is a slow, gentle process that removes only the moisture from fresh raw ingredients, and maintains most of the natural nutrition without the need for chemicals or irradiation.
You use raw fresh ingredients, “human-grade” and processed in a human food facility in the U.S. What does the processing progress look like?
Our facility is pristine – lots of stainless steel, everyone in white coats, gloves and hairnets. It’s a busy atmosphere but not noisy or chaotic. There’s a huge focus on quality control and testing too.
Our fresh raw vegetables and fruits are harvested at the peak of their ripeness, then washed and trimmed to size. The produce is then dehydrated below 104°F using warm air to gently blow away the moisture in a slow process that takes several hours. Our produce is still considered ‘raw’ after dehydration is complete.
Our fresh raw meats and white fish undergo gentle steaming at 140°F to 165°F, to eliminate pathogens without irradiation. We then carefully evaporate the moisture using dehydration, which leaves more nutrients intact than harsh cooking, canning or extrusion. The meats leave the dehydration process at about 125°F. The entire process (including steaming) takes about 45 minutes. Our salmon is freeze-dried in a flash process that removes the moisture under vacuum.
Our potatoes and grains are flash heated (and rolled in the case of our grains) to help break down the cellulose, which aids in digestion. They are then gently dehydrated to remove the moisture.
Where do the ingredients come from?
Our ingredients are sourced primarily from the United States, but we buy differnet ingredients from around the world – for example our Quinoa is form Bolivia, our green beans are form France and our kelp is from Iceland. We do not use any food ingredients from China at all.
What are the benefits to buying your food instead of making it myself.
I think the convenience is a big factor. Home cooking for pets is a lot of fun but it can be time consuming and also challenging, to ensure that the meals are nutritionally balanced and complete.
I usually add water to my dog’s kibble and let it stay a little – and I’m always astonished at how much its volume increases. A half full bowl of dog food is completely full after the kibbles absorbed the water. Does this happen with your food as well?
Yes, our foods expand considerably when hydrated with warm water!
According to your survey, 41% of your customers have seen a reduction in their pets chewing at their feet, 72% enjoy improved digestion, 21% reduced or completely eliminated one or more of their pet’s medications since they started feeding them your food. Would you say that investing in high quality food means saving on vet bills and maintaining a happier, healthier pet?
Absolutely, we have many testimonials from customers who have been able to reduce or eliminate their pets’ medications after starting on our foods and that represents a savings in vet bills over the long term (and immediately in many cases, where people have been spending a fortune on steroids, antibiotics and other drugs to try to overcome chronic health problems like ear infections, itching, GI upset and so on, which are directly related to the diet.
Many people still aren’t aware of the link but as time goes on consumers are becoming more and more education and understand the links between food and health. As a company we’re very dedicated to that education.
We talked about your product with friends and dog owners. Most of them think that, compared to standard foods, your product is somewhat pricey. How would you convince people to buy from The Honest Kitchen?
Our foods are indeed more costly than many other pet foods on the market. The price is a direct function of the cost to make our food; dehydration is a relatively more expensive method of making the food, compared with canning or extrusion. Additionally, our raw ingredients cost a lot more because they are human edible, not feed grade. Good quality food does cost more but it’s an investment that many people want to make in their pet’s long term health. We could make our foods much more cheaply by forgoing the human food production facility and making the diets in a plant that doesn’t also make human food under FDA inspection.
We could also use Chinese ingredients and save loads of money that way – but these are not compromises we’re willing to make. We’re really not trying to be the most affordable food – we’re focused on quality and integrity, with more of a ‘no expense spared’ approach. Of course I recognize this isn’t for everyone, but we have a really strong following of customers who do want the best for their pets and recognize good food as a true cornerstone of health for their beloved pets, so they’re willing to make the investment.
A 10 lbs. box of The Honest Kitchen’s dog food makes 40 lbs fresh food. You also offer trial sized and mini samples for people who want to get started. You have 8 different dog foods and 2 different cat foods, treats and supplements. What is your newest product and what made you decide to create it?
Love and Grace are our two newest foods. Love is a grain free beef formula for dogs and Grace is a grain free turkey formula for cats. We created both these in direct response to our customers’ requests!
I also saw teas on the website. What is the benefit of adding tea?
Steeping herbs in hot water (making a ‘tea’) is a recognized way of helping to release the medicinal properties from the herbs.
We checked The Dog Food Advisor’s website were pleased to see that The Honest Kitchen is highly recommended, receiving 4 of 5 stars. The Honest Kitchen’s Zeal and Love foods received 5 stars. Are these your best sellers?
Our top sellers are actually Force and Keen!
Do you have a personal favorite?
I think Force is still my all-time favorite – I really love the way it smells when it’s hydrated. My Rhodesian Ridgebacks like all the recipes and my Pug (a senior from Pug rescue who’s also blind) likes Zeal the best
You produce 100.000 pounds of dog food in a month and ship your food worldwide. I can shop online on your website or search for a retailer in my area. I could also become a reseller. What are the requirements to sell your food?
Well, a resale license is the first prerequisite. For the most part (with a few exceptions) we’d also require a store front (a pet supply store or natural foods store for example) and a promise that the store is not in the business of selling puppies or kittens at retail. We are vehemently opposed to puppy mills but do support many pet rescues and also work with responsible breeders.
What advice would you give someone about to launch a new pet care or pet-related business?
I think the main thing is to have a clear purpose behing the business – a reason for being. Second only to that is a real sense of determination! Starting a business was a labor of love for me. There are setbacks and challenges and it can sometimes takes nerves of steel, and a strong instinct or intuition to forge ahead with the idea and make it work. I’m also a big fan of making lists to help stay organized!
Do you have pets of your own?
Yes I have three dogs, two horses and 4 hens! (as well as two children and a husband!)
Are there any specials, holiday or otherwise, you’d like to share with us?
Yes! We have a special just for PackPeople readers. They can enter coupon code PCK12THK on our web site to save 10% off any order over $5.00 at www.thehonestktichen.com
Which websites or pet-related links would you recommend to our PackPeople audience?
The Whole Dog Journal is still one of my favorites www.whole-dog-journal.com. I also love the Truth About Pet Food site www.truthaboutpetfood.com and The Dog Food Project www.dogfoodproject.com for pet food info.
About the interviewee: Lucy Postins is the company co-founder, Mother Hen and CEO. Lucy started The Honest Kitchen in her own beach cottage kitchen in 2002. Lucy is guardian to Willow and Taro, two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Jackson, a rescued senior Pug. In addition to the dogs, she also cares for two young daughters, a former racehorse, an elderly pony and a husband.
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