Whole Foods for Happy Pets
Clif Bar at its heart is a food company. We’re lucky enough to work with and support some of the most inspiring change-makers in the industry—individuals on their own personal journeys who align with our commitment to make a healthier and more sustainable food system. This is the story of one of those change-makers.
If it weren’t for a sick dog named Mosi, The Honest Kitchen,* a “minimally processed” pet food company, wouldn’t exist.
In 2002, Lucy Postins tried everything she could think of to cure her beloved Rhodesian ridgeback’s chronic ear infections and skin problems. Her search for answers led to his diet—which, at the time, consisted entirely of dry kibble.
Having grown up eating fruits and veggies her family grew in their own garden in rural England, Lucy had a solid understanding of the benefits of eating whole foods. She thought the same types of whole foods might help Mosi—and started experimenting with dog food recipes in her kitchen in La Jolla, CA.
“I began doing a homemade raw food diet for him, using ingredients from my own kitchen—raw meat and bones and pureed vegetables in a blender. And I got great results!” Lucy exclaimed.
Although Mosi’s health problems were solved, her kitchen was a disaster. “Making the dog food was a really messy process, and I really wasn’t comfortable having bowls of raw meat in the fridge. So I tried dehydrating everything. I used all the same ingredients, I just removed the water.”
Dehydration was a great solution—and marked the inception of The Honest Kitchen, as Lucy realized the diet that worked for Mosi could benefit other pets, as well.
“People have become more educated about what they're putting into their own mouths, and that translates into what they’re feeding family pets,” Lucy said. “Years ago, dogs were treated more like possessions. They stayed tied up in the yard and didn’t even come inside. Now they are truly members of the family, and people are more conscientious about what they feed them.”
The Honest Kitchen uses human grade ingredients for all its pet food—meaning each and every ingredient can be (and often is, during taste tests) eaten by humans.
All the ingredients are easily recognizable—cranberries, sweet potatoes, basil, celery—and they're all sourced from the human supply chain. All meat must satisfy The Honest Kitchen’s high standards, as well—it uses only ranch-raised beef and 100% free range/humanely-raised chicken and turkey.
The company also has a list of “red flag” ingredients they stringently avoid: artificial preservatives, chemical dyes, artificial flavoring, and cheap fillers.
“Our opinion is that dogs and cats shouldn’t be receptacles for waste from other industries,” Lucy explained. “There are a lot of scary things that go into conventional pet food—chicken feathers and feet and beaks, which technically are sources of protein, but are hard on a dog’s body to try to assimilate.”
Conventional pet food producers also tend to use fractions of grains instead of whole grains—“wheat middlings” or “soy mill run” are commonly listed ingredients in dry kibble. The Honest Kitchen insists on whole foods.
“As a brand philosophy, we believe whole food nutrition is closest to the way nature intended it,” Lucy said. “So when we say we use carrots, we use real whole carrots, not carrot pomace. We use actual real whole vegetables or fruit that have been cut to size and dehydrated.”
That foundational philosophy of whole, human-grade ingredients informs everything the company does, even its name. “Honest” serves as a line in the sand for the integrity of their ingredients. “Kitchen” references not just Lucy’s own kitchen where everything began, but the fact that the ingredients are actually fit for human consumption—and the facility where the pet food is made is up to people standards, too.
“I always say it this way: think about how you feel after you eat a processed hot dog, compared with how you feel if you have cold pressed juice or homemade steamed veggies,” Lucy said. “It’s the same for pets. They tend to eat the same dry kibble day after day for years on end. It’s no wonder they feel energized and lively when they eat healthy whole foods!”
Lucy’s trio of canine companions (Rhodesian ridgebacks Willow and Taro, and Parker, a border terrier) follow her everywhere, even to the San Diego office, where they join more than a dozen other dogs for 9 to 5 strategy sessions, under-desk snoozes, walking meetings, and product samples.
As a dog lover, Lucy finds the feedback from customers to be truly meaningful. People write her letters, stop her at tradeshows, send in testimonials (filed on the company website under “True Stories”) and tell her how food from The Honest Kitchen has changed—and often saved—their pet’s life.
“It’s not because of any magic secret ingredients, it’s just common sense good food and good nutrition,” Lucy said. “But seeing positive effects in animals is, to this day, still incredible to me.”
*The Honest Kitchen is a portfolio company of White Road Investments, a venture capital fund founded by Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, owners and co-chief visionary officers of Clif Bar & Company.