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Business Spotlight: Companion Natural Pet Food

by Sonya Jongsma Knauss

Eating natural food is a priority for many in the neighborhood, who work for or shop at stores like the Riverwest Co-op, Beans and Barley, and Outpost Natural Foods. And you can’t walk too far on a nice day without seeing someone out walking a dog. So what better place for a natural pet food business? Well, this wasn’t exactly Stacy Conroy’s line of thought when she decided to start Companion Natural Pet Foods. In fact, it was something she stumbled on almost accidently when she and her husband, Bill, were searching for a cure for one of their dogs. “Our German Shepherd, Jade, was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease,” Stacy said. “We had tried just about everything to improve her health.” Then she started reading about the raw foods diet for pets in an online discussion group. After extensive research, they decided to try it. “I started making my own food, and in just a short amount of time, she was doing so much better,” she said. So they began feeding their other dog, a yellow Lab named MacGyver, the raw food diet as well. The change was noticeable. Benefits of raw food for pets Raw food diets keep pets in better health, according to the Conroys and others who feed fully or partly raw diets to their pets. Howard and Kathryn Silvestre, who live in the neighborhood, found that after an initial “detox” period, their dog Harmonee’s health improved greatly after starting a raw diet. “Pets’ allergies disappear, ear infections and skin problems are eliminated, and they have shinier coats,” Conroy said. Because of how raw food plays into pets’ body chemistry, a pet on a raw diet is likely to have more vigor and energy, less offensive body odor, and cleaner teeth. Because the food is not bulked up with grain like dry pet foods, it is more expensive than standard pet foods. However, it also more “biologically appropriate,” Stacy says. Stacy and Bill were so pleased with the results of the diet on Jade and MacGuyver’s health that they shared their discovery with friends. While others liked her idea, they didn’t necessarily want to spend the time and energy making their dogs’ food every night. That’s when they thought of launching their own business. To insure that their food would provide everything an animal needed, the Conroys had their recipes analyzed by specialists. They partnered with Dr. Keith Cummins, a professor of Animal Nutrition at Auburn University in Alabama, to make sure their food exceeded pets’ nutritional requirements. The food has an approval statement from the Association for Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), on its label. Companion Natural Pet Foods formally incorporated in early 2001, and the food, which is made of human-grade chicken, beef, or turkey, also includes greens, apple cider vinegar, garlic, fish oil, Vitamin E, kelp, cabbage and cantaloupe. The food is ground and mixed at Lindsay Foods, a family-owned local processing plant that is USDA-inspected. It is then fresh-frozen for mail order and delivery to local pet stores. Because a raw foods diet is more expensive than dry food, Stacy recommends that people on tight budgets intersperse raw foods with various dry foods. “It’s totally a myth that pets should eat the same thing their whole lives,” she said. “I assume it started in the pet foods industry, which educates vets on nutrition. Variety is important to give pets what they need.” Stacy and Bill not only sell their own food, but another raw food variety as well, books on how to make pet food, homeopathic and herbal remedies for pets, and supplements like fish oil and digestive enzymes. Their website can take mail orders on any of their products. Locally, you can find Companion Natural Pet Food at the Riverwest Co-op (coming soon!) and Rainbow Pets in Shorewood. For more information see www.companionnaturalpetfood.com or call (414) 372-LIFE. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 3 – March 2003
by Sonya Jongsma Knauss