Every couple of months, my friends Erin and Dave Smith can be found at a Chinese market in San Diego filling up a cart with vegetables, eggs, and meat. When I went with them, they launched their expedition with huge bags of carrots and eggplants, sweet potatoes and broccoli, big bunches of leafy bok choy, and ginormous king oyster mushrooms. They eyed amounts, compared notes on what each had bagged, then moved on to the meat and poultry aisle. There they grabbed three dozen eggs, then packages of pork cushion, beef peeled knuckle, tripe; and pork livers, hearts, and spleen. They found chicken livers and gizzards and added them to the cart. Oh, and they picked up a big bag of red cargo rice before checking out. The total came to about $142, including Dave’s can of coconut water.

The shopping was for their two corgis, Ricky and Tanuki. And their Sunday would mostly be dedicated to turning that cart full of food into meals that would last for close to two months.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans are estimated to spend $29.69 billion on food for their pets. That could mean your basic kibble or it could extend to organic dehydrated human quality food.

As pet owners have become more aware of what goes into their own food, eschewing processed products for more healthful, seasonal, and organic ingredients they’ve also been eying the labels on their pets’ food—and are not necessarily sanguine about what they read. Pet food recalls haven’t helped. Plus, some owners are addressing specific health issues their pets have with dietary changes. Others are augmenting high-quality foods with home-cooked meals or treats. Still others, at the urging of their pets’ breeders, feed raw diets.

Why mention this? Well, you’re cooking for human clients, but if they have dogs, perhaps you can create a side business of augmenting their diet with healthy meals and treats.

The big challenge in all this is determining how closely home cooked foods adhere to basic nutritional requirements, requirements that change as a puppy or kitten mature, perhaps have litters and lactate, how much they exercise, suffer from health issues, and, eventually, age. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, establishes nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods that pet food companies adhere to. But these standards aren’t easily available for pet owners, change over the years based on new research, and are not easy to follow even if you can figure out how to access them.

Lucy Postins, founder, owner, and Chief Integrity Officer of San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen, explained that the AAFCO standards have guidance on everything from how much fat and protein to include to nutrient profiles—all for every stage of the animal’s life.

“Our biggest challenge is getting recipes to meet AAFCO requirements,” she said. “It’s very difficult to do that across an entire recipe. It’s a $2,500 minimum undertaking to get a recipe evaluated. So, you can imagine that it’s a big challenge for pet owners.”

Erin Smith is a geneticist at UCSD and an avid cook who uses science to coax the best flavors out of food, including caramels that she used to sell locally. She has managed to find older standards and five years ago developed a complex Excel spreadsheet to work the numbers. Based on that, she said she’s pretty comfortable with the ratios she’s come up with to feed Ricky and Tanuki.

No one is saying you should create meals that would strictly feed your clients pets. It’s unlikely that like Smith, you could figure out how to meet AAFCO requirements. But the key to a healthful pet diet is diversity and that’s something you can offer. Bake doggie cookies, make a dish of ground turkey and whole wheat pasta filled with peas, cranberries, and broccoli. Just make sure that the ingredients you use aren’t toxic to dogs (like onions and garlic).

Need some inspiration? Try this meatball recipe from Honest Kitchen’s Lucy Postins:

Turkey and Raspberry Summer Meatballs
From Lucy Postins of The Honest Kitchen
Yield: About 24 small meatballs for humans and their dogs

Just the slightest bit sweet, these meatballs are so fancy and colorful that your guests will think you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. Little do they know! 

Ingredients
1 pound ground turkey
2 free-range eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
1⁄2 cup fresh raspberries

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.
  2.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, eggs, basil, and raspberries. Stir until thoroughly combined (the raspberries will break apart and spread throughout the mixture).
  3.  Using your hands, make marble-size balls of the mixture and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm to the touch. Cool before serving.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Have clients been talking to you about making food or treats for their dogs? Have you considered pitching them about this?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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