Fresh, freeze-dried and exotic pet foods sometimes sound good enough for the owners to eat.
Imagine a warm, fragrant entrée of oven-baked chicken with whole-grain brown rice, steamed yellow squash and pan-wilted spinach.
Or slow-roasted leg of lamb with pearl barley, broccoli and crispy whole-wheat croutons with cheddar cheese.
Those aren’t offerings at a tony French bistro. They’re on the menu at Chef K9’s Doggy Bistro and Cafe in Pompano Beach, Fla., which customizes meals for your dog and sends them to you.
The subscription-based company is just one of dozens that offer canine and feline foods that go well beyond run-of-the-mill supermarket chow.
According to Packaged Facts, a researcher in Rockville, Md., the premium pet-food sector accounted for nearly half of the $26-billion U.S. pet-food market in 2013. Apparently, we want our pets to have not only a spot on the sofa but a figurative spot at the dinner table, too.
Delicious-sounding dog and cat food recipes are just good marketing, says Chicago veterinarian Donna Solomon.
“The descriptions and the suggestions of wholesomeness, homemade and gourmet are aimed at our taste buds, not our pets’,” she says.
Here are some options for your well-fed pet.
Freeze-dried pet foods that you reconstitute with warm water or broth are very popular, says Sid Hawkins, a spokesman for Pet Pantry Warehouse in New Rochelle, N.Y. Owners like that the bags are less cumbersome than regular kibble bags, and are shelf-stable.
Primal Pet Foods offers a protein- and vitamin-rich freeze-dried blend of beef heart, liver and ground-up bones, as well as dark green vegetables. There are feline feasts, too, like Primal’s organic kale, carrots and blueberries with chicken and salmon.
Honest Kitchen’s got a turkey and parsnip or chicken and quinoa blend, as well as a fish and coconut mix designed for “touchy tummies.”
Fresh pet food is another area of dramatic growth; supermarkets are adding refrigerated sections where protein and vegetable combos from companies like FreshPet are offered in tubs or slice-and-serve form.
There are some exotic meats on offer, too. Taste of the Wild has dry or canned recipes that include wild boar, smoked salmon and roasted bison mixed with berries, garbanzo beans or sweet potato. California Natural has a kangaroo, red lentil and pea formula.
Solomon says it’s probably OK to offer different foods now and then — rotating your protein source, for example. But she cautions, “Some dogs and cats can’t tolerate switching.”
Introduce variety slowly and conservatively. Watch for gastrointestinal upsets or lack of appetite, and consult your vet if these occur during the transition.