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The Farmer's Dog tests its pet food recipes on humans

Homemade dog food nursed sick pet back to health
The Farmer's Dog's human-tested dog food draws attention in fast-growing pet food category 03:17

It took Brett Podolsky a whole two years to discover that the food his dog was eating was making her sick. 

He started cooking her meals at home — and voila — her symptoms went away.  

In their place was a healthy dog and, later, a new kind of dog food company that has raised a total of $49 million in funding since it was founded in 2015. 

"I tried every food on the market and it was recommended that I try home cooking for her, and all of her symptoms disappeared," Podolsky said. "And that made me realize it wasn't Jeda that was sick, it was the food that was making her sick."

That led him to research the contents of traditional, commercially available dog food. He was appalled at what he learned. 

"There were some pretty interesting and alarming things we discovered about pet food that made us question whether it would be healthy. We discovered the difference between pet food and human food more often than not is very simply that they're using ingredients that would be strictly illegal to sell to a human," said the Farmer's Dog co-founder Jonathan Regev. 

Other dog foods are heat processed to kill potentially dangerous bacteria, which also has the effect of stripping the food of it nutrients, Regev explained.

"The Farmer's Dog is really the brand we wished had existed for our own dogs and when it wasn't there we realized there was a lot to improve and we decided to do it ourselves," Podolsky said. 

The co-founders say they treat dog food the same way they do human food, and even test new recipes on humans first. Meals are customized according to dogs' profiles based on their size, gender, breed and other characteristics. 

One of the keys to running a successful startup in the fast-growing pet food category is fostering a collaborative work environment. 

"We don't hire people to tell them what to do. Everybody comes here with their own expertise and something special and we want them to come here and feel the power to contribute that for us. The best thing we can do is just let them do their thing," Podolsky said. 

Ultimately, in their world, dogs come first. 

"We know our food is going to be treated no differently than all human food is made," Podolsky said.

And at The Farmer's Dog, their goal is singular: "All we're really trying to do here is to make as many dogs as healthy as possible," Podolsky said. 

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