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Petco and Just Food for Dogs and Cats Bring Real Food into Major Retail

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  1. Hope

    I am skeptical about the actual implementation of this concept. From a marketing point of view, it sounds fabulous. Then there’s the reality of making pet food that is FRESH and nourishing and balanced for pets on the spot in a chain store business that sells animals and who touts that they have nutrition specialists (currently) on board at their stores who don’t know pet nutrition from a hole in the ground. So, this does not excite me whatsoever. Sorry, Susan! But I do like the idea of new concepts to help fuel others!

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I admit I was skeptical when I first heard the news. Then I spoke with Dr. Oscar Chavez of JFFD and he answered all my questions, addressed all my concerns. I believe good will come from this.

    2. Marcia

      Amen! I know PetCo pretty well….and if they can squeeze billions of dollars’ profit from an “out of the box” idea, they will be happy to spend a few thousand to get it off the ground! They are the Walmart of the pet food retail stores: they treat their employees like second class citizens and have been cited on numerous, numerous occasions for animal health violations as a result of unhealthy, unsanitary environments in their stores.

  2. Mitch

    I love your optimism, Susan… That being said, it’s Petco. They flat out refuse to inform consumers where their American Journey brand is manufactured. I wouldn’t trust a thing they say.

    1. Ashley

      Neither petco nor petsmart sell American Journey dog food fyi… I just searched…

      1. Marcia

        It is only sold by Chewy.Com — which was bought out by PetSmart — according to the owner of a few specialized pet food stores here in the Atlanta area.

  3. Michelle

    Love this news! Your hard work on behalf of our babies is being heard loud and clear! I just hope corners dont get cut to the detriment of quality. You Rodney and Karen among others are getting the word out about “ real food”. Thank you all!

  4. Kelly

    Nice step for a chain like Petco but not a fan of potatoes and rice…fresh is better than bagged and I hope people will give it a try.

  5. Pet Owner

    Congratulations to JFFDs. Quite an achievement. Better in a mainstream (chain) PF store than only in an Independent to which not every consumer has access. The only problem is, PetCo has some of the most poorly trained (unenthusiastic) probably minimum wage help.. Staff is usually stationed at the register, or pulling merchandise. I asked once about Spot Farms (dehydrated at a lower price point as a THK competitor). The staff person knew nothing, and didn’t offer any followup service. Granted, I should’ve done all my research online first. Except sometimes a shopper runs across an unexpected, new product. And it would be nice to learn more on the spot.

    Bottom line, JFFDs better have some brochures handy, and offer to train the staff, or send out a Rep occasionally. After all, healthy PF is all about ….. education!! This is a fantastic opportunity to finally do so, with the average consumer. At least to get that conversation going!

    1. Sam

      Jffd will staff locations in petco that will be Jffd employees, not employees of petco

  6. soozyb2013

    This news is awesome!!! I hope pet stores here in Canada will follow suit, like Pet Smart here in Victoria, BC. They have room for a kitchen! Maybe Petco could come to Canada!!!! I am happy for this change and it’s about time. Thank you Susan for some good news!!!

    1. Janet

      Petco come to Canada..???? I hope not !

  7. annonymous

    I agree that this is a positive change. I just wish that Just Food for Dogs would create more recipes that are not so carbohydrate driven. At least it’s human grade rice and potatoes unlike the feed grade food products out there. Not ideal but a step in the right direction.

  8. SweetKimy

    So….
    It’s huge that real food will be brought into a big box pet store. And it’s wonderful that uninformed people will have the opportunity to learn that there’s a better choice of what to feed their pets.

    (And I hate to be negative here…)

    But…
    Do we trust Petco??

  9. Seth

    This I have to see and I hope 🤞 that it does happen in North Dakota. Where it so far behind the times. I truly can’t wait 😊. That some people actually truly care about your pet ( fur babies) well being and health, the sooner it happens up North the happy 😊 I become

  10. Kathryn Smith

    never been a fan of ‘big box’ stores, but this just might change my mind!! WAY TO GO PETCO!!! NOW… if we could just get one in our little town!

  11. sam12587

    after seeing so many good brands get bought up and turned into something my critters wouldn’t touch, i hope this is truly a step in the right direction. i can’t believe what animal feed has turned into and the suffering it brings.
    Is there a go live date for this push or is it gradual? There’s not a Petco near me however, I’d be willing to drive to check it out.

  12. T Allen

    I totally agree with Hope. I’ll believe it when I see it and while it “could” be a good idea and I’m sure as Susan says it sounds good, there are huge obstacles on both sides. I will immediately be contacting my State Dept of Ag to make sure these “kitchens” are going to be State (and hopefully locally) inspected. And as far as their “nutritionists” on staff, that’s a joke. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Their is no educational or licensing requirements for the title. I am way more concerned about the food safety issues from minimum wage staff working with raw meat than commercial pet food! The only way they can do “fresh”, made in store, meals properly will cost so much that very few will buy them. Think about it. They are talking about a restaurant for dogs with human grade meals. If they meet all the food safety requirements and quality standards for people with foods healthy for dogs what would it cost to feed a toddler? I hope they can figure it out and do it right but not expecting to see it anytime soon.

    1. Pet Owner

      Now there’s a vote of confidence! Just what we need to be doing here, is discouraging PF consumers from trying something innovative in the marketplace.

      Anybody bother to review the JFFDs website including their approach to alternative nutrition? https://company.justfoodfordogs.com/learning/raw-vs-cooked/?_ga=2.69089943.723005569.1526402471-419042604.1526402471

      Extreme (as in serving raw 7/365) doesn’t always work for everybody and pet. There’s a place for rotation too (as in different meal formats. And commercial raw is only as good as its sourcing; JFFD’s point, well taken! Not everybody can grind their own, sourced from a local supplier.

      JFFD is a California company, which began in the southern part of the State, and whose kitchens were (at least used to be anyway) glassed-in for public viewing. So Cal. folks are very trendy about their pets; nothing is too good. So JFFDs method caught on, especially with a customized approach. As for the nutritionist consultant (for therapeutic services, which I used several years back), very careful, very thorough, and considers the individual pet’s physical condition, to design a meal appropriate to the pet’s specific needs. (Mine had pancreatitis at the time). I picked the protein (salmon) which carb (sweet potato), and Sabine created the proportions, advised supplements, following all the NRC recommendations, as well as my dog’s medical condition, by obtaining the vet’s comments. Certainly more useful than my Vet telling me to serve boiled chicken and rice!!

      As for mass producing a product of this style, any food (certified human edible) which is balanced (in order to qualify for retail) is going to be better than extruded “slop” cooked in giant vats and bagged. JFFDs had to qualify for their “human edible” ingredients (and plant) certification just like THK did. And if the food is going to cost more at PetCo, then believe it, … it’s going to be WORTH it!! And most importantly will create the conversation around serving healthy food in general! And for many consumers, it will be an introduction into the world of feeding your pet human edible food! THAT … we don’t want to discourage.

      Unless JFFDs is going to hang out a Restaurant Shingle (for people), good luck trying to see if the Calif. State Dept. of Ag. Is even going to care. The same folks who couldn’t have cared less how many Evanger cans of “Hunk of Beef” were still sitting on the store shelves while the poor pug was poisoned in November. Just like my Pet Food Supply store refused to acknowledge. California is the State of Hypocrisy alright.

  13. Debi

    I will not stop making our dog’s food.
    Kudos to you Susan and all of the other advocates for REAL FOOD for DOGS and CATS !!!! Like Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib ,( just to name a couple) trying to change this horrific cabal of big pet food conglomerates that do not care about us or our pets, money ibeing the true force of evil.

  14. Ms B Dawson

    This is roughly equivalent to McDonald’s decision to use hormone-free beef in their burgers. The livestock industry had no choice but to change as a whole to provide beef for the single largest buyer. I’m a vegetarian, but congratulated McD’s for seeing consumer shifts and following the demand.

    JFFD’s partnership has the potential to open up minds of folks who can’t or won’t take the time to educate themselves and prefer to blindly believe packaging and adverts as they wander the big box aisles. They will likely not be able to miss this new corner of the the store. Real nutritional counselors will be there to offset the deficient ones currently employed by Petco who simply parrot the information fed to them to sell whatever has the best markup that week.

    I will remain an all out advocate for the small retailer – whether pet food, books or garden supplies – but there will always be consumers who want shopping center convenience and big box selection. Consumers will believe this food is a bargain because the big box stores market themselves as cheaper than the independents (even though that’s rarely true!). Consumers may just try real food instead of taking home FreshPet from the Petco ‘fridge.

    With the weight of Petco behind real food, even FDA and USDA are going to have to re-think their biases and enforcement policies, maybe even ingredient definitions. I’m glad JFFD chose Petco and not Walmart for this venture as well.

    1. Pet Owner

      Exactly! Thanks for your vote, thumbs up!

  15. Mike

    Horrible full of grains since when were dogs ever suppose to eat rice, sweet potatoes and macaroni really?

    1. Kyle

      You are so right! I don’t care if it’s the freshest human-grade food in the world. If it’s not species appropriate, it’s still crap food.

      1. Carol

        You are soooo right! Carnivores MUST get their protein from animal sources to get the necessary amino acids. To many of the pet food companies use plant protein and human grade vegetables and fillers in their products. Nice try Petco. Maybe you can fool some of the pet owners; but not the owners that follow “Mother Natures” feeding protocol.

  16. Claudia Loomis

    Sounds to me like JFFD has all the risk and responsibility here. Properly staffing and training their teams will be critical to successful implementation. If the sales are not there to support the project Petco will not hesitate to cut their loses and move on. But with great risk comes great reward.

  17. Regina

    This looks like major news. But, looking at the practicalities of it, I’m not sure how successful this will be.

    Petco stores have demo stands in some of their stores where they tout a different lineup of foods every month or so, and since some of the FEEDS on that demo stand are crap like Royal Canin, which has like, the complete OPPOSITE philosophy on what should be fed our pets, I am just imagining the dueling demos, shouting across the aisle at each other.

    Of course, on a more serious note, some of these Big Box pet stores have cleanliness amd sanitary conditions that would make me never want to eat anything from there. Even if their little kitchen and pantry was kept clean, bugs get around!!!!
    Not to mention the airborne particles from the open bin of kitty litter that spews dust when folks refill their buckets, or the noxious smells and airborne unpleasantness coming from the pet rodent department.

    And, to be able to make a profit making actual food in the store, including the purchase of all those fresh ingredients, and the separate salaries (Since they will not be Petco employees just doing extra work for their meager wages) . . . I don’t think Petco customers are going to pay enough for this food to cover the expense of this product. It may just convince people that making their own pet food is something they might be able to do in their own homes, incorporating into the family budget and grocery shopping.

    Petco customers rarely want to SPEND or DO too much for their pets. They’ve fallen for the marketing that tells them that mass-produced crap is good enough.

    These people might mean well, but, I just don’t know how this is going to work. Oh, well, maybe I just think too much, I should just pay attention to the tv commercials and not bother myself with such important subjects.

    1. Pet Owner

      So your elitist attitude is one example of why the PF market isn’t advancing. Because it’s full of “Decision Makers” already assuming PF consumers don’t have the brains, the motivation, or the concern to make better choices for their pet’s nutrition. The reason we’re all here on TAPF is because we had a reason for researching, in order to get to this point. Let’s give others that opportunity as well.

      Consumers use PetCo for different reasons including grooming, physical supplies, etc.. Am glad JFFDs is able to see past the poor physical condition of the stores (which yes, do need mopping and maintenance). But it shows JFFD’s dedication to wanting to improve food for pets, and a commitment to honest education!!! How many companies are willing to do that?

      Sometimes a PetCo is the only chain supply store in an area; so why would we assume only their “kind” of customers are at poverty level. Instead of, when customers don’t want to spend or do too much for their pets, it’s EXACTLY because marketing and advertising has NOT been honest about the reasons why they should! But when you get inside a store, and start talking with motivated people, then that’s how things change. Why else do companies send in Nutro and Blue Buffalo Reps. into the aisles. Because those Reps. change minds and habits!

      If a pet owner could afford to feed only TWO better meals a week, then that’s a huge step in the right direction! And I don’t think people have (willingly fallen) for marketing. It’s just that NO alternative mass marketing exists. It takes one mind … one at a time! Let’s encourage this step in the right direction!

      1. Regina

        Wow, I did not realize my comment could be seen as “elitist”

        My comment has come from my actual conversations with people. I was not implying that only “poverty level” consumers shop at Petco. I have seen people with expensive cars and clothing who still cannot see spending a bit more on what they feed their pets. I’m baffled by the dichotomy.

        Some folks are so loyal to their “brand” of pet food (feed) that they see the newer, “healthier” options as just another company trying to charge more for something that purina or science diet has been giving them for years.

        But, that was not the key point I was trying to make. I just think that JFFD is going to have to invest so much into this venture that I wonder how economically sustainable it would be for JFFD. They will need to charge quite a bit for their product, in order to cover the costs of the pantry, kitchen, and staff. And I’m sure that Petco will not be wanting to give up prime real estate in their stores for something that is not bringing in profit for Petco.

        I just would hate to see JFFD investing a lot of money in this, and going bankrupt, due to it not being sustainable, much less make a profit. Petco does not like wasting shelf space on things that are not bringing enough money in. And how supportive will Petco be of JFFD, selling actual FOOD when they usually make their money selling FEED.

        I’m looking at this pragmatically, not as an elitist. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.
        I’m all for educating consumers, I just don’t want to see a good company going bankrupt trying to do the educating, especially under a roof that is owned by a company that is selling the complete opposite in terms of nutrition and “realness”

        1. Ms. B Dawson

          Who knows what the contract is between JFFD and Petco, but there are clues in what Susan published. JFFD is “partnering” with Petco to open kitchens and pantries inside “select” Petcos as they remodel. Sounds like JFFD is simply leasing space, just like Banfield does with Petsmart. JFFD has pantries associated with vet offices in California already and may be springboarding off that tested model. Opening pantries inside Petco probably lowers their overhead a bit compared to leasing an entire storefront in the same high-traffic shopping centers where Petcos are usually located. They certainly will benefit from the foot traffic Petco generates.

          As far as Petco supporting the project while still stocking crap food….well, grocery stores do it all the time. They are adding health food aisles at a rapid pace without ditching the junk food.

          As far as I’m concerned, there was nothing elitist in your comments. As I said in an earlier post, the public believes Petco is cheaper than the little guys because that’s how the Big Box world markets itself. Consumers believe ads. That’s why Nike pays athletes to endorse products – it sells shoes. Ellen, Rachel Ray and Newman put their name on the label and the bags sell for that reason alone. Does this equate to calling consumers stupid or foolish, well…..Blue Buffalo seems to think so. Their commercial shows consumers who claim to have read the label on their brand of food and yet act shocked as they read the ingredients out loud for the camera. This would seem to indicate they know that by-products aren’t good, yet bought their current food in spite of that. Must have been the misleading graphics on the label, the ads, or the celeb endorsement.

          The pragmatic truth is that JFFD’s food will likely only be in select Petcos for now – specifically in areas where marketing shows consumer willingness to spend more on pets. This is just good business. But what starts in one market often makes the jump into other markets, driven by popularity and demand. Look at health food stores. They used be low rent district hole-in-the-wall shops for hippies until the movement went mainstream and Whole Foods happened!

        2. Marcia

          I agree….I was a bit shocked by the “elitist” comment. Perhaps that contributor doesn’t have very much “real world” experience with what goes on in the Big Box PF stores – either from the store’s personnel perspective or the pet owners’ knowledge about nutrition. I do — 7 years working in Petco & PetSmart talking to consumers about natural pet foods, as s well as trying to educate employees re: same. I have seen firsthand the amount of refrigerated Fresh Pet food (the closest thing to “real” food for pets — consumers believe — that Petco currently carries) is thrown out b/c it expires faster than it sells.

          I too hope the JJFD and Petco joint venture is successful and that they do it right! I personally buy my dog’s food and treats from an independent store that refuses to lower its standards and integrity by selling rawhide products (the ones in Petco are made in China) and low-end pet foods that contain contaminated, compromised ingredients. I presume Petco still intends to keep shelf space for Purina, Hill’s, Pedigree and the like?
          I personally appreciate TAPF tireless efforts to learn about and educate the public about the ethics of AAFCO and the FDA, as well as the warnings about recalls of pet foods/products due to tainted ingredients, etc.
          We love you Susan!! Keep us posted on the JJFD/Petco topic!!

          Marcia

  18. Lorielle Mahone

    The only concern I have is all the hair floating around in Petco. The staff if hired by Petco will not care one iota about contamination. Also, JFFD’s is currently sold in some locations at Pet food express. I’m happy though that consumers will have another option. Also if JFFD’s will truly educate the pet consumers about the garbage Petco sells. I admit Susan this is definitely a step in the right direction. I just hope JFFD’s will hire their own staff and campaign to not just sell but to educate.

  19. CB

    I’m hoping this helps bring about more change. Best wishes to Just Food For Dogs.

    That said, I only see Petco doing this if they see a monetary gain from this. (I’ve heard what they are like from a wholesaler.) I also don’t know how their staff is going to explain selling cheap crap next to real food.

  20. Mary Marseglia

    Really so they are going to cook up food for your dogs – again, this is better than all and any dry kibble but your dogs & cats are true carnivores – their bodies require “complete proper” Raw diets – no veggies – if they want to add a small portion of a little fruit usually seasonal berries(only 2-3% of the diet) and a few herbs that are good for dogs(& cats) then fine – but I’m still not up with this cooking food bull crap — and again, they say it is human-grade – really – that would mean it will be expensive – so what people will be able to afford it? If you saw the product I make – then you’d see what is real human-grade and with my lamb I actually use fully grass-fed lamb as well – and I don’t use scrap meat – so are these so called cooking kitchens going to be using “scrap” human grade meat or are they going to be using descent/good cuts of meat and organ meats – and cooking also causes cancer if they knew anything about this – they’d understand this as well

  21. Suzanne

    This is a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. Pet industry has been making feed grade quality for, what, 50 years? Longer? It will take just as long to convince pet industry and pet owners there is a better way. If this takes off, it’s a step in the right direction. Small baby steps, but steps anyways. Congrats, Susan. Your hard work is starting to pay off.

  22. Kenneth Cole

    Sounds good. Sure the NEW costs will be absorbed by the pet owners.

  23. Eve

    OK this is great news – ONLY if there is NO meat cooking and ONLY cooking of certain veg like pumpkin and sweet potato-kumera, and puree veg MAINLY GREENS (leaf only), hopefully it will be all organic, supplements organic such as dulse (kelp) and nutritional brewers yeast (non-active yeast) and NO COW products super-high allergen and is not as nutrient essential as chicken, lamb and other meats eg. Goat or sheep dairy is far better and more nutritious. eg” raw goats milk for a diabetic pet helps to reverse diabetes and wheat grass shoots do too. SO LONG AS NO MEAT and BONES are COOKED or else it will be no different nutrient wise for pets because it will lack bio-availability of all micro and macro nutrients. I’m expect the chefs to be veterinary and holistically qualified in pet nutrition. (for sick and compromised pets slow simmered chicken pieces are fine) diet must be 60-80% raw meaty-bones, meat and chicken offal for safer precautions than any other animal offal. Good News though. Lets expect they keep it REAL!

    1. Ms. B Dawson

      It’s wonderful that you can provide such good nutrition for your family and that you do the research on ingredients but that level of quality is a large risk for a retail product and is the difference between commercially available diets and home prepared. It may be the “way” to feed, but the price point would attract only a niche of disposable income types that likely wouldn’t provide enough margin to sustain the product.

      If you look at JFFD’s website (I wasn’t all that familiar with their products so that’s what I did!) you’ll see that 14 oz of a Beef and Chicken Stir Fry will run you $7.45. Although not organic, it’s human grade chicken thighs and ground beef. All their products are “lightly cooked” and there are no bones – they use a nutraceutical supplement for that. I think this product offers folks who aren’t able or willing to slice and dice all the ingredients themselves a reasonable alternative to other commercial foods. Advocates such as yourself should take this into consideration. Feeding a pet isn’t an all or nothing and there is NO one diet that suits every animal. None of my Affies or cats have a problem, for instance, with beef or beef organs in spite of the continued insistence that beef is a known allergen that should never be fed. Protein sources are only a problem if your animal is allergic to them.

      I have fed (and taught) raw diets for 26 years and have found that aging animals, those with digestive issues such as IBD or with immune deficiencies may benefit from slightly cooked food. I always recommend light cooking when transitioning from kibble. The cooking process begins to denature the proteins and often makes the food more appealing to pets who are used to flavor additives in kibble. More and more science is showing that gentle heat doesn’t trash all the nutrients, especially if you look at a diet across time rather than at each individual meal. The 100% complete meal is a myth.

      I understand the religion of raw diets, but there is a spectrum of possibilities. Dr. Wysong used to publish a flow chart of sorts that started with “the worst way to feed” (no food at all) and worked its way up to “the best way to feed” (feral diet, nature at it’s best but impractical). Wysong placed his own food mid-way on the chart so why would he even bother to make kibble? Because he understood that people need to feed their animals based on their budget and what they can handle. He also understood that given the opportunity, many owners would continue to step up the quality as they were able.

      A wise company understands what it is trying to accomplish, finds it’s market and then provides a product. Any owner who switches from kibble to the JFFD’s foods is doing a great service for their furry companions. Could they do better? Of course and they may make that transition eventually as well. Other owners who suffer sticker shock at almost $9/pound for food, may at least start thinking about ingredient quality even if they can’t afford JFFD products. They may start adding fresh foods to their companion’s bowl or even discover that all these commercial raw diets are more expensive than doing it yourself. Let’s hold that door open for those people!

      JFFD is taking a huge step to show consumers what is possible, to reach folks who don’t read TAPF-type blogs and frankly, the company is putting a huge target on their back. FDA, USDA and AFFCO are likely going to harass the H-E-Double Toothpicks out of them. Those organizations, influenced by Big Pet Food, know that pushing these products side-by-side with the crap feed is going to present a stark contrast and change consumers expectations.

      1. Marcia

        Very well-written and realistic (in my humble opinion). Kudos.

  24. Becky Rao

    Since JFFD recently had a major recall due to listeria, I think there is an opportunity for even more contamination.
    Working with raw foods in a pet store environment is risky at best.
    Give me Isle of Dogs Nourish any day!

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