There's still plenty of time to whip out your pots and pans and celebrate Cook for Your Pet Day — Thursday — by creating a special food or treat for your four-legged friend.
Kris Maloney, owner of Berkshire Hills Fresh dog foods (named after a motel owned by her family in Williamstown), began cooking for her dogs after her sister and brother-in-law began a fresh dog food business in Lunenberg. A year later, after seeing the benefits the fresh raw food had on her pets, she began her own business, making fresh raw dog food, in North Adams.
"It's made fresh and then frozen, but it's meant to be served in raw form, although some of our customers do cook it," she explained.
Berkshire Hills Fresh dog food is 70 percent human grade meat — beef, chicken and lamb. "We grind the raw chicken, including the bones because they are nutrient-rich," Maloney said.
In addition to the meat, the food includes 10 percent of organ meats and 15 percent human-grade vegetables and fruits. The remaining ingredients include whole eggs (including the shells), flax seed yogurt, alfalfa powder and fresh garlic.
When she was making the food at home, Maloney said she relied on recipes created by Dr. Karen Becker, a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian, and author of "Dr Becker's Real Food For Healthy Dogs & Cats: Simple Homemade Food." Berkshire Hills recipes are now based on those created by Dr. Ian Billinghurst an Australian veterinary surgeon who has been using his formulas on his own dogs and cats, and his patients, with great success for over 40 years.
"Most dogs gobble up their new food and never look back," Maloney said. "However, your dog might need to be introduced to their new food gradually. Sometimes, you have to mix a bit with their normal canned food, gradually increasing it so that they are getting enough fresh food."
"Don't forget, most of our dogs are used to a highly-processed diet that contains artificial flavoring," she added. "It is important to stick with it, knowing that fresh is a better option. None of our dogs had digestive issues or diarrhea after starting their new food, and not one customer has reported any digestive problems with Fresh, but keep an eye on your dog and add the new food gradually if you see loose stools."
For James and Kim DelRatez of North Adams, owners of MonArtistic Pet Products, it was a trip to a store's pet food aisle that launched their local dog treat business.
"We were walking through a local store and encountered a really bad smell coming from the bags of food and treats," James DelRatez said. "We looked at the back of the bags and couldn't believe all of the preservative. We couldn't even pronounce some of the ingredients. We went home and started looking at ways to make better treats."
The couple began their company, originally known as Monarch, in 2014, changing its name to MonArtistic in 2015.
"We make our own peanut butter, grinding it ourselves. There is nothing in it but pure peanuts. Brand-name peanut butters have a lot of preservatives our pets don't need," DelRatez said. "We dehydrate our own carrots and get everything from organic farms."
The DelRatezes sell their products, including eight varieties of dog treats ("We're always looking to add new ones"), catnip and chew toys, beds and pet blankets, at the weekly North Adams Farmers Market in the summer and the North Adams markets held at 85 Main St. the first Saturday of the month during the winter. They will be at the Lanesborough Elementary School craft fair on Saturday, Dec. 1, and the Williamstown Elementary School craft fair on Sunday, Dec. 2.
"We've met a lot of great people," DelRatez said.
The couple is looking at purchasing a machine that would freeze dry their products. "It will take all the moisture out and give them a longer shelf life," DelRatez explained, adding they are also looking at producing cat treats and fresh raw foods for pets.
Like Maloney, DelRatez advised starting your dog out slowly when introducing a new treat. "Try one and see how it goes," he said.
Here are a couple of recipes to try:
Raw dog food
(Recipes courtesy of Dr. Karen Becker)
- 14 ounces 90-plus percent lean beef
- 2 teaspoons hemp seed oil or 3 tablespoons hemp seed
- 1/2 teaspoon Carlson's caster oil or 2 ounces sardines
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kelp powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 egg shell
- 1 ounce raw beef liver
- 1 ounce fresh broccoli
- 1 ounce fresh red bell pepper
- 1 ounce fresh spinach
- Mix together the ground beef, hemp seed oil or hemp seed, castor oil or sardines, ginger, kelp powder and egg.
- In a food processor, place the 1/2 egg shell, beef liver, broccoli, red bell pepper and spinach and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
- Add the vegetable mixture to the meat mixture and combine.
This recipe makes about 1 pound of food for healthy adult dogs. It contains about 40 calories per ounce. If you don't know how much to feed your pet, check with your veterinarian.
Regular peanut butter treats
(Courtesy James and Kim DelRatez)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup organic peanut butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, mix together water, peanut butter and oil.
- Stir the flour into the mix, one cup at a time, until it is combined.
- Knead the dough a few minutes until it forms a stiff dough.
- oll out to 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack. (For a softer treat, bake for 40 minutes, testing to make sure its done.)
They will be good for about two weeks, stored in an air-tight container for longer shelf life, or stored in the refrigerator for a month . "They also can be frozen for up to six months," DelRatez said. "Dogs love them frozen!"