Fedwell, a Boston-Based Natural Pet Food Company, Is Looking to Expand
When Emily Lagasse returned from a stint with the Peace Corps in 2010, her health problems began. Lagasse herself suffered from a parasite, but she also noticed that her dog, Fenway, was faring worse in Boston than he had been in Africa, with health issues ranging from allergies to bowel problems.
“I was reevaluating what I was putting into my body and how that made me feel,” Lagasse says. “At the same time my dog was also sick, and so it really became more of a lifestyle for me and my dog. I feel healthier when I eat foods that are really high quality and minimally processed, and it would make sense for him to feel the same way.”
Lagasse signed up for pet cooking classes and began preparing Fenway’s food herself. She noticed a change almost immediately, and the idea for Fedwell, her healthy dog food company, was born. The company began making an oven-baked lamb kibble from all-natural, minimally-processed ingredients, most of which are sourced in the U.S.
Currently, the Wellesley-based company sells its product online and in specialty stores in Greater Boston and New York, but Lagasse is looking to expand. She launched a Kickstarter campaign Sept. 28 with the goal of raising $20,000 to help produce bigger bags of Fedwell’s food and diversify its geographic reach and product line. Lagasse says that she wants to add new flavors and potentially expand to cat food as well. In only three days, she raised more than $10,000.
With Fedwell on the rise and other healthy pet food companies, like Boston’s The Well Fed Dog, popping up, pet health is becoming an increasingly popular issue. But if you’re not sure where to start, we asked Lagasse for her best suggestions for feeding animals right:
1. Look at the ingredient labels.
Lagasse explains that standard pet foods are often up to 75 percent synthetic ingredients, which provides sub-par nutrition. “My ingredient label is 17 ingredients; a typical label is anywhere from 50 to 75 ingredients,” she says. “If you start with poor quality ingredients and process heavily, you have to add a lot of synthetic vitamins in order for foods to be considered complete and balanced.”
2. Apply the same standards to pet food as you would to your own.
“I always tell owners to pick the food that they can afford, with the highest quality of ingredients and the least amount of processing, and looking at that ingredient list to make sure that it’s not really long and it’s not 75 percent full of synthetic vitamins,” Lagasse says.
3. If you’re on a budget, alternate between foods.
Unfortunately, top-shelf pet foods don’t come cheap. (A 5-pound bag of Fedwell food is $40, whereas grocery store brands usually run between $10 and $20 for the same amount.) If that doesn’t fit into your budget, Lagasse recommends buying smaller amounts of high quality food and mixing it into your dog’s diet when you can. “I would recommend having a staple food that you can afford and mixing in a higher quality food regularly so that your dog is still able to benefit from that higher quality food,” she says, noting that you can also take a DIY approach if you do so carefully. “You can mix in some vegetables occasionally or fruit, but you just have to make sure they’re not toxic for dogs.”
You’ll know your pup’s new diet is working, Lagasse says, by the dog’s energy levels and its coat. “The energy level is interesting, especially if you have an older dog who just normally sits around,” she says. “If you start feeding it a higher quality diet, all of a sudden they’re ready to go for a run. It’s really noticeable for pet owners.”