While we’re not talking about making sustainability more fun and approachable, we’re helping launch companies that make sustainability more fun and approachable. Our first project is upcycling restaurant kitchen scraps, before they’re mixed with spices/sauces, into nutritious pet food! We’ve partnered with Break it Down, an innovative compost company and prior guest, to launch this idea in Austin, TX.
Check it out at www.theconsciouspet.life
Get involved here – https://wefunder.com/theconsciouspet/
Pretty ok (not great) transcript:
[00:00:00] Jess: This is Justin Mason with a mostly green life, the podcast that’s making sustainability and our connection to the environment. More fun and approachable for the eco curious today, we’re chatting about food waste, pet nutrition, and a new company we’re launching to help both
[00:00:13] Mason: Jess and I are passionate about sustainability.
We’re also rather seasoned entrepreneurs. Our last product company that we started, CCS veggie echo made fresh pasta out of.
It helped create a brand new category in the grocery store and was wildly successful. Landed number three on the Inc 5,000 list of fastest growing companies in the nation. One of the things we’ve wanted to do with most of the green life is help companies that are helping the planet. And in some cases create companies that are helping the planet.
[00:00:42] Jess: One of our very first podcasts was with a longtime friend and entrepreneur Jeff pain. It was called the dirty truth about compost. We talked about all things compost and how to compost at home. After the episode, he showed us some projects. He was working. Jeff and Melanie founders of break it down, have been experimenting with how to up-cycle compost into useful products besides just dirt.
[00:01:03] Mason: So let’s start with a couple of primers for people who haven’t listened to that episode. First, let’s talk about upcycling. What does that even mean at the core? It’s a concept of taking a product or a waste stream and converting it into a higher value product. Examples are like taking the grains that are used to brew beer or alcohol after the brain process and making flour or bread or other products that we can still eat.
You see the vast majority of brewers, just throw this grain out, even though the only thing that has been removed from the grain is some of the sugars, the rest of the nutrients, including proteins, fiber, and vitamins and minerals are still in those grains. No, just being thrown out. It’s an absolute waste. Earlier this year, we interviewed Dan Kurzrock founder of a company called re grained and also co-founder of the upcycled food association.
To talk about this and the innovative things he’s doing with this so-called spent brewers grain. another example is a company called pulp pantry, where they take the pulp from cold press juice companies, which normally goes to waste and upcycling them into chips. Make sense. Makes
[00:02:12] Jess: sense.
Now composting is already keeping waste out of landfills, but it’s not creating products to feed people or. Which is a requirement to join the up-cycled food association, it’s feeding bacteria, which then that bacteria poop soil. So soil is great and all, but it’s not what we’d call the highest and best use of perfectly good human food that goes to compost all over the world.
Especially restaurant, kitchen scraps. These are animal and vegetable scraps that are perfectly good to be eaten in what we’re recovering at. The conscious bet is clean high quality kitchen scraps and unused foods from local restaurants in Austin before they’re seasoned or plated.
So it’s not, what’s left over on a customer’s plate after they dine or anything like that. These kitchen scraps get thrown away or composted most food scraps at home should definitely be composted though.
There’s just a few exceptions. Like sometimes you can read about vegetables or feed meat scraps directly to your pets, but usually the biggest mouths you can feed. Tom scraps are bacteria
[00:03:07] Mason: mouths. That’s what I used to say at CCS veggie co. We were already sending all of our scripts to compost, but I was on a mission to find bigger mouths, to feed pets, babies, adults, they’re all a much better, more efficient and more complete use for food scraps.
At CCS, we had tons and tons of zucchini butter, not beets, cauliflower, a bunch of veggies, all totally delicious, but none of them in the whole veggie form, any. They were little pieces that got cut off or things that were loved over at the end. An interesting point here too, is that we’re currently trying to work with CCS to get their butternut.
I don’t run the company anymore, but I know they’re still producing massive quantities of butternut pieces. So we’re trying to get those into doggy bag.
[00:03:50] Jess: So the opportunity to divert food waste from restaurants, which is a huge issue, 27
[00:03:55] Mason: billion pounds a year in the U S kind of issue. And right now over 90% of that still goes to
[00:04:01] Jess: landfills, combined with creating a new, complete and balanced dog food. Right. Because they know that. So Jeff, from break it down, he came on our podcast.
He showed us some let’s call it. Works in progress. He was experimenting with a proprietary process to upcycle these ingredients. When he would apply the process to food scraps, he was getting from the restaurants. He didn’t actually know what was going to come out on the other side. Sometimes it would be a brown powder sometimes like with pineapple, the fiber was too thick to do anything with and the pineapple fiber would come out on the other side.
So lots of experimentation and one of the streams of food scraps he was getting was a mixture of chicken and pork and bones. and all that comes with it. When this went through his process, it already looked a whole lot like soft, dry dog food. So we asked some questions about the process as we were already researching how to feed our puppy, the best food at the best price at
[00:04:50] Mason: the time.
See when we got our puppy and started researching food, we noticed something that we thought was absolutely insane kibble, which is still like 80% of dog food sold out there is cooked at crazy temperatures. Usually up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. For a very long
[00:05:07] Jess: time. It’s crazy. I mean, there’s gotta be, there’s no nutrition in that, at that point.
What have you cooked your food at 500 until it was burnt
[00:05:13] Mason: brown, right? It was ridiculous. So still not a hundred percent sure why they do this other than to make sure absolutely. There’s no nutrition left in it. Certainly the fats have gone completely rancid. And so I think that’s one of the, they probably do it for shelf.
Life is really the end of the thing cause they make that powder and that powder can probably last for years and years and years, but the fats are gone. If not completely rancid, amino acids will be bound up in compounds, reducing their bioavailability. And they just kind of mash the powder that comes out of the cooking process with grains and filler.
To literally make it take up more volume without adding any nutrition. Just, we just couldn’t
[00:05:54] Jess: believe. Yeah. So we gave raw food, a try because it seemed to be the highest nutrition that we found. Um, so it definitely has good nutrition, but we also have two kids who who share in feeding duties. And so we immediately could tell that it wasn’t going.
Uh, be the safest and easiest. They were going to struggle with feeding instructions and and having to wash everything and make sure it’s still sanitary. So, everything that touches the food bag right after feeding the dog. So whether it’s a scooper or a spoon or the bowl or plate that you put it on. Everything needs to be washed and sanitized, including your hands in any surfaces that was touched during the process. And so we, we knew that we weren’t doing that exactly correctly.
So rock can be really messy to making all of that much, much harder. I mean, who really wants to do that? Every time they’re feeding a dog,
what we think most people do is a quick wipe or generally say, Hey, probably not that bad, you know? Yeah.
[00:06:45] Mason: So we looked into it deeper. Cause sometimes people want to scare you about something. That’s not really an issue, but it turns out the FDA did a study on the two most deadly pathogens in the kitchen E coli and salmonella, comparing kibble and cooked pet foods and raw pet foods and a few hundred.
The results were not great for RA. There were zero instances of home contamination with kibble and cooked foods, but dozens, literally dozens for raw food. The chances of you catching e-coli or salmonella from Iraq, pet food is not zero, and it’s not actually as close to zero as you think it is. So if you’re feeding raw, please, please be careful.
Definitely follow instructions for washing and sanitizing surfaces. Coming from a human food safety background. We know the outbreaks that are possible, the risks that there are, and you really should try to be safe with your rock.
[00:07:42] Jess: So we did the messy, raw food, which our freezer thanked us for. It took up a ton of space and started digging a little bit deeper.
[00:07:49] Mason: we found as a new category of foods all around the concept of it’s either called gently cooked. Some brands call it air drying, some call it dehydrating, but essentially it’s cooking it. Temperatures that are low enough to keep fats and proteins and vitamins completely intact, but just high enough to completely kill pathogens, which is a minimum of 165 degrees.
Most brains, don’t tell you their exact temperatures, but we generally trust these three categories. If they’re doing, you know, at home, you can dehydrate things at like 105 hundred and 10 degrees, but you don’t want your dog food air dried at very low temperatures. You want to make sure things are cooked to 165, but as little over that as you.
[00:08:32] Jess: But of all of these that we could find, at least still either had animal meals, which are cooked at high temps, just like kibble or grain or lagoon, fillers, and there’s a new controversy around grains and legumes. A lot of people are trying grain-free diets because they seem to be better in general been grain based diets. And I also feel like a lot of people. Try to copy their own diets. So a lot of people who are grain-free themselves or gluten-free probably are also feeding their dog like that. But recent research shows that most companies making grain-free pet foods is just replacing the grains with lagoons.
What’s wrong with that, Jess? Well, some research came out showing that grain-free diets lead to heart problems and pets crazy. Right? Yeah,
[00:09:11] Mason: definitely
[00:09:11] Jess: crazy. And it’s real. I mean, all of the vets that we’ve taken Ellie to and what we’ve seen online, I mean, A real thing. It is happening with grain-free diets, but it’s not because of the lack of grain.
[00:09:22] Mason: uh, evidence is mounting and there’s new research being done right now to try to get to the bottom of this. But one thing that can’t be ignored is that in the studies, the grain-free diets all had lagoons in them. So that original study and the DCM it’s grain-free diets seem to have heart problems, but.
Uh, vets don’t necessarily agree that it is lagoons, but it is really the only main thing that was changed. The
[00:09:50] Jess: jury is still out on that, right?
[00:09:52] Mason: Yeah. Right now it doesn’t look like there’s definitive information that we can all take the dog food bank. But if there’s a question about an ingredient, we think is best to avoid that ingredient.
So to us, both grains and lagoons are absolutely in question. If we get definitive information saying either one is safe, wall
[00:10:11] Jess: stop avoiding it. Yeah. But for now it seems that all dog food that is not raw either has animal meals, grains, or legumes in all has fillers. So there’s just not a perfect food out there that we could have.
[00:10:23] Mason: at Jeff’s idea to up cycle restaurant, kitchen scraps, we realized we could also have the opportunity to formulate what we think is literally the perfect dog food. We have designed our own proprietary production process that creates a shelf, stable, complete, and balanced, nutritious dog food,
[00:10:40] Jess: everything we.
[00:10:42] Mason: That’s right. We couldn’t find it out there. So we created it ourselves,
[00:10:45] Jess: but the product needs to be consistent and restaurant seem anything, but transitioning dogs from one food to another can take a week or more. And we can’t be feeding dogs, a different food every week. So
how do we make sure to make the product consistent? I’m
[00:10:58] Mason: glad you asked. Jess turns out this food waste problem is so freaking huge that we can literally get tons of the exact same mixture of ingredients on a monthly basis. A ton is 2000 pounds as a refresher, so we can make tens of thousands of pounds of dog food every month that have the exact same recipe.
[00:11:20] Jess: Okay. So we’ve got plenty of supply. We’re partnering with, break it down, to upcycle restaurant, kitchen scraps, amazing for the planet. And we’re making the perfect nutrition for dogs, the ingredients. Aren’t the only part of a food company that affects the planet though. So what else can we
[00:11:33] Mason: do?
Of course, we don’t want to make such an awesome product and package it in unrecyclable plastic metal films. Like literally every
[00:11:41] Jess: other dog food. There are some dog food companies where they’re working with Terra cycle where you can return it. What percent of people are
[00:11:48] Mason: doing that. Yeah. How many of y’all are sending things to TerraCycle on a regular basis?
So we knew we needed to do better than that. So we spent the time and paid the extra dough to use 100% compostable packaging because it’s what’s right for the planet. Now we’re partnering with a compost company already. So we don’t use that term lightly. In fact, our colleagues over at sun and swell, a plastic free grocery company use the same bag.
And they actually did an experiment where they put it through one of those countertop. Composters the loamy. And guess what? It turned into the same compost as veggie scraps and other organics turned into soil, even in the home setting. So we are going to do some more experiments around this. We’re calling it a hundred percent compostable, but I think the.
Kind of gold standard would be backyard. Compostable is what I think we’ll end up putting on the package because I think that’s what it is.
[00:12:46] Jess: And what about.
[00:12:48] Mason: Well, if we hit our goal on we funder, which we’ll talk about in a second, we’re going to put solar panels on the roof and take the whole operation off the grid.
Even with our vehicles or partners, vehicles, making deliveries, we are still a carbon negative operation and we’ll get that certification as soon as we’re up and running. Not
[00:13:07] Jess: only that. Public benefit corporation, which means taking care of the environment is baked into our bylaws. So it can never be tossed aside for profit.
And we’re a zero waste company
[00:13:16] Mason: as well. Amazing. Do you think we hit every single sustainability hotline?
[00:13:21] Jess: I hope so. I think everyone related to dog food, at least. Yes. So is there any way for people to get that?
[00:13:27] Mason: Amazingly there is now normally people who are not what’s called an accredited investor, high net worth individuals.
Can’t just go invest in a company where they’re not related or know well that people that are starting the company there’s rules for companies about who you can take money from. But in recent years, Congress passed legislation. And then rules that create a safe structure for anyone to invest in any startup on particular platforms.
It meets stringent criteria. They have strong rules to protect people from fraudulent companies. They call it the community round of funding and the company that is absolutely killing it in this space. Is we funder? We funder has over 1 million investors and funds. Hundreds of startups. Yeah. We’re doing a community round on we funder because we want our customers and supporters to also be our investors.
If you want to get involved, head on over to we funder at www.wefunder.com/the conscious pet you can invest for as little as $100 and be part of our growth. We have a very unique deal that gives investors a cut of the revenue until their capitalism. So you start making money right away and you get quarterly checks until you’ve gotten all of your money back, but, and here’s the best part, but you still get equity in the company to earn return down the road.
Money back is part of revenue and potential upside with dividends, profit shares, or a company’s sale. Now. And
[00:14:59] Jess: pre-orders are also open for the Austin area. So if you really want to show support for this amazing venture, you can sign firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll start delivering the week of June 27th.
We are a direct to consumer company for the least amount of dog food miles, pre-orders from now until then. And then we start delivering the goodness right to you.
[00:15:20] Mason: So this has been a really, really fun project. Our partners are amazing people doing good by the planet, and we get to do what we do best create businesses and brands and help the planet. We hope to do this more in the future.
We’ll keep pumping out fun and inspiring sustainability stories on mostly green.life. And. Also either find great projects to give a little boost or like in this case find great ideas that we want to help get off the ground and help launch a company. If you want to be involved in what we’re doing, reach out.
We talk a lot about building a team that goes around and does this and launches new companies and new projects for the planet. So we’d love to hear from you if you want to get involved with that.
[00:16:01] Jess: Thanks for joining us for this very unique episode of sharing what we’ve been up to.
And thanks for listening.
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