The Everyday Trainer Podcast

We're Talking Raw Food with Viva Raw's Jenn and Zach

August 31, 2023 Meghan Dougherty
The Everyday Trainer Podcast
We're Talking Raw Food with Viva Raw's Jenn and Zach
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this week's episode I'm joined by Jen and Zach, a young couple who started their own pre-made raw food brand, Viva Raw, and we chat all about how they got started, the roadblocks they faced along the way, and how feeding your pet raw can improve their health and overall quality of life.

When it comes to our pet's health, many of us would go above and beyond to provide the best food possible which is why Zach and Jen started Viva Raw- to give dog owners a way to feed their dogs biologically appropriate diets without the hassle of sourcing ingredients and the hours of prep that typically comes with at-home foods.

You know the drill, grab yourself a tasty drink and enjoy this week's episode.

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Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome back to the Everyday Trainer podcast. My name is Meg and I am a dog trainer. On today's episode, I'm joined by Jen and Zach from Viva Raw. They are a young couple who started this awesome brand and I'm so excited to chat with them. So we're going to talk all about their company, how they got started. You know building a raw brand, which I know is not easy, so we'll definitely chat about that and so much more. You guys are really going to love this episode. They're awesome people. So you know the drill grab yourself a tasty drink and meet us back here. Hey guys, hey, hello. How are you?

Speaker 2:

Good.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm super pumped about this. I am very passionate about nutrition and raw food and I have gone down that rabbit hole and I'm like, obviously you all have too. So I'm super excited to hear about your journey and how you guys got started with Viva Raw.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. You want us to sort of give an intro and dive right in, or?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, tell us, tell us a little bit about yourselves and what got you started. You know kind of researching this. Do you have a specific dog that you know really got you into this? How'd you get going?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, a little bit about ourselves. Like before we started Viva, we were actually both just we were both working in tech, and so it was. It's weird. Like when we first started, everyone around us was like what are you doing?

Speaker 2:

Like what is even raw food right.

Speaker 3:

But but honestly, it all started because the first dog together her name is Karu, and even before we started Viva, I like when we got her as a puppy, I was doing a ton of research on like oh hey, like what should I feed her? What's going to be the best diet? So eventually I we obviously settled on raw and we were doing like homemade DIY at the time and it was. We love what it was doing for her, but we didn't love the process of making it, like, I'm sure, for many other people.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yeah, so it's literally. It's literally like a full time job, like having to source all of the ingredients and, you know, run around to different stores and I know for myself I was like looking at like local farms and I would drive, like you know, an hour and a half to go to a farm and get all of these like obscure organ meats and chicken feet and things like you know, things like that.

Speaker 3:

Our story. Exactly. So we were. We were even just doing half raw for her because she's a big dog, mostly because it was just so much work to have had to do like full raw. But yeah, like you were ordering stuff online, meal prepping over the weekends and things like that and kind of a couple of things came together interestingly enough to like give us the push to start Viva. So one thing was we were we started working from home because of COVID and honestly, that gave us a little bit more time to like think about what we wanted to do for the next couple of years. And we just realized, like our corporate jobs, weren't it right? And one of the things we were passionate about was like Karoo's food and it was also one of the things we kind of knew how to do or at the point at that time we thought we knew right. So with that we essentially like our very first thing was like we made a Facebook post and our like local North Carolina group and was like hey guys, we're going to sell some rabbit and some chicken like a blended mix, like who's interested? And we got like 10 people who placed an order with us through a Google form and then we took that, bought some raw materials from a farm and then prepped it all over like a Thanksgiving weekend and delivered it like in our car around North Carolina, so that was like a very very humble beginning. That was our very first thing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you guys were kind of like bootstrapping this in the beginning, right Like it was. It was just you two for quite some time.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it was just us two for a good nine.

Speaker 2:

It felt too long. I mean it was for nine months for a pregnancy duration. That's what it was, yeah.

Speaker 3:

We were growing our baby. But yeah, like from there, we realized we needed like some better equipment. We needed like a real like space for us to do all the work. So we moved into like a commercial kitchen kind of in the area and then from there, on like every weekend for that nine months we were like great Producing food and then like Monday through Wednesday we were doing the shipping. And then eventually from there we found like a fantastic partner to a USDA manufacturer actually, who was willing to learn our process, make our food for us, and we kind of just grew from there.

Speaker 1:

Nice, zach, the last time we chatted you were like I don't think we would have done this if we would have known, like, what it was going to entail. So what were some like major roadblocks that you guys kind of hit whenever you're getting started?

Speaker 2:

If I'm to be honest, I feel like the biggest roadblock was like the physical roadblock. It was really hard on our bodies to be able to honestly like any sort of small. Like small businesses is very difficult. I think there's all sorts of different kinds of small businesses with all sorts of challenges. I think the one that we really miscalculated was like the physical challenge of carrying, like you know, hundreds of pounds of meat like you know, day in and day out. So that was like we always talk about how, if we're any older than we currently are, like that, that roadblock would have actually been like the end yeah.

Speaker 3:

One of my fun, one of the memories I laugh about now, is this one day over the weekend, where we were in our kitchen we were making food, zach went into the freezer and it was a while before he came back. I was like, oh, maybe he's just like busy in there. And when he walked in, he just had this look on his face and I was like, so what happened? What took you so long? He was like like some of our cases actually like toppled over in the freezer and like fell off. Oh my God. And I was like that was truly one of those moments where it was like we, you know, we pushed past it and made it through, but it was. It's just like little things like that were you know it's, they were definitely.

Speaker 2:

You know, yeah, they were, they were definitely challenges to work with I'd say the, so like that was like the, the one that comes to mind immediately just from like a very visceral, like dross and visceral sort of memory for us. But I think, like other things that were super challenging, to be honest, were just like supply related and we and part of the reason I know, like Jennifer talked about in the beginning we were home making meals for Karoo. A lot of that was also we could control exactly what sort of sourcing we're getting from her. Like we knew the farms that we were sourcing from. We knew what sort of quality meats we, you know, saw with our own eyes Instead of it being sort of like ground and like mashed up really finely and all that and just like mixed into the sort of like gray looking patty or something like that. So we really wanted to make a food that was like very, very different and felt way closer to homemade food. So for that, I think like as we sort of scaled, finding the right farms that were of the quality like you know, he mainly raised animals, no antibiotics ever was like really really tricky and I think again, you know, being a COVID baby, I think we felt a lot of the supply chain issues like during that time. So even as we were growing and there's like additional people finding out about us, it was like really difficult to keep up and I think that there is definitely things that are a lot healthier now, but there's definitely periods of time, like as we grew, where we were out of stock on a lot of things. Like we miscalculated our first Thanksgiving wrong and forgot that. Like there's like literally no turkey around Thanksgiving.

Speaker 1:

Oh, man yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's like one of those things.

Speaker 1:

I would never know unless you experience it. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Like it's not like they give you a heads up, you just like one day in November you call them and they're like no, it's Thanksgiving, like we don't have any turkey for you.

Speaker 1:

Oh no, and you're like, oh shoot, I didn't even think about this one.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and I mean there's other things too, like we basically we use cranberries and our recipe for dogs and we basically stock up on it like once a year right During cause it's like people make it for Thanksgiving and then not afterwards. So we just got to have to like. We got like pallets and freezers full of cranberries, so try and last us through the rest of the year, until next season. Wow.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's like little interesting tidbits, yeah.

Speaker 1:

So what got you like before you decided to start your own business? What got you into feeding your dog raw? Because you know I work with a lot of pet owners and you know if they're just so used to kibble when I'm like, oh, I definitely suggest, you know, feeding your dog raw. They're like what, like why? So what are like what's kind of like your pitch to people when you get that feedback of like why would I feed my dog raw meat? Like what are the benefits to it?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think. I think, for to answer your first question, what convinced us was obviously, you know Cruz essentially like our first child together, so we just wanted to make sure she got the best in whatever way we could do it. So it was honestly just like a lot of research like it. We spent a lot of time just like looking at what other people were doing before feeling comfortable enough to to make the leap ourselves. But I think for anyone on the fence I would just say like these days it's it's almost getting easier and easier to feed raw. I think there's a lot more education out there around like the benefits and and why it makes sense. Right, and if, if you just take the time to talk to people and kind of like have a conversation on like hey, you know, like Kibble with it being highly processed only really became a thing the last like couple decades, I think people eventually start to see the logic of it and they may be more comfortable starting out with gently cooked and things like that. But I think on some level, fresh food just makes intuitive sense and you can and so many people are out there talking about the benefits they see like just like better GI health, like skin issues clearing up. It's not like a cure-all, right, I think there's. Maybe we need to be a little bit cautious about over promising on Rob, but people, people just see so many health benefits. It's like an investment in their long-term health rather than just like, oh hey, what, what do I put on the table tonight?

Speaker 2:

Yeah and yeah, like I think in no way are we, you know, like as a company in general, like Nothing about what we do is trying to say like, oh, kibble, like don't be kibble, kibble is just not, you know, super, super great. I think a lot of it is just us trying to educate people about, obviously, the benefits of adding any sort of fresh food into your dog's diet. Right, I'm transparently like Kibble has been sort of the mindset and just dry food in general, not from, you know, people Thinking, oh, this is what I should be, my dog, but rather just the industry forming in this sort of way. Right, I think, like a lot of us grew up just thinking this is what we feed our dogs and I think, after anyone sort of like pauses and if they think of sort of degree beyond that, it makes a lot of intuitive sense that, biologically, this is not what you know your, your dogs and cats were sort of designed to eat and there are better options for them. But of course, like you know, a lot of other things come into the picture too. Of course, people who are struggling with like medical issues or allergies or stuff like that Definitely come and, you know, look at this a lot sooner. But also, like you know, people who just are are really wanting their dogs to have like the best lives possible to as well. But really I think, like you know, you can definitely just start introducing it a little bit at a time as well and just see what sort of works for you, because you know, budget-wise we do realize that it is different In terms of like what people are used to mentally too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah for sure, and it's really interesting that you talk about. You know, like if we just kind of intuitively think about what is Biologically appropriate for our dogs. I actually have experience. I worked at a wildlife rescue facility and we would have a Fridge that would basically have like little pieces of paper that went over. Like each animals diets, right, so like I could tell you what, like a tortoise would eat or a lemur would eat, and like all of these different animals, carnivores, like bobcats, hawks, everything, I could tell you their diet and it was, you know, greens and raw meat and whole prey items. And then we go and feed our dogs food from a bag and I couldn't even like tell you Biologically what our dogs should be eating. And I was like this is crazy. Like almost Everybody has a dog and I feel like very few people know what dogs should you know biologically be eating or even just what is in our kibble. You know that's something that I educate our owners a lot on is I get a lot of people who I Like I love to bash certain kibble brands.

Speaker 2:

But I won't do that with you guys here.

Speaker 1:

But there was like a few brands that I get a lot of dogs on and they're very anxious, they're itchy there. You know, I think the big thing that I see most of is like the anxiety. I can almost tell like a dog's behavior and what food that they're on, and the food Typically has a lot of fillers. And so I teach my owners, like just go and read the bag. Like I just want you to read the bag. I'm not even gonna tell you what is like good or bad, but like just use some common sense, you know. And if the third ingredient on the bag is like cornstarch, like do we really think that our dogs, who are predominantly carnivores, should be eating food that is predominantly made up of these filler ingredients? You know, but it's one of those things that we've never really second-guessed it. You know we. It's just part of the industry, it's just what everybody has been feeding their dog. So it's like, yeah, of course my dog eats kibble, like that's. You know, that's just what it is. But when you, you know, are in this industry and you're surrounded by dogs, you really see the side effects of Feeding our dog's kibble and, you know, I can see the behavioral change in dogs that are fed the this kibble. That's like not very high quality, lots of filler ingredients, versus dogs that come to us that are on, you know, home cooked or raw. They're just More stable, to be quite honest with you, and I don't want to like put anything out there, you know, like fake claims or anything, but this is just kind of what I see in the industry. So for me it's like it's not just the physical health benefits of feeding our dogs, you know, biologically appropriate Meals, but the mental benefits of it, you know, and it's the same thing for us. Like if you put garbage in, you're gonna feel like garbage. So if you're eating cereal all day and highly processed food, like you're probably gonna have some anxiety or, you know, not feel great because our bodies are systems and we have to feed them with fuel, and it's the same thing for our dogs.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, exactly, and if you even just think about it from like the perspective of like Higher starch, higher sugar, like you, when you eat a lot of candy or something like that, you get a sugar high and a crash and you feel moody or in a table, and it's very similar with in terms of if you translate that over to Dog food, right, it's like that huge sugar rush, although simple carbs. It definitely makes the differences that you're talking about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we hear this all the time from our customers. Even like there, there are people who like reach out and mention, like behavioral changes after transitioning.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and I think that's one of the more kind of a little bit less talked about, I think, compared to the other health benefits People always talk about, like the poops, the coat, the dental health, because that's kind of they make the more immediate connection. But the behavioral change and like the systematic changes you see, is definitely like a surprise benefit for a lot.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, for sure, and that's just kind of what I see, because that's what I do is, you know, behavioral modification. So I I see these dogs that come in so anxious and I'm like, what are we feeding them? What are they eating? You know, and it's usually the like big, the big players that you know are Causing some of this and when we switch them over to either like a higher quality kibble or raw or homemade, like our owners are seeing a big difference in Just their dogs, you know, physical well-being and mental well-being.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for sure. I mean it's not funny that you say that too, because, like I think it was just last week when we're talking with someone who is actually a trainer and she was saying, like she sometimes if, like, the anxiety in a dog that she is seeing is just too much, she actually will not like take them on unless the owner like specifically commits to changing their diet. Because she's just like there's, there's like no way that I can like do all these things. I'm just going to be working like 300 times harder.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I mean it makes sense because you know there's all of this science that is kind of coming out now. That's like gut health equals mental health, you know, like it controls our hormones and kind of regulates things in our body. So a lot of these like mental health things can kind of be rooted back to like poor gut health. So for dogs, what are like, what are their main sources of protein? What are some of the ingredients that are in your food that is really feeding them, nourishing them, making them feel good and look good?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so for the dog, I'll go through the dog recipes. Yeah, so we do offer a wide protein selection. So that is like one thing that's pretty unique about Viva. I'd say a lot of and think of this just from like the way that you would want to feed yourself or your family. But, to be honest, like a lot of the ways that we feed ourselves is just based on like natural food diversity and like using a lot of different, so like balance over time. And even though every single meal that we have is considered balance, like you know, the nutrient profile of, say, like, chicken is going to be a little bit different from beef. So we offer a bunch of different proteins, but all of our recipes are at least 90% protein, and when I say protein, I don't mean like crude protein, I mean like 90% like meat, like animal products. Correct? Yeah, so of that 90% there is a really really healthy mix of what we would consider, like you know, hardworking muscle meat. So whether that's say like, for example, like beef muscle meat or like beef heart, might be a part of that as well, but then also like secreting organs, like liver and kidney, as well as like beef bone, which is a really, really important source of calcium and phosphorus. So you can think of, like you know, joint health or bone health, especially for, like puppies. But we also add in like a lot of not a lot of a little bit of veggies. So 8% of our recipes are veggies and organic veggies specifically, and amongst that mix we use like carrots, organic carrots, organic cranberries, organic green beans, organic broccoli. There, a lot of the reason why we add those sort of ingredients in is just to help with phytonutrients and then also like antioxidants, but also like a really healthy source of fiber. I think like there was this mode of thinking, maybe even just like 10 years back around, like prey model raw diets, where the whole goal was like imitate or mimic the diet of a wolf, thinking that they only ate like, specifically like a prey animal, like just a rabbit or just like a chicken or something like that. But since then a lot of research has come out to show that there was actually a lot of like, you know, still like healthy fiber in their guts, like they would still like forage for like seeds and berries and things like that and, to be honest, it's super, super important for gut health, as you were saying, to make sure that they're able to sort of like digest everything super well. So, you know, the organic veggies are in there for for gut health, and then also there's just some natural supplements and the way that we think about formulation is quite different from some companies, but we use a lot of whole food ingredients because of the same thing that we've been talking about around. Like whole food ingredients are more nutritionally complex and complete in many ways, rather than using something like a synthetic ingredient Like, for example, if I used, you know, to be honest, you could probably even flip over the back of your bag if you do feed like a dry food and see something along the lines of like potassium iodide for like iodine, and when it says something like that, it's literally a synthetically or lab derived you know nutrient that's added just for iodine, which is absolutely fine. That's going to help meet those levels. But a couple of things are trickier around there in regards to like whether or not absorption is great. So you know, depending on how sort of bound chemically, that can come into question. And then the other thing is like, for example, when we use an ingredient like, say, kelp powder for iodine instead, it's much more complex and it offers a lot of other sort of benefits beyond just like specifically meeting iodine requirements. So even though we are using that ingredient, you know, primarily for iodine, it's a whole food ingredient which allows it to be more, say, like rounded off. It's the same reason why we don't just eat bread and like supplement. You know, our piece of bread with like plenty of just little droplets and pills, right?

Speaker 1:

So yeah, where did you learn all of this?

Speaker 2:

It's been, I could say we're always learning, yeah, we're always learning. We're still learning.

Speaker 3:

I think. So our formulation journey definitely took us a while. Like so, when we first started, we made just like a like a prey model raw meat, bone organ base mix, and then later on we started working towards, like, offering a balanced recipe. So through that process we actually worked with several different nutritionists and initially we had this idea of, like hey, we'll just call someone telling them to make us a recipe and that was the end of it. But it just really didn't work with the philosophy we had of wanting to specifically supplement with whole foods. Right, I think a lot of the people we talked with were, like whole foods are so variable. Like you know, you want something consistent, but we it just took us. What that ended up forcing us to do was to learn more on our own so we could bring more to discussion and push the people that we were working with to say, like we want a recipe like this, we're willing to do the testing on the ingredients, but we truly believe that this is a better way. So Zach and our nutritionists are kind of the main brains behind all of it, but at this point, like he just knows a lot and it's it's really impressive.

Speaker 2:

It's just a discussion with our nutrition is going sort of back and forth on things, because a lot of it is like they have recommendations on what sort of things we should use and then we'll think about those ingredients and whether or not sort of like that makes sense for our philosophy. And then we may also have suggestions for like, oh, what if we want to use this sort of ingredient? What if we want to stick to a whole foods philosophy? And they'll come back and say, well, like you're going to have to like test like 10 different suppliers to be able to find that you know ingredient and it was a year long process. But like, for example, even with, like kelp powder, like we tested like multiple suppliers, or like you know, using some specific whole food ingredient to satisfy like a micronutrient requirement, we were just like doing tons of lab testing to make sure that we could use this whole food ingredient in the way that we wanted to and be able to actually satisfy those levels. So it's the same reason why companies don't do this, because it's so complex and it's, you know, more time consuming and and just a longer drawn out process. But for us, I mean, it was worth it. You know it. I think we wouldn't have any other way of like shortening, like how long it took to launch those recipes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and talking with you, know, other people in the industry or other companies, that's definitely what makes you guys stand out is it's very easy to you know start a brand and just kind of like hand it off to somebody else. But it's very obvious that you guys are so hands on and so passionate about this and that is definitely what you know makes you different.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. I mean we're we're just honestly glad that people care this much as much as we do, you know, about some of the things that we do behind the scenes. We're really thankful to be honest for this community. I think, like a lot of it, is just feeling super grateful that it's you know, a product like this really resonates with the rest of you guys.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So you guys just got back from a trip. I would love to hear a little bit more about that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, we were just in Vegas last week for for SuperZoo, ashley, and I mean, if you guys aren't familiar with SuperZoo, it's basically one of the largest.

Speaker 2:

I think it's the largest.

Speaker 3:

It is Maybe it is the largest kind of like trade, like pet industry trade show there's just like. It's not just food, although there are a lot of kind of like natural pet products, but you know people doing like collars, leashes, outfits, like yeah, all sorts of things. It was and even not just like.

Speaker 2:

I mean you also see like Carina and Hills and stuff.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, but um no, it was a really good trip for us. We just got the opportunity to meet like so many people that we've kind of only talked to online up until now, so a lot of the partners that we work with, some of the retailers and also just like other brands and like the natural pet care space. I think that was absolutely one of the best parts of the trip.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so we're not. I would say like a lot of the reason why people go to SuperZoo is because they're interested in expanding into like, um, like retail outlets, like stores, right, like mom and pops shops and and stuff like that. Um, we aren't, uh, I would say, like actively pushing into retail shops, but we do work with wholesalers and stuff like that on a one-off basis. So for us it was a way to learn more about whether or not that was in the future for Viva. But yeah, as Jennifer said, it was just awesome to meet other brands as well and like-minded people. It's honestly very wholesome to speak with people who actually understand and care about the same things that you do.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, I think one of the interesting tidbits I learned from being there was just talking to some of the people who've been to the trade show like year after year and I think one of the big things they hit on was like just the demographic of the companies and like where people like to gravitate towards and hangs out has definitely shifted Right Like just 10 years ago. You know, I think the biggest, like the biggest boost, the most popular like vendors were like Perina Hills, like Mars and things like that. But I mean, when we went just like last week it was it was definitely a lot more like the natural pet food companies being represented. So I think that's definitely like a cool shift to see how you know, just like like people are getting more and more aware of it, whether they choose our food or another brand. But like, overall, the end of the day, it's like the people who, the more people who are feeding their passive, fresh diet, like the better writing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah for sure, and I love seeing that shift in the industry as well. And even I would say, like in the past couple years since COVID, like we're all kind of sitting around and we're like, oh, like, what things can I go down the rabbit hole with? That was 1000% me. What kind of got me into raw was my oldest golden had like a fatty tumor and I went to a bunch of different vets and you know everybody was kind of recommending surgery and it's something that I did with previous dogs of mine, just like growing up, and it never had a good outcome and it's always like a really invasive surgery and there's a long recovery period and I knew that I didn't want to do that with my dog. So I went to two just kind of like regular vets and that was their recommendation. They're like it's not, you know, it's not cancerous, but like you might as well get it taken out, and I'm like I don't know. So then I went to a holistic vet and she was like you know, I see this a lot with predominantly kibble fed dogs and when we switch them over to either raw or home cooked, the tumors literally shrink. And I was like I'm in, you know like I will literally do anything for my dog. So that's when I kind of, you know, fell down the rabbit hole and I was like, yes, I'm doing this. I paid for like meal plan. So I did perfectly raw some which they are awesome, they break down everything but like, oh my God, I feel like I was like a scientist like putting these meals together. And I come from the fitness industry. I was a personal trainer at one point, so I was like very familiar with like meal prepping for myself and then I was doing it for my dog and I was like the like measuring like every little nutrient, like so specific. And I was like, okay, I did this for like a year and I was like there has to be a better way, because I'm spending all Saturday, all Sunday, like sourcing the ingredients, freezing them, thawing them, cutting it up. And I was like if anybody walked into my kitchen when I was like prepping raw, I have like blood down to my elbows like. Tupperware containers like all over the floor. You know I'm like, oh well, it looks like I murdered somebody in here, you know, and it's like the cleanup that comes with it. So I used to really like hype up like the homemade stuff, and then I just got so busy. I was like there's physically no way for me to do this. Like just kind of like how you guys were, it's like the physical needs to like do all of this and like cut up everything and like put it into containers, and then I had to have to have like an entire freezer to be able to do that. And then, like it was just so much. So I had kind of always been searching for a raw company. That really resonated with me and when I had autumn on my podcast, she was talking about you know kind of the different brands that she's researched with, and she's another person who is really awesome and super passionate about what she does. And she says I'm like I know that you've put in so much research into this and she had so many wonderful things to say, not just about your company and your sourcing, but you guys as well, and how hands on you are in the company and how you know like you oversee everything and you're constantly like researching and learning more about how you can make your product best for these owners out there who truly want the best for their dogs.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely, thank you for that. No, and I think our philosophy is that we are just trying to build a company and a product and have a product that, like, we'd be proud to use ourselves. And in a way, like I think maybe the philosophy we approach things is different because we we don't really come from like the pet food space, right, there's no nothing kind of like preconceived in us of like, oh, it has to be done this way or whatever way. In some ways it's like worked our benefit, where we're like, you know, hey, we only want to use whole foods. Like how do we make that happen? But I can very easily imagine that, like if we were from industry and trying to do just something a little different, we wouldn't necessarily have had enough conviction to make it happen. But yeah, I think that's definitely. I think at the end of the day, we're just kind of, you know, blinders on sometimes. Hey, we want to do this like how, or like being a USDA facility.

Speaker 2:

Like we literally spent a year convincing a USDA facility to take our product right. Like they said no to us. Like so many times and we're like there's literally no reason why you shouldn't take our product. Like we just want to be made in human grade facilities. Like that's just what we want our pet food to be. Yeah, eventually they figured out that there was no difference between our ingredients and their ingredients. If anything, our ingredients are better, so then they. You know it made sense, but it took so long to. I think people have preconceived notions about how things work in pet food, right, and a lot of it is just trying to push those boundaries of like no, it doesn't have to just work that way, and we know we don't have to be seen this way. We can make a product that is just along everything that you would logically want for some part of your family that you love.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, so how does that work? Do you have like a factory?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so we work with the. We work with a partner. The head of manufacturing there works super, super closely with us. The factory is about like two hours away from us, so we go like every month at least. But yeah, we basically taught them. It's a. It's a sausage making facility for like retail, you know, like sausages and Walmart and stuff like that. Yeah, but you know, if you think about it, a lot of the same equipment or I guess equipment is needed like you know, grinders and mixers and whatnot. So it was a natural fit. We noticed it very early on and specifically new we. You know, being in a sausage facility would probably work out for us. But it's just like took so long to try to like convince all sorts of different sausage facilities across North Carolina, Like I was at one point just like walking up to, like we literally like driving to different sausage facilities and like knocking on their doors and be like will you talk to us, we just want to produce pet food, and they're like no, definitely not.

Speaker 1:

Really Please go away, yeah, why.

Speaker 2:

Like I would see people in the back and they would just be like tell them to, like tell them to leave. Maybe, like I'm not here yeah yeah, like I'm not like, like to tell us his like assistant, to tell me at the front, be like he's not available, and I was like I literally saw him, like talking to you.

Speaker 1:

Oh my God, but you found somebody that you really like to work with.

Speaker 2:

Exactly yeah, so no, they've been like a super, super important partner for us. And I think the other thing to note just about like why we're so focused on it because a lot of the times, like you can also just someone can decide to like start their own facility as well and just like make pet food in it because it doesn't have to be inspected. But for us, the practices and the food safety sort of guidelines and you know everything that is just like incumbent to USDA facility. We wanted that like wow, our product was being produced. So just naturally there's a culture of like how they treat the product and like the care and you know the measures that they take to make sure that they produce everything in the best way possible. So I think a lot of that we're sort of like seeing retrospectively now because we do talk with like other brands and facilities who maybe started their own facility and then just hired people to come make the food for them. But a lot of the times, like because they've never been inspected by USDA or stuff like that, it's not the same like sort of caliber of work.

Speaker 3:

So one thing that I learned, you know, since starting at Viva, is like what exactly does USDA mean? And I think one of the things that stands out is so USDA regulates all meat for human consumption and if you are a facility licensed to produce meat for people and grocery stores, it's like during your production time you literally have like the USDA, or like your local government sends a person to just like be in your facility on the line during all hours to like look over things, and I think that level of essentially like awareness and like the habits and the mindset you have around, like food safety, sanitation, all those things, it's just different, right, and that's sort of the standard that we wanted for our product to.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's pretty different, yeah, when someone's always there sort of inspecting everything.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that is one of the things that I know like vets will kind of argue is like your dog will get sick, what's kind of like your take on that you know, because they're like well, it's not cooked, so it's not safe. It's not safe for our pets to eat.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean this is probably one of the most common things questions or concerns about raw. I would say, if you really if you dug into it a little more, you'll you'll see that like regulations around pet food is like way stricter than anything for human food. There's actually like a zero tolerance policy for pathogens and raw food because it is served raw and ready to consume. So on our end we do it's not one single thing right, it's. It's all these things we do along the way, starting with our sourcing. We always only source from USDA plans, so you know they have their own set of processes there. Everything is under like very strict temperature control as it goes through our facility, and following there's like a 20 page or more document of like our food safety plan. And then at the end we also are testing every single batch for pathogens. So we actually, I would say, take more than than like the average standard of care, because we are in this space.

Speaker 2:

If you've ever seen like, sometimes you'll see people mention this and previously to this I didn't exactly know what it meant, but sometimes people will say things like oh, make sure you purchase commercial raw, just purchase raw meat from the grocery store. And like, the reason why people sometimes say that is because you know, as Jennifer mentioned, you're actually not allowed to have any presence of salmonella, e coli, listeria, in your food as a raw pet food producer. Like, none of your finished product can contain any of that. Like zero, like literally no concentration is allowed, and it's not even like a limit or anything, whereas in like stores for certain products, for example for ground chicken, you can have up to and I'm talking like you know any sort of ground chicken. Like in any sort of grocery store, you can have an allowable limit of 25% of your total volume that you send to those grocery stores can have salmonella. So it's like a completely different sort of scale, or like just the yeah, like the focus on, just because I think the whole rationale is that, okay, ground chicken in your grocery store, human is going to take it home, human is going to cook it. Right, that's the whole point. And because, like, our raw meals are meant to be served raw. The idea is that you know like they have to be. You know, entirely safe to consume in that inner. Whether it's for you know, to be honest, fda even admits this. But it's less of a concern for your pet than for humans because your pets are, of course, like evolutionarily and biologically adapted to be able to deal with, you know, any sort of healthy levels of, even things like salmonella and coli. But even like other than that, you know for the human side of things, making sure that I guess, like any sort of people handling the food, it's still absolutely safe for them. So we do do a bunch of things from our perspective to be able to meet that. You know it's. It's a different question, like whether or not this sort of regulatory you know, divide is is reasonable, but a lot of the things that we do are to sort of like meet that standard with, like, our testing and holding before we ship out any product.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's really awesome. I had no idea about like the just grocery store meat thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so we actually, we actually made a reel about this because, like it's, people don't know much about it, but if you go like test I mean again it's it can be expensive. But like, since we do a lot of lab testing anyways, we just like tested grocery store chicken and like found a positive batch for salmonella and we're like, oh, of course.

Speaker 1:

Oh my God, that is so wild. Well, good to know.

Speaker 2:

So make sure you cook your chicken in that you buy.

Speaker 3:

I mean not to like go out there and not not trying to scare people. There is really no reason to be scared, Just wash your hands.

Speaker 1:

You know, not even that, but like dishes you know you'll be fine. One recommendation for a lot of owners out there is to just like add raw meat onto their dogs food, but like that is almost riskier than feeding a premade raw that you can get from a company like you guys.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it depends on what you're specifically concerned about and obviously people have different sort of risk tolerances, right? Yeah, like, be honest Again, if there's a little bit of salmonella in your food for your dogs, if they're a healthy, active dog without him, you know, you know compromise sort of states or anything like that they're going to be fine. But with that being said, of course, the person handling it, you know that's a different question of it if you, if you are washing your hands carefully and stuff like that. So that's why people say that where they say I would recommend using commercial raw instead of using something from the grocery store for, like, if you want the best sort of, you know, all around food safety.

Speaker 1:

Interesting. I had no idea. You guys have a lot of different products, so what are other like benefits to switching up your dogs meat? Right, so you have like duck and rabbit and beef? Like, is it good to rotate our dogs proteins? What's? What's that all about?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely so. What the other thing unique about us is? We actually have like five different proteins. So there's there's quite a few benefits to like just changing things up within you know what your dog or your cat is able to handle. Just a couple benefits I think. One is like it just kind of keeps things from getting boring right, like if you eat the same thing day after day, even if it's super high quality, maybe one day you'll just get tired of it. So it just keeps things interesting, keeps things engaging for your dog. The other thing is like it is just like although all of our recipes, of our balance right, the nutritional profile, as Zach mentioned earlier, is still a little different from recipe to recipe. So it is good to have that diversity in your diet, just from like a nutritional perspective, but also from kind of like a like a gut health perspective, to like the more different foods that like an animal's gut encounters, like the more diverse their microbiome gets and that kind of stuff.

Speaker 1:

Nice, that makes sense, and you have a new product coming out, correct?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Yeah, it's actually so, yeah, it's our. What we like to do throughout the year a couple times is like we like to launch kind of like seasonal items. So the one we have that will be available for everyone is going to be on Monday. It's we call it.

Speaker 2:

Monday August 28.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, Monday on Tuesday so it'll come out the week of this launch. Yeah, correct.

Speaker 3:

It's an emu and venison mix and we we nicknamed it a V-moo recipe, but it's really cool. We also went and saw the emu farm that we saw. I saw that that's kind of cool. Yeah, it's crazy. I mean the birds are just so strange and it's crazy about their people out there farming them. But yeah, it's a really cool recipe. We're very excited about it. It's entirely novel protein. So if your pet has like I don't know, like B for chicken sensitivities, like it may be a really good option for them to try.

Speaker 1:

Okay, nice, so that'll be out whenever this podcast airs, when you all aren't working, because you, you guys, peg me as the type of people who are working 24 seven and even you're like, oh, we're going on a trip and it's like it's a work trip. Oh, we're going to be gone that day. It's a, it's a work day. What? What do you guys like to do?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, what the pause?

Speaker 1:

They're like oh, what do we do?

Speaker 3:

The hardest question of the interview is literally. But I will say that, like we, a lot more of our life is working, but honestly, we are very happy with the way things are. Right. Like it's, we found something that we're very excited to be working on and I think same for you too. Right? Yeah, it's not just a nine to five is kind of like a life, a sort of life thing. But actually this weekend we're going to go watch a tennis match with. His parents are visiting, so we're going to go see some tennis.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I mean, oh, is that, is that your exciting?

Speaker 3:

You got something more exciting. I don't know. Yeah, that's a good one.

Speaker 2:

So I mean we used to be super, like active people.

Speaker 1:

We used to be super active people we used to be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, like we, we loved hiking and climbing and like diving and all sorts of things like that, but we also liked playing a lot of tennis. So there's like this yeah, like I feel like we didn't know about this until last year, but apparently the pro tennis players come to North Carolina for God knows why and, yeah, they just have like a match here. So my parents and us are going to the seat that tomorrow.

Speaker 1:

That'll be good. It's good to have some balance from like one workaholic to another.

Speaker 2:

Amazing, my trainers will like force me out of the house.

Speaker 1:

Like, if I don't have any dogs scheduled for the day, they'll look at me and be like you should leave. Yeah, what are you doing?

Speaker 2:

And I'm like, oh, where am I going to go?

Speaker 1:

What am I going to do? Yeah, I, I like to be outside. So basically anytime I can load up all my dogs and in my van and go camp or, you know, travel somewhere. We're going to a river to go to the beach, we're going to a river to go swimming or things like that. So I'm actually planning on taking September off. I haven't had any time off since January, february, since March, so I've been full time 24, seven since March, like had no time off. So this is my like big trip that I'm taking in September and I'm actually headed out to California. I'm going to go chat with some other dog trainers out there. So, yeah, that's, I mean same thing like taking off, but I'm still loading up, you know, four dogs in a van yeah, I'm still working like it literally never stops.

Speaker 3:

It's like if you're able to make your work and you're like when work doesn't always feel like work, right. Yeah, so fun and excited to do too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I would probably be like a crazy person if I didn't work 24 seven. Like what would I do with my time? You know, and you have to be like a certain, a certain type of a little crazy to be able to like start your own business and run your own business, because you know like it's truly nonstop and you have to work through all the obstacles that come up, and you know like it takes a special type of person. You know the type of person who can like hyper fixate on things until they get done. So I definitely see that in you all too, which is awesome. You know, I think those are really like the best companies is when the owners are just like so passionate about what they do. You literally have to like drag them away from it. So I always just like to ask, like what do you do outside of this? You know, cause it's very easy.

Speaker 3:

Who are you outside? Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

It's very easy to like talk about your special interests. You know, like if somebody asked me about dog training, I can like go on for like two hours and like it's so obvious that you guys can do that same thing about like pet nutrition and raw food. But it's like, okay, well, what about outside of that? And it's like crickets, crickets.

Speaker 3:

But yeah, I think we are slowly getting to like find more balance and kind of our work. I mean, one big thing is like our team has grown internally too. So that's just been a huge, like it's been life changing having people who are just about as equally as passionate as you, just like helping out and like believing in the same thing, and obviously you know we get to like take half a day off on Saturday or something.

Speaker 2:

Does that even make sense to be able to take half a day off on?

Speaker 1:

Saturday oh, I talk about this all the time. I'm like I'm literally recording a podcast at, like you know, 10pm sometimes and like as soon as I'm done, I'm going to go like let dogs out. You know, like it. Just it doesn't stop when you're a business owner. So, yeah, I definitely get it. I feel like people relate to it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, perfect.

Speaker 1:

You're like cool, we're normal. Well, you guys are amazing and you're doing really wonderful things. Go ahead and tell the people where they can find you at, so, your socials website, all that stuff.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's Viva raw petscom. That's our website and then everywhere on social. It's just Viva raw pets Easy.

Speaker 2:

You can also find us at Viva rawcom. We just bought that domain.

Speaker 3:

It's just Viva raw pets. I love that. I love that the website used to belong to someone who was like a, like a personal nutrition coach and she specialized in like vegan food, and so I just thought it was kind of ironic that we're now turning it into like a meat page the opposite of that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah yeah, I'm sure she loves that. Well, thank you guys so much for joining me. I do also have a code with you all to get 20% off your raw order. So if you guys are interested in trying raw use code to E T, I will definitely include that in the show notes here. But thank you both so much for joining me today. I think we had such a nice chat and I'm sure I will definitely have you all on in the future, so this won't be the last one I sent you the link. I sent you the link to the microphone, so next time you have to invite us back.

Speaker 3:

Exactly, exactly.

Speaker 1:

Well, thank you both so much and thank you all for listening. We will see you next week, thank you.

Grow a Raw Pet Food Brand
Benefits of Feeding Dogs Raw
The Importance of a Dog's Diet
Raw Pet Food and Industry Shifts
Pet Food Safety and USDA Regulations
Rotating Dog's Meat, New Product Announcement