Going to the Dogs

By / Photography By Karen Miovas | December 05, 2016
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Drool Central: A Mum and Pup Barkery

On farms and in grocery stores, in restaurants and homes, an estimated 30% of the country’s food goes to waste annually. Alaska’s fish-processing industry alone produces more than 2 billion pounds of byproduct a year. Many in the industry are looking for ways to turn this nutritious waste into marketable products and reduce their environmental impact. A handful of entrepreneurs are helping out, too.

One of them is Daisy Nicolas, a professionally trained chef who has cooked for her Yellow Labrador, Dallas, for years. She turned her passions for cooking, dogs, and local food into making and selling homemade pet-friendly cuisine.

When Daisy first started thinking about going into business, using high quality local foods was a priority to her. She called Greg Favretto, the owner of Favco, a seafood processor and distributor in Anchorage, who Daisy knew from her time working as a chef at a lodge in Kodiak. When she asked him if he had anything she could use, he encouraged her to try some cod skin and gave her five pounds of fish scraps. “I just stared at it,” Daisy remembers. “I had never worked with anything like it before.”

After hours of removing bones and spiky things from that first batch of scraps, and many more hours researching and experimenting, she finally came up with something Dallas, her taste tester, would eat. And Dallas wasn’t the only happy hound; she sold out of her first batch of “fish chips” in a few hours. Fish chips continue to be one of her best sellers.

Four years later, Drool Central continues to feed local dogs. In addition to turning fish byproduct into healthy pet treats, Daisy also works with farmers and buys or barters for beauty-challenged produce that doesn’t make it to market. It’s estimated that 5 to 30% of a harvest is discarded because bruises and blemishes make it unsuitable for retail consumer sales. Daisy sources Alaska beets, carrots, potatoes, spinach and barley.

She continues to research pet nutrition and food trends, and with Dallas at her side, she develops new treats to add to Drool Central’s product line. Daisy gets friendly with many of her customers. She talks to them at markets, on the trail, and even at their homes when she personally delivers orders. It’s not surprising for Daisy to add extra treats to an order or to remember a particular dog’s favorite flavor.

Over the years, this personal attention has led her to develop dog food specific for health concerns. For dogs with intestinal and joint issues, she recommends goat kefir, a probiotic that has been shown to have health properties for both humans and pets. She gets her goat milk from a local farmer.

Just like processing hundreds of pounds of fish scraps and produce, growing a small business isn’t easy or quick. Daisy continues to sell online and at farmers’ markets. Each year she expands her reach with additional retail locations. Currently, Drool Central is sold in stores in Anchorage and Ketchikan. Last year, Anchorage’s doggie visitors started getting a taste of Alaska-made treats through complimentary “Bark Packs” from the Lakefront Hotel in Anchorage, formerly the Millennium.

Since her customers like nothing more than being on the move, Daisy’s now fundraising for a food truck to create a mobile barkery. This summer she hopes to be at trailheads, dog parks and anywhere else her customers are running around.

You can find Drool Central products at:

Alaska K9 Aquatics
AK Bark & HM Bark, pet boutiques
David Jensen Photography
New Sagaya Markets & Wholesale
Lakefront Anchorage (provides free mini-Bark Pack for dog guests)
Blasphemous Bill’s
And statewide at droolcentral.com

Article from Edible Alaska at http://ediblealaska.ediblecommunities.com/shop/going-dogs
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