Where Can Your Dog Eat Like A King?
Minneapolis "pet deli" takes after local 'whole foods' movement.
With a name like Woody's Pet Deli , and located in a part of Minneapolis rotten with foodies, it wouldn't be a stretch for passers-by to guess that this store might serve up creations drizzled with truffle oil and exquisitely plated in a dish marked "Fido."
Instead, a new visitor entering the store at 50th and Xerxes would meet with a bunch of freezer chests full of fresh, raw and cooked meat. No line cooks catering to Lady and The Tramp here.
But, as owner Enrique Palma is the first to point out, that's a rather speciesist way of looking at food.
"It's a bit hard to tell" if dogs are gourmets, Palma told Patch, "On average, if a dog's eating the food, if he's not sick, if he's a healthy weight and has a healthy energy, and if he has a healthy coat, you're probably feeding your dog the right thing."
Be that as it may, Palma is one of the area's big evangelists for what he calls 'real food' for cats and dogs, echoing the 'real food' movement among Minneapolis humans.
After his dogs developed several food allergies caused in part, Palma said, by the commercial dog food he was feeding them, he started cooking them up special food to meet their dietary needs. The whole process, he said, inspired him to study pet nutrition more deeply—he wound up doing it for over two years—and launch his own business to bring the proverbial gospel to the masses.
"Dogs and cats are mammals like you and me," he explained. "The same diet all the time is bad."
"Their immune systems are looking for a fight," he added. "You feed them too much of the same thing, and eventually their bodies start to look at corn or chicken or whatever you're feeding them as 'the enemy.'"
In fact, Palma said, around 80 percent of his customers are referred to him by vets prescribing his "real food" as a treatment for food allergies and other ailments.
To combat this, Palma's two stores carry a wide diversity of meats, from the slightly exotic quail and duck to the more typical beef and chicken. Everything is butchered and frozen in a special off-site kitchen that supplies the stores, Palma said.
While Palma says he maintains very high standards for his kitchens, many vets aren't on board with the raw pet food movement, citing the risk of infecting your pet with e. coli and salmonella through carelessness.
Vet Theresa Hershey of Westgate Pet Clinic , for example, told Patch she's had several pets as patients in the last year who were on raw food diets, and then had contracted e. coli infections because of those diets.
Hershey said Westgate's vets suggest pet owners stick with prepared foods so you "know the nutrition you're delivering to your pet."
"If you do serve them raw food," she said, "Be very, very careful. Don't let the meat sit out on the counter. Watch out for cross-contamination, too. The utensils you use on the raw food should go straight into the dishwasher, and make sure you clean the counter right before and right after you prepare the raw food on it."
Bacteria or no, Palma's business and other raw or whole pet foods places like it are expanding—Palma alone has opened another store in St Paul and a new central kitchen recently.
So far, he seems to be making at least some pets happy.