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| Animals |

Rescuing Throw-Away Food and Recycling It Into Dog Treats

OK so the banana, peanut butter and bacon flavor received high marks in this taste test.
OK so the banana, peanut butter and bacon flavor received high marks in this taste test.
Photo by Margaret Downing

Turns out ugly fruit and vegetables and parts of food that no human especially wants to dine on can be powdered, repurposed and baked into a treat for dogs that is not only supposed to be healthy but negates a trip to the landfill to dump consumables that no one wants.

At least that's what co-founders James Bello and Alex Waite are trying to pull off with their company Shameless Pets whose three pound bag of "Bananas For Bacon" containing banana, peanut butter and bacon flavors ($11.99) is now on tryout at for a limited time at your local Houston area Costco to see if consumer demand is there.

"We say [the ingredients] are upcycled," Bello says. "We say we are rescuing food. We go to work with farmers and food processors. and will rescue food that cosmetically might look wrong."

Bello, a dog owner himself, was working at Target headquarters n Minnesota becoming increasingly exasperated with all the food especially produce that was just thrown out. With an MBA and several years business experience in more than one company he knew something about the financial aspects of building a company. But it wasn't until he happened to meet fellow dog lover and food scientist Waite who was tired of seeing all the waste on the manufacturing floor at the food company where she worked — that he could go ahead with the enterprise.

Headquartered just outside of Chicago with a production plant since 2016 the company whose wares are available online at its own website and through Amazon and Chewie, is dipping its toes in the Texas market at several Costcos throughout the state after first doing a pop-up road show with Costco.

When he speaks of "rescued" food sometimes Bello is talking about the banana that is too big to neatly fit in the bunch at the supermarket or the sweet potato that isn't quite orange enough to meet shoppers' color expectations. Sometimes it's things like egg or lobster shells that few people use.

"Bananas that are too short, too long, don't fit perfectly in a bunch. We work with banana plantations to rescue those bananas that would otherwise go to landfills and then process them and turn them into a banana powder. That's what we bake with."

"Essentially, food if it cosmetically doesn't look right, even though it tastes the exact same, and has the same nutritional composition, it will go to landfills. They' ll throw it out basically and there's a lot of carbon' emissions that come from that. And then obviously all of the wasted money water and labor and money spent growing just  that food just basically goes to waste. Our whole mission is how to we rescue those ingredients and turn them into healthy dog treats."

Among the other flavors they offer are Lobster Rollover. (lobster meat and shell and kelp), Blueberry Treasure (blueberries and mint), Pumpkin Nut Partee (pumpkins and peanut butter), Duck Duck Beets (duck and beets) and Clucking Carrots (chicken, rescued carrots and parsley.)

They've had one recipe that they had to overhaul, he says, because of unexpected side effects. "Break an Egg" originally contained egg, cheese and Brussels sprouts. "It's not that the dogs didn't like it but the gas afterwards ... We kept doing more and more versions and decided OK let's take out the Brussels sprouts. That seemed to work."

"We work with palatability taste centers where we will develop a flavor combination and then we test it with dogs. We also have some partnerships with some local retailers who have doggie daycares and kind of see which ones the dogs like and don't like. We'll iterate on the flavor till the vast majority of dogs really like it.

There is no grain, corn, soy or artificial flavors because Bello says, too many dogs can be allergic to one or another of those ingredients. "We make the treat to be soft and chewy so you can break it apart for smaller dogs and use for training purposes."

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