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Many vets and pet owners are beginning to realize the benefits of feeding a raw, species-appropriate diet to their cats and dogs. One of the forerunners in offering a raw diet commercial is Stella & Chewy's, based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Founder and President Marie Moody was kind enough to offer this exclusive interview with Mad About Pets and tell us about what makes her company stand out above the rest.

Marie with Stella and Chewy
(Mad About Pets) I understand that you are started Stella & Chewy's after your own dog Chewy was aided through illness by a raw diet. What are the benefits of a raw diet, and what types of common illnesses can it help prevent or treat?

(Marie) We have heard from pet owners that while feeding Stella & Chewy’s their animals have a healthier appetite and better digestion, increased stamina and vitality, healthier coat and skin and less ear and eye issue. We’ve also gotten feedback that while on this diet the animals have fewer allergies and less obesity. The food increases not only the quality of life for the pet but also longevity. Stella & Chewy’s philosophy is based upon what pets naturally eat in the wild. Our frozen and freeze dried foods are made without using any heat. Foods that are processed above 120 degrees have less active enzymes and the vitamins and minerals are also impacted by heat. The food is therefore not as bioavailable. Stella & Chewy’s products are made without grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, added hormones or antibiotics. We don’t add sugar, salt or colorings. Stella & Chewy’s offers 100% complete and balanced dinners for dogs which are 95% raw meat, poultry and fish, 5% organic fruit and vegetables with added probiotics, vitamins and minerals.

Many pet owners are leery of raw food diets because of the threat of foodborne illnesses. How does Stella & Chewy's ensure that their foods are safe?

When I first started "S & C" I didn't know a lot about the regulatory side of pet food. Then a couple of my competitors were recalled for salmonella and I quickly educated myself about it. Since the FDA mandates a 0% tolerance for salmonella in pet food, it was a challenge to figure out a way to address the issue when it’s so frequently found in chicken. I had to figure out how to do it without using heat, radiation or chemicals that would alter the food from a raw state. I found a technology called HPP- hydrostatic high pressure which is essentially cold water pressure that kills vegetative bacteria without altering the enzymes and vitamins and proteins. Stella & Chewy’s was the first company in pet or human food to use this technology in a prepackaged product. That technology combined with advanced oxidation units which omit a low level of ozone and hydrogen peroxide which kill airborne bacteria...same technology that's used on cruise ships.....is the patent pending process that we use. This keeps the raw foods safe for pets and their owners. In addition we test every batch of frozen and freeze dried products at an independent lab and post the results on our website. Customers can go online and match the batch number off their bag of food to the corresponding number online and see the results

Stella & Chewy's offers both frozen and free dried raw diets for dogs. Is there a nutritional difference between frozen and freeze dried? What are the advantages of one over the other?

When I took Chewy to the vet and found out how sick he was the vet recommended home prepared meals. I researched options and thought a raw diet made sense because it was species appropriate. It simulates how they eat in the wild and how their ancestors ate; no thumbs to make fires, no cooked foods. Foods cooked above a certain temperature lose much of their nutritional value and natural enzymes. Raw foods have natural enzymes, which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body. Both our freeze–dried and frozen products are raw and they do not differ nutritionally. The biggest difference is one is shelf stable and the other is frozen. The great thing about the freeze-dried is that it’s very convenient and easy to use. It’s a great option for a pet owner who’s either not familiar with or not committed to feeding a 100 % raw diet. The freeze-dried products enable him/ her to incorporate at least some raw into what is presently being feed. The freeze- dried is also extremely palatable, offers a long shelf life and is easy to travel with.

I notice that for cats, Stella & Chewy's currently offers freeze dried diets only. Is there any plan to introduce frozen patties into the current feline line of products?

At this point in time we are focused on the freeze-dried products for cats.

What would you say the biggest difference is between Stella & Chewy's and other raw food diets currently available on the market?

One big difference is that we have our own manufacturing plant in Milwaukee, WI. We have complete control over all aspects of the manufacturing and production of our products. We’ve implemented a safety process that ensures our products are free from harmful bacteria. We use only organic fruits and vegetable, cage-free poultry, wild- caught fish and naturally raised beef. Quite possibly the biggest difference between Stella & Chewy’s and other raw food diets is that we’ve made it very convenient to feed a raw diet.

Does Stella & Chewy's have plans at this point to introduce any new flavors to the cat line?

Stella & Chewy’s has recently introduced a new line of freeze-dried cat dinners in six varieties, all made from wild-caught fish and cage-free poultry. The dinners are available in Chick, Chick Chicken, Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey™, Duck, Duck Goose, Heavenly Herring & Tuna™, Sea-Licious Salmon & Cod™, and Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken™. The line includes the first-ever, single-serve dinners for cats, ideal for finicky eaters and to add mealtime variety. The single-serve pouches provide consumers ease-of-use and convenience – just add 3 tablespoons of warm water, mix & serve. Re-sealable 12 oz. bags provide customers the opportunity to purchase larger sizes once their pets establish favorites.

If you could give readers one piece of advice when it comes to pet nutrition, what would it be?

Good nutrition is the single most important factor in promoting longevity and quality of life for your pet.

COMING SOON: Mad About Pets puts Stella & Chewy's to the test!

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