Shop at a co-op
A growing number of start-up companies and small businesses devoted to producing all-local pet food are springing up across the country. A quick Web search with your town’s name and the words “local pet food” should help you track down a few. But if you’re looking for a wider selection, you may want to consider stopping by a cooperative grocery store (aka co-op) in your area that sells local pet food.
Check out this handy state-by-state guide from the nonprofit Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to find a co-op in your community that carries local pet food. Some co-ops are devoted exclusively to selling food for pets and livestock, while others sell pet-friendly options alongside local produce and other conventional grocery picks. The OCA list also includes health and natural foods stores, but you may save some cash through membership discounts if you opt for a co-op instead.
Most local pet food you’ll find at co-ops is raw – which may sound a little icky at first, but some veternarians say a raw diet is actually better for your pet’s health. According to the Healthy Pet Journal, an online resource compiled by experienced vet and Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine graduate Larry Siegler, raw food diets can help pets deal with problems such as flea infestations, hot spots, continual shedding, poor dental and gum health, allergies and gastro-intestinal issues. Additionally, your pets’ short intestinal tracts are actually better suited for consuming raw foods.
Raw pet food also tends to carry a much lighter environmental footprint than commercial foods, as producing pet food at large factories requires a substantial amount of energy, water and chemical additives.
Talk to your veterinarian before putting your pet on a raw food diet. He or she will help you decide which raw foods will provide your pets with the nutrients they need. Also, ask your vet if you should take any additional precautions when cleaning up after your pet, as some research shows that pet feces may become contaminated with more harmful bacteria if fed raw food diets instead of commercial foods.