Living healthy and eating well are a popular pastime for Austinites, with various trends sweeping through town and becoming all the rage. If you’re a dog lover, your pet can now join in with your healthy lifestyle and even perhaps shed a few pounds instead of just shedding fur on the couch.
The launch of The Bones & Co., a local handcrafted meal-service business, could go a long way toward making your dog's diet more natural — in addition to making your pooch feel pampered. The primary goal of The Bones & Co. is to steer your dog away from processed kibble and back to food that comes directly from Mother Nature. Founder Ryan Cummings, who has a master’s degree in agricultural business and five years' experience in the pet food industry, is ready to make dog food with ingredients you can pronounce.
“I worked internationally doing sourcing and quality control, and actually that’s what led me to my interest in Bones & Co. in Austin,” says Cummings. “I really wanted to do something that was the antithesis of the international pet food industry. I really wanted to do something local with whole foods, and none of the byproducts and preservatives that you see in traditional pet food.”
The Bones & Co. Founder Ryan Cummings and chef Rosie Shipman make dog food with ingredients you can pronounce.
Owners might be a bit jealous of the work that goes into each meal, since all of them are "bespoke," as the website puts it, and prepared by culinary professionals. Joining Cummings in his mission is Bones & Co.’s resident chef, Rosie Shipman, who has extensive experience as a pastry assistant at fine Austin restaurants, including Foreign & Domestic and Congress. Shipman also earned a pastry arts certificate from the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, adding up to a very impressive pedigree.
“I’ve loved working in kitchens since I was a kid,” says Shipman, who gained intense kitchen experience characteristic to a pastry chef position. “I just came across a listing on Craigslist. I love dogs, and I did research on healthy dog foods. When I met [Ryan Cummings], I told him how I have a passion for gardening and increasing consciousness about sustainability.”
Shipman also just wants to help make the food better — period. “[Processed dog food] almost feels like feeding Spam to people.”
The ingredients slightly change from dog to dog, but they usually include a mix of 80% raw meaty bones, 10% organic meat and 10% vegetables and fruit. Anything from organic Tuscan kale to fresh beef liver is used, as long as it isn’t processed beforehand or filled with carbohydrates. You’ll basically be putting your pet on a Paleo diet.
Actually, it’s meant to be Paleo. Cummings says that a lot of the inspiration for the Bones & Co. cuisine came from one of the hottest human diets out there right now. “It’s Paleo for dogs, basically. It brings it back full circle for what dogs were eating for thousands of years. They’d hunt for food and eat the bones, sinew and marrow, and they thrived. And then we started feeding them processed, carbohydrate-laden food. Ironically, the health problems we’re seeing in mainstream America — like obesity, diabetes, arthritis, mobility — we’re also seeing in the pet population now. Basically, kibble is McDonald’s for dogs. It’s convenient, it’s easy and it’s got a lot of carbohydrates in there.”
Chef Rosie Shipman has a pastry arts certificate from Austin's Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and extensive experience as a pastry assistant at such restaurants as Foreign & Domestic and Congress.
While the meals from Bones & Co. have plenty of work put into them, Cummings wants the process to be convenient for pet owners. Customers select a meal plan based on the size of their dogs, and the food is then custom-crafted by Shipman each week, with a little help from Cummings in the kitchen, too. Then it’s delivered straight to your door. Easy peasy, right?
Both Shipman and Cummings work to gather ingredients from local distributors and grocery stores, including HEB and Whole Foods. The founder stays plenty busy with delivery, kitchen assistance, marketing and other business, but for someone who works with handcrafted pastries most of the time, it’s almost a break from the madness.
“To me it’s relaxing and fun,” says Shipman. “Pastries are very exact and to a T. It’s so different. I usually don’t do much knife work, but I really like gardening and yard work. It’s kind of like that, kind of relaxing. It doesn’t need perfection like pastries.”
It may be a different experience for each, with Shipman enjoying a part-time break from the full-time pressure in restaurants and Cummings keeping things running around the clock, but both believe in the product and the mission of The Bones & Co. — and both believe in the future of healthy dog food.
“We’re very ambitious,” says Cummings. “We’re building a model in Austin that we would like to scale nationally.” Shipman already agrees with him on a likely candidate on where to start expanding. “I grew up in California,” says Shipman, “and I feel like in San Francisco that this would kick off well.”
Perhaps if The Bones & Co. makes it out to the West Coast, it will be a fair trade for finally opening In-N-Out to Austin.