My experience as a food manufacturer—sourcing ingredients for Evermore (and human food before that)—has had a huge impact on the way I evaluate product quality standards as a consumer. In fact, at this point, my purchasing priorities in both roles are really one and the same. I believe deeply in supporting businesses that hold themselves as accountable as mine does, and I want to spend my dollars on products made with integrity. While I have always been a quality junkie who cares deeply about process behind product, my ethos has never been more clear to me than now… as a first-time mom undertaking the daunting task of “sourcing” stuff for my soon-to-be baby girl’s first days and months of life.
In our society, becoming a mother is almost as much of a consumer journey as it is a biological and emotional one. As I began the truly overwhelming process of wading through the various baby websites—with their seemingly endless options for practically every category imaginable—I was struck by something close to home. When Hanna and I got into the business of pet food manufacturing, we were keenly aware of how immense a responsibility we were taking on; people would be entrusting us to honestly represent our products and relying on the food we source to promote their dogs’ safety, health, and well-being. Whether or not baby companies (and other pet food companies, for that matter) own this fact, the people dedicated to making these products have taken on an equally huge responsibility. They have implicitly chosen to hold themselves accountable for clothing, holding, wrapping, and feeding defenseless little people who depend entirely on their caretakers to provide them with safe products and materials that support their healthy growth and development.
From the outset, Evermore’s mission statement has been “we believe that we should feed our pets the way we should feed ourselves—with real food made from high-quality ingredients.” There’s a lot of meaning in this sentence. Foremost is the notion of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Granted, it’s hard to imagine Connor cooking my dinner as I have often lovingly done for him. (If there were an alternate reality where our dogs were feeding us as we have fed them, I shudder at the thought of what the things they would deem too disgusting to consume that goes into making low-quality “human food.”) My standard for the ingredients I source for Evermore is quite simply, would I eat this? Were the animals that comprise our protein sources given a good and respected life? Is our produce cleanly and sustainably grown? If I’m going to be responsible for putting a product out on the market, it must be something I myself would willingly consume and am confident feeding my own dog.
The “shoulds” in our mission statement are a recognition that the current food systems for both humans and animals are far from perfect. We are so keenly aware of the huge responsibility we own for our products and to our customers. Obviously, not every company takes this responsibility as seriously as others. We see this all too often in the human and pet food industries, as well as consumer goods more generally. Of course, we understand that bad things happen to good people in the chain of their production cycles—problems beyond one’s control can arise even for those who are committed to making the best possible decisions for their business (think the recent Amy’s recall of organic spinach in their frozen pizza or the voluntary Honest Kitchen pet food recall when they had received a batch of tainted parsley). However, you don’t have to be a pessimist or conspiracy theorist to hold the opinion that big business (and big agro in particular) does not have our collective back. Plenty of wealthy companies continue to prioritize profit over product, and cheap ingredients, fillers, and unsafe or untested chemicals therefore make it into our food, beds, clothes, etc. every day.
If every business would operate according to the golden rule, this would not be the case. For now, we as consumers must do our part to make sure that we hold companies accountable for the products that they sell. We can do this by asking questions, demanding answers and voting with our dollars.