EP# 39 - THE PETROPOLIST PODCAST - DCM part 2
Tazz Latifi: Retailers and consumers are quick to forget. When I think back to the melamine fiasco. My store was open for two years. I had one of the brands on the shelf, and it was Innova. And I was shocked. I was like, God, they make so many claims. They're so much better than everybody else. And then we have Evanger’s, they are under new management now. And new management being the kids as opposed to mom and dad. Who ran the facilities, right? And they're marketing differently, and they're buying ad space, we are really, really quick to forget & easily manipulated. You're saying that we should be diligent on top of everything for the well-being of the animals that we're selling to. But we're not, and neither are the manufacturers What do we do & who do we trust ? I mean, if I were to close my store, tomorrow I have to come to your store to buy anything because I don't trust anybody. I'm kind of screwed, I'm an hour and a half away.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: We could ship it to you.
Tazz Latifi: Thanks, Ryan, appreciate it.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: you can swing by my house on your way up.
Nicci Cammack: I think, you know when we're quick to forget, Evenger’s is a great example. I see so many retailers that, you know. I respect the people very, very much, but I almost want to shake them a little bit. Because what it tells every other manufacturer is if you screw up and kill a few dogs, it's okay. It shows them that there's no consequence for not following their own procedures or for breaking the rules or for you know, not being transparent or, you know, having deceptive practices. I yeah, I really do believe that you know, I mean, we're, we're phasing out our sport. You know, we never carried any of the rest of them. But we did do a fair amount on, you know, not anything that I would, you know, be concerned about at the end of the year. You know, in terms of numbers-wise, but, you know, we did a fair amount for the size store that we are.
And, you know, so that makes me question. Yes, it was one plant. As of right now. They were following procedures; they were bringing in bad ingredients and sending out a bad product. But were they not following procedures in their other plants? Were they doing the same things in their other plants? Or is that recall going to get bigger? Were they cleaning their machinery? Were they cleaning their storage bins? You know, there are so many questions. And, you know, beings of being that, you know, I take it personally, when you see what things like that happen. And I don't want my customers and my clients' animals eating that type of thing, or, or being exposed to something that could potentially hurt them or having, you know, our reputation hurt.
Yeah, we're going to cut it out. And I think, you know, there are already a few people that have been like, how could you do that? It's such a staple product. Well, we did it with tastes a wild. We did it with from, we did it with a few others. I'm not, I'm not afraid of that. And I mean, to be honest, the customer reaction when you do that, it, they're thankful. Sure, you might lose one or two. But guess what, they come back. All those tastes the wild and from people, they came back, because they realized that the industry has significant issues. And they're thankful when there's somebody that speaks up to, you know, things that are wrong, or that are potentially risky. And I'm not afraid to do that. And I know my staff isn't afraid to do that.
Tazz Latifi: Price runs a lot of this. And marketing runs a lot of this. How do we do educate the marketing? the retailers and the consumers have to come together, and we need to start asking questions of these manufacturers. They want to put the responsibility on retail. And consumers want to ask the vets and the vets have their view, right? A lot of views and also, they're overworked and exhausted and burdened with emergencies and yeah, student debt and the world. So, there's a lot of things happening, and we can put them we can start pointing fingers. But in the end, the responsibility falls on the consumer and the choices they make for their pets, and what questions they're asking. They need to become knowledgeable and ask questions. And then the other one is the retailers need to not pass along shitty information, which a lot do. They put out there the worst… I mean, some of the crap I hear I say Oh, my eyes will fall out of my head. You know, the more I hear.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: You think they're working for the company versus for their own store.
Tazz Latifi: Exactly. But that goes along with the vet's, you know, add rice. Give us something to do here.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Yes. So, the one thing I would say is for an easy start because right obviously everybody has a shit ton of product in their store from a lot of different manufacturers. Obviously, some the retailer believes in some of the carries, just because they know there's one or two people are going to come in and buy that bag of food. And so, they keep them right. But the first and foremost thing is all the ancient grains foods that are coming in and being peddled by the distributors and the manufacturers, right. The question that should be asked before that even comes into your store is. Okay, well, what was wrong with your grain-free food? Real simple question, right? And if they can answer it, then why would you bring in their ancient grain food? Because they're not going to be able to answer what's the benefit for that outside of marketing. And if you actually look at published data for ancient grains. It's no better and in some cases worse than corn from a digestibility standpoint.
So, all you're doing is paying for a premium grain when it comes down to it because it's not as big a crop, right? It's not a cash crop for a lot of places. And so, from the learning of the DCM stuff with the 16 brands, which, unfortunately, I felt like I was the one fighting for them instead of them fighting for them. With all the talks I've given, is that that should be the first question is, what was wrong with your grain-free food. And better yet, if you believe there's something wrong, and I need to take on your ancient grain line, you're going to buy back this food, right? So, I can make room to put you there because I'm not going to give you more shelf space because you left me hanging two years ago. And there has to be accountability from that standpoint because what happened was, and that's why, you know, it all comes down to melamine came down to lack of transparency. DCM came down to a lack of transparency into grains, which will probably be an issue at some point, we'll come down to lack of transparency.
As soon as DCM and people started reacting to grain-free, all of a sudden, it integrates was everywhere, right. And I can tell you when you do that many line extensions, they're not doing their homework before it goes out the door, especially when they're going out that quick, right? Because I mean, if you think about the normal turnaround time for a nutrient analysis for Aafco, is typically about three weeks long, it's usually for vitamins is what takes the longest out of there, right? So probably why pills weren't sent out for vitamin D, they weren't going to wait three weeks to you know, to make sure that premix was good. Is probably the judgment call that was made their bad one, although? And then digestibility is another 10 days. So, for argument's sake, you're talking about a month, right? That is just you doing your homework before just on pilot batches before you go and ramp-up and commercialize that product.
How many of those companies came out with a product in less than three months? Right? So, I can tell you, you don't know enough data just on nutrient variation in lots of different lock codes. Have those ancient grains, never mind different production runs with those ancient grains in there and how they behave on your animal? And so those are questions that I think the retailer deserves to get an answer from is. Okay, so what was wrong with your grain-free foods? And why did you go to ancient grants? Now? I would totally understand if they went back to or they've said, Hey, I'm cool with brown rice and oats and stuff. There's plenty of data on that, right. This doesn't mean they shouldn't be doing the proper testing there, either. But why would you go to a totally new ingredient when supposedly the new hot ingredient, which I would argue is not new and hot grain-free? Is what just caused you the issues? Right? It's you literally jumped from out of the frying pan into the fire on this one. And it has the potential to do exactly what DCM did, because it all came down to lack of transparency, right? Again, if people would have said, here's my digestibility, here's my taurine and Carnitine analysis. It would have debunked a lot of that stuff. And then instead everybody remains silent because they probably don't have it.
Nicci Cammack: And I think, Ryan, you have articles on I believe pet food industry, but also a noble site. And then I have some as well, just highlighting all the different questions you could ask. I mean, there are a million of them. But I think your articles go over five that are pretty straightforward. I tend to get a little too technical. But his are pretty straightforward. Because mine is more written for those articles for me are more geared toward the retailer. Like the why behind it, but he's got some really good ones for the consumer.
Tazz Latifi: Okay, all right, I'll make sure I post that information. So, both the consumers and the retailers can look at all this. Ryan, you keep talking about digestibility, digestibility. And then Nicci tells me how nobody's willing to do it because it's an animal rights issue. An animal well-being issue and testing on animals you. Can we get to the point here, why are pet food companies not doing digestibility profiles? And how if I can bring this back to DCM. Could that have helped in getting the facts out about DCM if brands were doing digestibility profiles?
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Yeah, more importantly, public publishing, right. And so, obviously, I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't, if I didn't follow it. But at least with our products, we obviously do all that before it goes out there. But more importantly, we publish it on our website, another company that started doing it, and we're starting to see, the smaller companies react positively to it, is big speed, they're doing it as well, they're starting to report their numbers, as well as a few others. Some are hiding behind some of the numbers by giving you a crude protein digestibility and not total track, which crude protein is always going to be higher. So, they would rather pick and choose that one, but we show everything. And it becomes important because that's going to tell you, in essence, gives you an indicator. Are those nutrients going to be bioavailable to them, right?
And there could be lots of reasons why that it's not right, it could be the form. So, for example, in corn, phosphorus is tied to a compound called phytate, which makes it un-absorbable to the animals. So that phosphorus that's in phytate form in corn and soy really doesn't count as phosphorus. Because it's not available, and sometimes that actually binds other minerals. But it also becomes important to find out, okay, well, if I'm using a meal, like a lamb meal, chicken meal, whatever, well, that already gets ultra-processed by right and has heat damaged and things that go on. And then if you put it in kibble, it goes through that as well, well, it gives you an indicator of, you know, after I go through all that processing are those nutrients still going to be available. And more importantly, you want to analyze your product at the end of production to make sure what you predicted is what you actually ended up with.
There are lots of nutrients that are heat sensitive, that do get lost. There are also lots of nutrients in particular, that when the heat hits them, they'll combine in particular the mailer reaction, right, if you think of the browning effect, like sugar cookies, right, you get that caramelized sugar. The same thing goes on with meats and sugars to get that roasted aroma. And so, and then what happens though, is when that lysine binds to that sugar, that lysine is no longer available. And so, things like that become important. And you know, people if they weren't doing digestibility, they can easily analyze for available lysine versus total lysine, there's bench top analysis for that. But it becomes important, because not only are you testing and saying, hey, my food is doing what it should be doing from a nutrient standpoint. But you're also delivering it and showing it in them. Now, the people that go, hey, I don't want to use a third-party testing facility. Find 6-8 employees and dogs and feed them for 10 days in the last five days, measure their intake, collect their poop and send it to a lab. And you can do it that way.
There are lots of ways to get around it and saying it's an animal welfare issue is literally just bullshit. It's, you could do it in a home setting. In that case, the numbers will probably come back a little higher, because obviously, not everybody cleans up poop perfectly off of grass. But the reality of it is, you know, you're probably off by a few percentage points that you're not going to see a huge shift. So, if you get if you run an at-home study, you get 70% digestibility. Well, your food has a problem, right, just like it does in a lab setting. So, it's a very good indicator, and people tend to react as if it's an animal welfare issue. Where the reality of it is, all the consumers are picking up after their dogs every day. We're performing many digestibility studies literally every day if you own a dog. Same thing with cat, right? One would argue is how you switch out clay litter for plastic beads and you can do it that way. So, you don't have like contamination. So, there are lots of ways to get creative with it and do it.
When I was at hills, for example. They used to test every food going out the door for feline urine Ph. Well, I ended up with all the data that they had coming in. I ended up developing and publishing an algorithm that predicts feline urine Ph. So, they wouldn't have to test everything going out the door and the formulators could actually formulate to a urine pH right then and there on the screen, and then obviously verify it analytical. So, there are lots of ways that you can, you know, go after the three R's, or refine, replace, and all that by thinking differently. You can run if you needed to wanted to, you can run a glorified afternoon study from home if you have, you know, a benchmark colony to go with, but you can surely go. Hey, you know, what, if I'm not sure about this new protein source, or lagoons or whatever, you could certainly do it just above the vet clinic. And have the blood pulled there like you do a Chem screen and everything else. So, there are lots of ways for people to do it. They choose not to.
Tazz Latifi: Nicci's nodding her head, yes, they choose not to she knows. So, if these digestibility profiles were done by these brands that. Let's say, let's throw ACANA in there, because that came up top of the line in DCM, right. For whatever formula was…
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Pork & squash,
Tazz Latifi: Right, would that have shown us where this food was lacking? If it was really that?
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Well, for starters, I can tell you that, that one study that they ran, that said, that got published a pet food industry that says, hey, we ran a six-month study and everything's hunky-dory. That wasn't the food that the FDA had their report, it was actually an added taurine version of that food. So, what they did was they went in and they added taurine across their portfolio. And so again, it's very misleading to people if you didn't know that. What they should have done was tested their control food older Canada plus taurine, right to see if it mattered. Instead, they had control of food Canada plus taurine. So, you know, not knowing what I don't know, it looks like you're guilty because you never addressed it. You just simply added taurine and moved on with your life. But if they were looking at analysis for taurine levels, they would have said. Hey, you know what, maybe there is an issue here.
Or maybe they would make a large breed version, right, and add more into it. There are lots of ways they could have handled it better. They, they just didn't handle it. And you know, nothing against Canada, because that's where our foods made great people. But, you know, people in the US are emotional and vicious when it comes to stuff like that. And I think they were hoping that you know, we were going to have the nice chilled out Canada demeanor. And obviously, that's not how it went. And even talking on this subject at VMX, I could tell you, they had security guards waiting outside my presentation, because people were writing into the president of any VC complaining about me presenting and everything. And so, and that was veterinarians, so even the professionals it wasn't, you know, people storming the Capitol type mentality. In theory professionals, but it's,
Tazz Latifi: they don't like being wrong? Is that why they were angry?
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Oh, yeah, as I call it, they drink Kool-Aid, you know? It's, you know, I, I have nothing against hills, they taught me how to become a great scientist and researcher and do things in theory, the right way. That whether people like their food or not, you know, that's up to them. But I don't apologize for that, because they taught me how to formulate and do this stuff that I do. And obviously, I've learned a lot more since then. But you have, you have firm believers in that just like you do in the broad world, right. And as I always joke around, it's like, you want to have a nice night out and drinks. Don't talk politics, religion, or dog food. You know, it's because it'll turn into an argument. Or the other one I use is if you ever lost in the woods, just say dog food, and so they'll come out of nowhere to argue with you. It's, it's just the reality of it. It's just, and that's, that's what happened. You had real firm believers that, you know, hey, here's a reason to trash everything that I don't want to say they don't know. They didn't take the time to know.
Some believe that you know, when you enter the market, you need to go to the veterinarian and ask for approval, which is bullshit, right? And someone will tell you, well, Blue Buffalo or whoever is just a marketing company, I got news for you hills and prenant all they spent a lot more marketing to veterinarians and blue was doing to consumers. So, a lot of people don't realize that type of stuff. But to answer your former question about, why aren't a lot of companies putting all this data out there? It's very simple. If you have a big portfolio, and you have one food or two foods that stink from a digestibility standpoint, they don't want you to compare it within their product. Because you might, it might bastardize a product, that's selling really well. And so, you don't know what you don't know, right? But the question that, you know, I always struggled with, unfortunately, when you do your own startup, you don't have sacred cows, and you can build a food the way you want to build it. and off you go. Well, we started with the premise of Why does a product has to be 90% digestible only in a therapeutic food?
It should be for that for regular over-the-counter in-retailer food. Why should I have to wait to, you know, have GI issues before I have highly digestible food for my dog? Which from an ingredient’s standpoint, is no different than over-the-counter stuff? There are no meds in it or anything. And so those companies can formulate even with kibble because I did it for Japan. And 90% digestible or better food, they just choose not to, and they went to get into the therapeutic category, and then they charge you more. For, in essence, the same ingredients, but a higher digestibility. And so, they're not going to publish hey, what is my leading brand food out there? Because when you get to compare it and let's say, you know, for argument's sake. If I was using blue as an example, if LPF my grain food is highly more highly digestible than wilderness, my grain-free food, and if I'm making better margins on this guy. I'm not going to let my grain food bastardize my, my paycheck, right? And so, they might give it to each individual food, but will they put it all out there? So, you can see every food? Like what we're starting to do? The answer's no.
Tazz Latifi: So, Nicci, I mean, there's a lot of expensive foods in our stores. Expensive kibbles a 15-pound bag at 70, 80 bucks. That's not cheap. I mean, it's close to the price of what therapeutic foods are. So
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Especially if you do how much that formula cost. I can tell you,
Tazz Latifi: I know you could tell me pennies, pennies per pound. That Yeah. Why is there I this is these are just dumb, redundant questions, I keep asking the same thing. And we're going to wind up in the same place. There is the comfort that the consumers need to have. And there's a comfort that the retailers want to give, but how much of it is real and how much of it is perceived?
Nicci Cammack: A lot of its perceived, a lot of its marketing, because they'll tell you if some of those companies with Gosh, 70 $80 bags of food that are 15 pounds. Actually, gave you data, you wouldn't want to pay that money for that food anymore. I'll tell you that right now.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: And if you think about it, you know, and this is, and this goes back to your short-term, you know, short-term memory comment that you made earlier, right. The one thing for people that were in the industry, unfortunately, I was and had to make calls when I was at hills outbound was the melamine recall, right? It's like, what did that show us that canned food was the one co-manufacturer was making canned food for the entire industry? Whether you're paying 99 cents a can, or $4? a can? It was used in the same week gluten coming from China. Well, I got news for you. That hasn't changed. Menu sold the Simmons, and Simmons owns it all now. But everybody is throwing us know whether it's a private label grocery grant or your super-premium unless they have their own plants.
Tazz Latifi: So, they're using the same lamb, like this brand is this brand that's low on the totem pole of, being looked at as great food. Is using the same lamb meal as this other brand that makes major claims and puts a lot of money into marketing.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Yeah, the example I go back to is, you know, I'll use the 16 brands breath, right? Everybody wants to say. Hey, you know, Purina and Mars are great, you know, they are WASAVA- Well, Nutro and Merrick were both on there. Right? And I think Crave was another one that snuck in there. They're both owned by Mars and Purina They don't go when they go by peas. They don't go, hey, this is Merrick's peas. And this is our peas. You go by your volume for the year because that's how you're going to get the cheapest price, right? So, I'm not going to buy special peas from Merrick that are going to cost me a buck a pound versus crap peas and I take crap as an example. For peas for Purina pet, you know, 60 cents a pound, they're going to buy peas and get it all at 75 cents a pound. Right?
Tazz Latifi: merging synergies and cost reductions.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Economies of scale are the classic business model. Right? And, and if you look at it, like most pouches, most cups, most cans, and hubs. Unless they own their own facility, it's going to be coming at us. There's a reason why you see them in recent press releases, they're growing here, they're growing there because they really own a monopoly on it unless you have your own canning facility. The other thing to point out too is if right, and this is the one I always get people tripping over. Purina and Mars truly thought that grain-free was an issue. They would get rid of all Americans, all of Nutro, and all their grain-free lives, but they haven't. Castor & Pollock’s. And, and more importantly, if they cared about DCM, where are the announcements for all the funding they're putting into DCM research? There isn't? They're building plants like crazy, though?
Tazz Latifi: Holy shit, yeah, you hit some really interesting points here.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Right. So, it is what it is, unfortunately, I know, a lot of skeletons for a lot of companies and where the bodies are buried, because it's a small industry, but that's the reality of it. Why would they let it go on? Right? And the answer is, they wouldn't.
Tazz Latifi: Nicci, what are you telling your customers. All these skeletons? You and I have, have late-night text rampages, where we talk about how much we hate things.
Nicci Cammack: So, I mean, now we, I would say it'd be we still get some, we still get some people coming in. A lot of times, they're newer customers, because our current engaged customers are well aware of what's going on.
Tazz Latifi: There's a lot of pet owners, there's a lot of new pet owners. Yeah.
Nicci Cammack: So, when they come in, I mean, we've I've got my articles printed out up front, I've got one of Ryans upfront, that he most recently did, you could probably link that one as well. And I give them Ryan's and say, hey, listen, give us your veterinarian, and then I have mine for them. And I'm obviously welcome for them to read both. But in essence, we summarize it and say, listen, the FDA said that you know, they have not found any definitive link. And instead, you know, they've walked it back a little bit. And you know, there's just no, nothing in the data to show that grain-free food is causing this issue. But if you're worried about it, these brands are doing their due diligence. If you want to feed a grain inclusive, that's fine. I respect that. These brands are doing their due diligence, and we approach it that way. And I mean, we really don't get any pushback. I would say it's incredibly rare to have somebody walk out of our store because they didn't get it, it was our brand.
Tazz Latifi: What about as a buyer, you as the buyer. When you're going to distributors, You're looking at products? What are you looking for? I mean, I know you're I know you have all this information and the articles you've written. But give me an overview of what the retailers really don't want to do the research. But do you want to kind of do good and have better products in their stores and differentiate themselves? You know, the ones that are like, okay, I'll do it, you know, that kind of mindset, because I need to kind of be there. But I don't care because there's more of those than not.
Nicci Cammack: So, I have an article up on our site. I think it's five questions. And so, what one of my team members and I did on she's actually awesome. She's God bless her in the middle of Corona. She's an ICU RN. She's super sharp. She's very much into human nutrition and very much into animal nutrition. And she helps got to
Dr. Ryan Yamka: You got to give her a shout-out. You can't just describe her not say who it is.
Nicci Cammack: I won't say her name.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: I'm going to steal her nice.
Nicci Cammack: No, no, she's locked out. No. So what we did earlier this year is we reached out to every company that either has been or is on our shelf and we asked him those questions. And she put everything into a nice little spreadsheet. And so, I had her do the initial reach out because a lot of the companies know me, and they're they roll their eyes. So, I had her do the initial reach out. And what we found is that, you know, like granted, the majority of our indie brands do not do their due diligence. There are some that do and when you push them enough, they will tell you I've been on some zoom calls. You know, propriety with their proprietary data. And there are some that do and there are some that are making strides to do better, which is awesome, I respect that.
I will stand behind you will carry your product, as long as you continue to do better. And then, you know, obviously, there are brands that are not what I would say is, ask, reach out to those reach out to the brands that you carry and ask those questions, push them, because some of them will surprise you, they do have data if you push them hard enough. And then you need to let them know that you support them and putting that data out there and that they need to because those are the brands that are going to help make us better. Those are the brands that are going to push us forward. And those are the brands we as indies should be leaning into. Not the ones that aren't doing their due diligence or aren't helping us out.
Tazz Latifi: Got it. Wonderful.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: And the reason we put ours when we make ours public is twofold. One is not only for
Tazz Latifi: let's just be clear about what yours is. You have noble foods in a freeze-dried dog food.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Correct. And ours, the reason we did it as a single page print out has our ingredients has our digestibility percent of calories, where it comes from. Obviously, all the nutrients and then some on a dry matter basis. But we also put it on 1000 k/cals, because that's usually how the vet talks. But we put that out there. So, when the conversation does come up our consumers that buy and use our products or feed or products that are dogs, they can print that up and say, Okay, what are you recommending? And how does it compare to this? And it typically shuts down the conversation very quickly. Because at that point, it's no longer, you know, well, this brand has come to me, they see that we've done our homework, and then off they go. And we actually took it a step further with the transparency is we even list our ingredients and country of origin as well as packaging origin. And so, you know, with us doing that as I said, you're starting to see and based on a lot of the articles that I've written about the importance of digestibility. And talking about it with all this DCM stuff, you're seeing other companies that are starting to come out and do it.
Obviously, they're the smaller companies because they get it. Obviously, they also recognize or believe that they are making better food or a better kibble. And so that's a great way to demonstrate it. Because numbers don't lie. numbers are numbers. And unfortunately, and don't like to beat up on companies because I'm a firm believer in educating and not advocating a brand or humiliating somebody for what they feed. But unfortunately, you've seen recently which champion right, biologically appropriate. Oh, well, no, that's a puffery statement. So, you can't come after us. Well, that isn't what the consumers and retailers thought, right? Hey, farm-raised fish or freshly caught fish when they're all farm-raised right. And free-range chicken where they weren't free-range. It's like, all of a sudden, they're getting dinged on all these lawsuits and they're coming back and finding out, hey, they weren't doing what they're doing. And coincidentally, you know, their transparency council that they were touting about then doing press releases for no longer exists. That's
Tazz Latifi: This is why they go into Petco. no one ask any questions at Petco!
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Yeah, well, now Chewy too. They have back on Chewy.com but Oh, well.
Nicci Cammack: I don't care. So
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Yeah, but it's it just goes to show you guys.
Tazz Latifi: I have a few bags. I do have 2 bags, you guys. I have 2 clients-They buy it.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: But it goes, it goes to show you that, you know, it's really a buyer beware. And not only does the retailer have to literally become the expert for what they carry. But the consumer also needs to do their due diligence and become their own pet’s advocate. And by, you know, simply going through those five questions, whether you're a consumer or you're a retailer. It ends up putting you in a position to make a yes or no decision on bringing that product in. And now you're forcing that manufacturer to go do the homework because if they realize a lot of people start saying, I don't have digestibility I don't have typical nutrient analysis. Well, I'm not carrying you until you do. Well, they know they're going to have to go do their homework. And once retailers start pushing back and consumers start pushing back, the behavior will change. Will it change for the big three? No, because you know, people grocery store is looking for that type of information, right?
Unfortunately, they're in a different mindset. When they buy food, they're assuming it's good. Obviously, they're looking for value in those locations. But the people who are shopping in your stores really do Have all those answers because why pay $75 for a 12-pound bag of kibble if they can't demonstrate why it's better than, you know, the 80 pounds one for $10. And so that's just the reality of how it goes. And I think, in light of DCM, it's it really falls on a retailer or the manufacturer to say. How am I doing things differently? And this is why and here's my data. Here's the proof, because that's what, that's where the smaller companies get dinged, right? And not to pick on the raw category, but I'm going to in this comment is, we know, right, all the benefits of feeding raw, right, we visually see it, there's lots of anecdotal data.
But where's the science to prove it right, then that's usually where that part of the industry to freeze-dried and raw and everything else that falls into minimally processed, falls apart, because they've run out there, they push out the product, people feed it, it works, well, we all know it works. But you'll figure out how to run a study work with somebody to do it, you know, you can easily it's not hard to do a digestibility study, it's easy, it's 10 days, it's three grant, move on. And so that's something as simple as that is a great way to demonstrate the benefits of feeding raw versus whatever. And then obviously, you can do marketing studies or questionnaires to say, hey, you know what, 90% of people feed our food, see a shinier coat in 30 days. And you can start backing it up based on consumers that come in and doing questionnaires. So, there's no reason why people can't do it, they just choose not to.
Tazz Latifi: So, they go around the actual studies, and they go right to the marketing, and they put all the money in marketing. A lot of food companies are running around on social media and putting all their claims out there.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: And a lot of them are drug claims. So sooner or later, they'll get nabbed at that. It's no different than somebody claims. You see the with the CBD companies getting jammed up, and that they'll get jammed up, it's just a matter of time. And how big they get once you get to a certain threshold. The big three gorillas usually start sending anonymous letters to the FDA and states. And so, they'll be on the radar.
Tazz Latifi: Yeah, I'm sure. But unfortunately, those big three on the pet food side are adding to the problem every day.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Oh, for sure. I mean, they definitely have more marketing power, right. And then when it cracks me lobbying
Tazz Latifi: Lobbying power as well. I mean, if they're sitting there at the table, along with the rest of the Aafco representatives and FDA and the USDA, I mean, they are sitting there
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Oh, though, you've got their lobbying on Capitol Hill too because you got to remember who they're owned by right there. They're big chocolate companies and, and toothpaste companies. So, they have lobbyists as well. So outside of traditional, let me be on this trade organization. They got boots on the ground as well, in places that matter. The one that'll be interesting to see play out, is how Mexico announced they don't want any GMO products coming into Mexico anymore. right then. And most people are not savvy enough to know this 90% of the corn 90% of the soy and about 80% of cottonseed. This doesn't matter from an eating standpoint, for argument's sake, but the corn and soy that's produced to us 90% over is GMO. So right now, the pet food Institute is the trade organization is having an oh shit moment What does this mean about our product that we're shipping to Mexico for pet food? Because it could have implications there.
Tazz Latifi: And Mexico, such a huge market for pet food all of a sudden, the last three years. The Mexican market just skyrocketed for pet food. So, what does this all mean?
Dr. Ryan Yamka: It's a big deal. And you think about it, right? If they hold everybody accountable, and the US has to reinvent the wheel, I'll call it so get rid of GMO go back to the natural right because it's like, and I go, you know, when people say fresh food and minimally processed food, there's not much data around there. Well, where what we're who's feeding kibble before kibble was invented in the 30s right? The reality of it is we're not inventing a category we're reinventing it right it's like we're literally reinventing the wheel is already made which is going back to our roots are back to basics, if you will. But with the corn crop and the soy crop for them to do that, it's going to take it's like a three-year turnover to get rid of all the GMO and put it on. And plus yields and all that stuff will go down, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Tazz Latifi: And Nicci Are you going to stick it out in pet?
Nicci Cammack: We're going to say no comment.
Tazz Latifi: No comment all right. The reason why I have Nicci on all the time. Because we're I believe that if we are repetitive because every single time Nicci is on my show and we talk. Digestibility comes up and of course Ryan today. It is such a key for every one of these manufacturers to hearing this over, over, and again. If we keep sorry, I'm going to shove it down your throats. I'm not getting paid by anybody and that's why I like doing this. And I want the consumer and the pet retailers can wake up. And start questioning what's going on right. And This is why I love talking to you Nicci. Because you just put it out there you are a no-bullshit person. Not many of you around.
Nicci Cammack: Here's the thing right how many retailers especially in the wake of DCM, Covi… How many retailers do we see in here every single day that are habitually complaining? That they have so much work, they can't keep up. They’re exhausted, their business is going to fail if they have one more bad thing happen. If you step back and just do your homework. Your life and workload will become so much easier. The answers become pretty clear about you know what products you need to carry. Depending on your philosophy and how you stock your shelves and how you do your ordering. And you know that you down to the staff that you have. And how you delegate those tasks. I mean my workload in doing that over the past couple of years. Has just become amazing in the stores more profitable, our customers are happy or growing you know all of those things. All of those things that I see people complaining about. If you just step back into your homework.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: And the key thing is too is I think you know a lot of people become a victim of the bigger distributors. When I say people, I mean retailers right. As them being experts they're not. Their salespeople, they're no different in the salespeople coming from a pet food company, to talk to you and get on the shelves. But the reality of it is you shouldn't marry one brand or one company right. Because when they do have that oh shit moment. Not only will you look bad, but you won't have a product to sell. And so, it's important when you're building out your portfolio and even distributors got jammed up back in the day. When Iams pulled out from third-party logistics groups right. They all were about to go bankrupt until they re-learned that hey, I need an assortment. I can't rely on one or two. Unfortunately, they're relying on one or two right now. So, they’re repeating history for whatever reason. It may be champion going back to Chewy, will change some of that mindset. And Nulo going into other store formats and claiming you know that's different.
That might change their mindset but the reality of it is they have to do their homework and make sure the people that they're bringing in are good. And you know I always say start dating the brand before you bring in the whole portfolio. Because if they can't answer questions for their core foods they sure as hell are not going to be able to answer it for all the others. And so that that becomes something that people should ask, and they don't have to ask it as hey do you have one through 5. And if you answer all five no or yes or whatever that means you come in. It could be okay what are you doing from an analysis standpoint. At the bare minimum, they should be analyzed in their dang foods. Because otherwise, you could be creating deficiencies or toxicities really quick right. If they say they don't have digestibility data, maybe say okay that's. I forgive you on that but when are you going to have it, because that's only a 10-day study right? And if they say okay, I'll go do it and have it by you know end of the quarter. Well then hold them accountable for the end of the quarter right.
And then which but once you start doing that and asking the questions right. So, I bet you if you were to ask. I would be surprised that they are but that Midwestern pet food facility that got jammed up with corn. Well, hey, that's great you have all those standard operating procedures in place. But are you third-party certified by an outside group for flute food safety? And there are lots of organizations to do that. The manufacturers we work with that's our requirement for us to work with them. Because not only is it saying you're doing right when you make my food but you're doing right on everybody else's food. So, I don't have to worry about you shutting down for whatever other reasons right or having a blemish. And so that's a requirement on that. And then somebody other questions who formulated your food? These are all basic questions. I mean it's everybody has the same story why they got into the industry right. My dog had cancer; my cat had cancer. Got sick or was lethargic you put him on this food and it's a miracle right. Well, we all got in there for the same reasons, but it doesn't give you an excuse to not do your homework to get food out in the marketplace.
Tazz Latifi: Complacency is one of the worst things that we do when it comes to food.
Nicci Cammack: Your homework ! You have to differentiate.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: If people remember and it wasn't that long ago maybe it was. But it was in the 90s lamb meal and rice were causing issues right. There were no legumes in that right. There were just poor formulations that weren't validated. And quick, people quickly added taurine to them for obvious reasons. But again, you look at melamine you look at DCM and you look at what's probably going to be whatever the next debacle is. It comes from a lack of transparency. Companies need to be more transparent.
Tazz Latifi: And just to round this up and complete this conversation since we started with DCM….
Nicci Cammack: Where's the data to support whatever claim or whatever position that that's what I would look for. Where is the evidence to support that position?
Dr. Ryan Yamka: And that's regardless of its DCM or anything else. Again, I'll use biologically appropriate again as an example right. Where champion believed it was a puffery claim and I can tell you to consumers and retailers didn't see it as such. So, one of the things at least we did is not only do we have a short ingredient statement. Because obviously, we're not adding synthetic vitamins and minerals. But people talk about that as being a clean label. For us clean label is, we don't put structure function and puffery claims on it. We're a firm believer in feeding is believing. And so, if you actually look at our packaging even though we have tested proper taurine levels and Carnitine levels. You're not seeing me guarantee taurine for a happy healthy heart. And silly ass claims on the front of the package that just confuses people. And there's no Wolf under packaging either. But you'll see a more importantly, you'll see what we are as a company, not what we're not. So, you're not going to see a bunch of ghostbuster symbols of you knows all the bad ingredients that are bad ingredients today. We'll tell you its free strides made in Canada, it's patent-pending and we're certified B Corp pending, and that's it.
Tazz Latifi: A question about your brand. When are you coming out with a cat? And then the other one is a comment. Congratulations you have distribution after Gen pet in the northeast so congratulations on that.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Thank you. Yeah, so right now we're working on cat hopefully for probably a summer launch, marketing. Obviously, treats are easier because we know that the cats like our meat treats. Just cutting down the different sizes. In fact, we got lots of images of cats with their heads in the treat bags. Which it doesn't matter it's the same ingredients just different cuts. But we got a lot of positive feedback on our bars that cats were actually eating them. And we actually have videos of cats guarding the bars to keep it away from the dog. So, we're working on them now. It won't be in a bar format. It will probably be like a little pellet, but what we plan on doing to keep it consistent with the daily portions of the bar. We're going to do daily portion packs. So, we can help fight obesity by saying because most cats in theory are eight to 10 pounds. We'll be hey this is what you feed them every day. Obviously, if you have a Maine Coone you probably need three of them. But for a normal-sized cat, it'll be daily portions. So
Tazz Latifi: I do have to tell you my Norwegian forest cat does eat half a bar.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: It's not uncommon and we actually did prior to it with the bar when we did acceptability testing. We were a little shy of 90% could that perspective most dry foods you're lucky to get like 50. So, the cats are digging it. And it makes sense, I mean our products are 85% meat, and then when you get finally get to the veggies. Everybody says oh my God chickpeas are on there. It's the 4th ingredient I'm like yeah but it's included at 3.6%. So, it tells you where all the weight is, up from the meeting delivers that we're using.
Tazz Latifi: I mean we have to feed the gut bacteria right. Isn't that part of the reason why you have that in there?
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Yeah, I mean you need some fiber in there to feed the gut obviously for proper stool formation. You want some stuff to pass out. If I went for 100% digestibility and just be weird. Actually, wrapping up digestibility testing this week on the cat. So…
Tazz Latifi: Fabulous. I can't wait because my cats are assholes. But I will let that go. Thank you both so much for being here and I know we went beyond DCM. And so, I think I'm going to call this beyond DCM. DCM and beyond, because it brings it all back to us being diligent and connected with the choices we're making. Both as consumers as retailers and hopefully as veterinarians and scientists. That we look beyond just what's on the surface.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: Nobody should be afraid to ask questions, I have an open dialogue. I mean that's the reality of it. Then if they don't want to answer it. Then you got to question should you support them. And that's obviously more of a philosophical discussion and it is anything else.
Tazz Latifi: Oh, thank you both so much. Nicci thank you again. For letting this happen, I appreciate it. Ryan, you're amazing. Doctor Ryan Yamka, had to say it again sorry.
Dr. Ryan Yamka: It sounds weird, thank you.
Tazz Latifi: It's wonderful, thank you both so much.