This Local Company Turns Food Waste Into Sustainable Pet Treats
Piggyback Treats Company is fueling pets with healthy eats made out of rescued food waste like salmon skins and spent grains.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste every year — translating to a staggering 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food. As a professional chef of 16 years, Jennifer Kirby was well aware of the problem. So, when she was ready to start her own business, she decided to do her part in tackling the food waste crisis.
The Philadelphia-based entrepreneur, along with her partner Chris Courter, started Piggyback Treats back in 2017, a sustainable dog treat company that rescues food waste from local businesses and tiny family farms and uses it to develop unique and healthy treats for pets. An added bonus? They are also seeking to boost the local economy.
“We strive to offer something different than you can get elsewhere, but most importantly, we want to make a difference in our local economy by providing jobs, our local environment by reducing food waste — and also leaving little to no waste trail — and pet owners’ lives through healthy and high-value treats,” explains Kirby.
Kirby was first inspired to sell sustainable dog treats several years ago after cooking up a batch for her pooch’s second birthday party. However, starting the company was a slow process, with Kirby tinkering with the idea for about six years before finally quitting her day job as a private chef. By late summer of 2017 she was selling her treats at the East Falls Farmers’ Market and other small events here and there. By the spring of 2018, Piggyback Treats had taken off, with both she and her partner working full-time. Their daily duties include handling all the logistics, cooking, and marketing.
Piggyback Treats Company’s signature, best-selling item is their Wild Caught Salmon Skins, enjoyed by canines and felines alike. By piggybacking with local fish cleaning stations they are able to rescue wild caught salmon skins the day they are caught, which they clean, dehydrate, and develop them into two products: Meaty Pieces and Thin Skins.
Their other top-sellers include Heart Jerky, thinly sliced to break into small pieces easily. Then there’s Peanut Butter Bier Bones, which feature spent brewing grains from a variety of small breweries in and around Philly and freshly ground peanut butter made just for them. Their Salmon Belly Meal Topper is made with salmon belly trimmings from a market in Chestnut Hill, and Pumpkin Specialty Bones are made with leftover Halloween pumpkins from a farm in Perkasie.
Currently they have about 18 goodies in their collection, with some of them rotating seasonally. They also just added a line of handmade toys, using 100-percent reused materials. They plan on expanding their offerings to include sustainably made pet care items. “Really, we wish for Piggyback Treats Company to be the go-to for anything pet related, for sustainably-minded or ingredient-conscience pet owners,” Kirby says.
Their products are available at a handful of local stores and also on their online store, where they ship nationwide. However, they hope that they will be able to replicate their sustainable pet treat business across the nation and maybe even internationally, using locally rescued foods and hiring local people to bake, package and sell. Kirby adds that they are always looking for new business and farms to piggyback with. Their current wish list includes more juice bars and fish markets.