We love our pets, and we want to give them the best care possible. But in 2007, Americans learned that many common brands of pet food were made from Chinese ingredients adulterated with nonfood chemicals that poisoned quite a number of pets.
Because your dog can't read labels, he doesn't know that most bone-type treats come from either China or Brazil. But for pet owners who want better, local alternatives, an Eagle Point woman makes organic treats produced with no hormones, preservatives or salt.
Boney's Bonez, owned by Valerie Allen, produces smoked bones and tendons for dogs that start with food-grade bones inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"I grew up hunting and fishing, so dealing with raw material doesn't bother me," says Allen.
A third-generation Oregonian, Allen bought the dog-treat company from family friends in 2007. The venture fit her love of dogs.
Allen changed the business name to celebrate her family and moved it to their Meadow View Farms in Eagle Point. She invested in new labels and marketing materials but continued selling at farmers markets in Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass while planning to expand.
Although everyone from Allen's three children to her parents and boyfriend pitch in when needed, her only official employee is Kelly Boney, a high-school friend who married Allen's brother. Hiring someone with butchering experience is in Allen's plan for expansion.
"Being a single-parent, woman-based business, we definitely have our challenges," says Allen, mother of three children ages 19, 15 and 10. "They've all helped sell at the grower's markets," says Allen. "It's taught them a lot about money and customer service."
This is Allen's first business venture, and she worked closely with Fred Arnett, a volunteer at Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center in Medford. She says she considers the center's aid invaluable.
"They help guide you through the right way to do things," says Allen, "and you are working with experienced business owners."
Allen is slowly increasing both her products and markets in hope of eventually selling Boney's Bonez nationwide. She has four, large, hand-built smokers that smoke 500 pounds of bones at a time to keep up with demand. A line of lamb and pork products has been added to the original beef bones, which come in a wide variety of sizes.
"We worked a sportsman's show where they had a grizzly bear, and we gave them one of our (beef) mega bones," says Allen. "They told us it took the bear a week to eat it, so it is strong enough for a grizzly bear but made for dogs."
Allen says picking the right bone for your dog's size and type is key, which is why they carry such a variety. Some dogs shouldn't have bones at all if they tend to smash them into sharp shards, which is why Boney's carries the tendons, smoked tracheas and a new line of pig ears. All dogs should be monitored when given a bone to chew, notes Allen.
While Allen talks, Boney mixes dough in the small factory building for their new line of dog biscuits. After hand-mixing the small batch, Boney rolls it out and hand-cuts bone shapes in preparation for baking. Flavors are peanut butter, lamb, cheese and "meat madness."
"They supply us with bones and chews that offer all of our customers a quality, local product with all USA sourcing," says Carol Bryant, pet buyer for Grange Co-op. The Grange has supported Boney's Bonez from its inception, says Bryant.
In addition to local Grange Co-op stores, Boney's Bonez products are available at Ray's Food Place stores, Ashland's Shop 'N' Kart, Big R stores statewide and local farmers markets. Treats also may be ordered online at www. boneysbonez.com.