All About Food: Cooking custom meals for canines

"Last night, my boyfriend Louie and I dined on a succulent mélange of sautéed ground beef with a touch of beef liver. Bite-sized pieces of steamed sweet and white potatoes added heartiness, while finely chopped green beans, carrots and peas provided a touch of color and finely chopped apples a delicate sweetness. I am afraid I will never be able to go back to kibble and bits again. My tail just never stopped wagging."

—Darcy Harrow


The above is a sworn testimonial from a satisfied customer of Just Food for Dogs.

Darcy's mothers, Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz, recently visited Just Food For Dogs, not wanting to limit our reviews of gourmet food to any particular species.

This lovely shop, at 500 W. Coast Hwy. in Newport Beach, looks almost like a little bistro with its gleaming stainless steel open kitchen. As you walk in, the enticing aroma of cooking food almost waters the mouth.

We sat on stools at a long butcher-block table covered with bins of apples, carrots and spinach and watched the small batches of food being prepared, which were then vacuum-sealed and frozen.

Shawn Buckley and his staff use only ingredients that are USDA- and FDA-certified for human consumption. The food is all formulated in conjunction with a veterinarian and a nutritionist to the specific needs of canines.

This includes six entrées: beef and russet potato, lamb and brown rice, turkey and whole-wheat macaroni, chicken and white rice, fish and sweet potato, ultimate turkey and rice remedy (for sick dogs), all supplement enhanced.

Buckley believes that a varied diet is healthiest. The shop also prepares custom meals, formulated for animals with particular health problems like cancer, diabetes, allergies, kidney problems etc. On a lighter note, treats vary from peanut butter or pumpkin to ginger apple cookies.

Canine health was Buckley's primary motivation for starting this business. When he had a sick dog, he researched the ingredients in commercial dog food, which included so called "healthy" brands like Science Diet and Iams. What he discovered made him decide that he would never feed it to his dogs again.

A private organization, the Assn. of Animal Feed Control Officers (AAFCO), publishes guidelines for dog food. In California, dog food may include chemicals, preservatives, food industry by-products, motor oil, peanut shells or leather as there is minimal enforcement of state regulations due to budget restrictions.

A crisis occurred in 2007 when melamine was discovered in pet food. It causes renal failure and resulted in the recall of 181 different brands.

As we looked at the finished product we couldn't help but wonder if it would be palatable enough for a person to share with his pet, not necessarily from the same bowl. Buckley advised us that although all the ingredients are safe, the resulting entrée would not be served in your local diner.

We didn't ask him, "Who does the tasting?"

Their products, including supplements, can also be delivered frozen to your door, all the way from Huntington Beach to Dana Point, Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo and Irvine.

Realizing that not everyone can afford these handcrafted products, Buckley, whose focus is the health of everyone's dog, gives his recipes away for free and has cooking classes, which are also free. You can pick up a recipe at the store or get them online.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at

For Fido

Ingredients for Beef and Russet Potato:

16 oz. ground beef (85% lean)

½-ounce of beef liver

11½ oz. of bite size potato pieces with skin

6 oz. of bite size sweet potato pieces with skin

1 ounce of finely chopped carrots

1 ounce of finely chopped green beans

½ ounce of finely chopped green peas

½-ounce of finely chopped apples (remove cores)

1 tbsp. Safflower oil

½ gram salt

1 human multi-vitamin supplement, 40% calcium, less than 1% phosphorus

Cooking directions:

1. Sauté meat over medium heat. Break up.

2. Boil potatoes until tender.

3. Steam vegetables.

4. Combine ingredients at room temperature. Add apples.

SOURCE: JustFoodForDogs

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