CARBONDALE, Colorado - Locavores, or those who eat only locally-grown food, now have another item to add to their list of products for the family: dog food.
Longtime Carbondale resident Kat Lieblick, aka Mama Kat, says the ingredients in her homemade Mama's Choice 100% Natural Dog Food come from ranches and gardens within 500 miles of the Roaring Fork Valley.
"It's made with Crystal River meats and organic fruits and vegetables," she said.
Lieblick, who also works in food and wine sales, raises some of the vegetables in her own backyard. Other ingredients, such as pumpkins, apples and sweet potatoes, come from the Carbondale Food Co-op, which sells produce from area farmers. She mixes it all up at home or in a rented commercial kitchen and then sells the food at various stores in the valley.
"It keeps the money right here in town," she pointed out.
When her Labrador, Angus, started "having issues" a few years back and refused to get in the car, Lieblick got worried.
"He was getting fat and it was getting expensive," she explained. She got to work and began making meatballs for him.
Raw food is good for dogs, she said, but it's more than tossing your pooch a pork chop.
"If you don't have the essentials like calcium and amino acids, you can hurt the dog," she explained. And there has to be a balance. Lieblick said finding the right mix was trial and error. But, after reading Colorado State University's Small Animal Nutrient Guide and other books, she learned how to combine ingredients so her dog could get the right nutrients.
With the help of local rancher Jock Jacober, who owns Crystal River Meats, and Eric Berry, owner of RJ Paddywack's Animal Outfitters in El Jebel, Lieblick created Mama's Choice.
Oh, and Angus recovered just before Mama's Choice hit stores about nine months ago.
Lieblick is a certified pet food manufacturer and her kitchens are compliant with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The dog food is also inspected for quality at labs in Grand Junction.
Mama's Choice contains 24 percent protein, 7.5 percent fat, 3 percent fiber, and about 65 percent moisture.
But most importantly, the food is, well, food. That means no preservatives, corn syrup, sugar, food coloring or mystery meat.
"Once I started looking at labels, it made me sick," Lieblick exclaimed. She would not disclose her recipe, but said she adds fish oil, flax seed and sometimes blueberries to the mix. "I don't put anything in there I wouldn't eat myself," she said.
Lieblick said she recently put a 16-year old dog she was caring for on the Mama's Choice diet. "That dog's hair came back, her eyes cleared up, and she had more energy," she claimed.
Mama's Choice, which comes frozen, is not a boutique line, said Lieblick. It costs $5.99 per pound, less than a pound of grass-fed beef in most stores. "I made it so it would be affordable and everybody could buy it."
Lieblick has also started a line of doggie treats, called "Bone Appatreat."
"They're like dog bones," she said. "I put the dog food in ice cube trays, freeze it, and then put it in a dehydrator."
Lieblick said she doesn't know if her homemade dog food will be a big money-maker, but she likes the fact that locals support locals in the Roaring Fork Valley. She hopes her line will soon take off in Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
Mama's Choice meets with Association of American Feed Control Officials standards and is suitable for dogs of all ages. It's sold at Carbondale Food Co-op, RJ Paddywack's, the Osage Garden Farm Store near New Castle, and the Canine Country School in Gypsum.