Pet owners seek organic diets after recall

By Lisa Cornwell The Associated Press

CINCINNATI – Debra Tarter’s 2-year-old boxer, Patchez, is just like a member of the family. That’s why the national recall of the dog food Patchez had been eating for two years prompted Tarter to switch to brands that cost twice as much, but contain organic and natural ingredients.

“My children are grown, and Patchez is our baby,” said Tarter, 55, of Cincinnati. “We would pay anything to keep her safe.”

And pay she does. Tarter, who has taken Patchez for tests to make sure her kidneys weren’t damaged by the recalled food, had been paying 84 cents a can for the recalled wet food she mixed with a dry food costing about $20 per 16-pound bag. Now she pays $1.69 a can and $40 a bag for a brand with more-natural ingredients.

Concerned pet owners such as Tarter are helping to increase already booming sales of organic and natural pet food, according to industry officials and store owners. An executive at Wild Oats Markets Inc., the specialty food chain that caters to health-minded consumers, says that it’s still a little early to measure the recall’s impact on the natural and organic food segment for pets that’s been growing at 15 percent to 25 percent a year.

“People are extending their food ethic to their whole family, including the pets,” said Rickard Werner, director of dry grocery for Wild Oats, based in Boulder, Colo.

Daryl Meyerrenke, owner of Anderson Township Family Pet Center in suburban Cincinnati, will be stocking an extra brand of organic pet food this week, spurred by increased customer demand for organic and natural products since the recall.