BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 04 May '18

Our pets are part of our family – so it’s about time we started feeding them that way

This article first appeared in our spring ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Conscious Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 04 May 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Starting a pet food business was ‘not a planned move’ for Henrietta Morrison; it came about when Lily, her border terrier, became ill – which Henrietta puts down to a diet of mass-produced pet food.

Lily had just turned one when she went on ‘hunger strike’, and Henrietta knew that something wasn’t quite right. ‘She had developed red hot spots on her coat and, despite a generous application of hydrocortisone, was constantly scratching her stomach and ears with her paws’, Henrietta remembers.

Henrietta grew worried when she saw Lily running up to the food bowl and backing away without touching it; she suspected an allergic reaction to the food Lily was eating and investigated what was in the tin. ‘I was shocked!’, Henrietta tells us. ‘I couldn’t believe what I had been feeding her. When I looked into what ‘animal derivatives’ meant, I was really horrified.’

Convinced that Lily’s diet was to blame for the illness, Henrietta started cooking Lily’s meals from scratch using proper, natural ingredients; within a week Lily was scratching less and the red blisters on her body were healing. ‘Her appetite returned with gusto, her coat was no longer oily and her poos were solid’, Henrietta says. ‘The transformation was so remarkable that I knew I had to share my recipes with other pet owners who, like me, are looking for a nutritious meal they can trust to be the best for their pet. That’s how Lily’s Kitchen was born.’

We’re giving five readers £100 worth of proper food from Lily’s Kitchen! Click here for your chance to win a feast for your cat or dog

What’s in pet food?

The most common ingredients in most pet food are cheap fillers such as bonemeal (labelled as ‘meat’), animal derivatives, oils, wheat and maize. ‘Imagine feeding your child a diet of processed food with added salt, sugar and fat, every day for the rest of their lives’, Henrietta says. ‘It’s the same thing for pets.’

No one would consciously feed their pets a diet that could make them ill, but we often shop for pet food on autopilot and trust the big brands to produce good food. ‘Unfortunately this is not always the case’, Henrietta warns, ‘and it’s very confusing for pet parents to decipher what is actually in a recipe.’

Poor regulation makes it very easy to disguise ingredients with confusing or generic terms; ‘meat and animal derivatives’ is just one term that covers a multitude of possibilities. ‘Someone can imply that their recipe is a delicious dinner and the main ingredient is chicken’, Henrietta tells us. ‘But the chicken content could be just 4% – and it might be chicken bonemeal.’

Just as we’re learning to pay more attention to hidden ingredients in the food we give ourselves and our two-legged family members, Henrietta has noticed a growing desire to know more about what we’re serving our furry family, too. ‘There’s a huge job to do on education’, she says, ‘and as pet parents and animal lovers ourselves it’s a big part of our role.’

Nutrition for dogs

Henrietta believes the Lily’s Kitchen range is ‘simply the best you can feed your pet’. It contains nutritious, carefully chosen natural ingredients, including botanicals and herbs, with vitamins and minerals to help keep your pet in optimum health.

‘Our recipes use fresh, proper meat, with no cheap fillers like wheat, corn or meat meal and absolutely no nasties’, Henrietta says. ‘Once your pet has tried our food, you’ll know it’s worth it; you’ll see a difference in their skin, coat and overall health. Many people think it’s normal for dogs to be very windy and have a ‘doggy smell’, but once they move onto our food all those doggy ‘norms’ get cleared up quickly.’

Pet owners might be surprised to hear 20-30% of their dog’s diet can come from plants, but while cats thrive on lots of meat, dogs are omnivores and get fibre, carbohydrates and essential vitamins from fruit and vegetables.

Food from Lily’s Kitchen can meet the needs of pets at all ages; its top-notch ingredients are easier for animals to digest and the better quality proteins require much less strain to process.

Henrietta with Lily
Henrietta with Lily

Planet and people

The team at Lily’s Kitchen works hard to ensure the company’s environmental impact is as low as possible; despite the commercial opportunity, it made a conscious decision not to sell wet cat food in pouches that end up in landfill. ‘I just couldn’t sleep at night knowing the impact this has on our beautiful countryside’, Henrietta tells us. ‘A cat would go through 1,460 pouches per year alone – that’s 11 billion pouches to landfill if you consider how many cats there are in the UK.’

In recognition of its responsible ethos, Lily’s Kitchen has been named the UK’s number one ethical pet food company, and has also been voted one of the top 10 most ethical companies in the world by the Good Shopping Guide – with top marks 10 years running. A founding member of B Corp UK, it was also the first pet food brand to become a B Corp, a certification awarded to businesses that meet rigorous environmental standards.

‘B Corp accreditation highlights our continued commitment to ethical behaviour, responsible corporate governance and employee integrity’, Henrietta tells us. ‘We were awarded B Corporation status for the second time last year with an even better score than before, thanks to our strong belief in using business as a force for good.’

For Lily’s Kitchen, B Corp offers a framework to measure, accelerate and check progress in the actions it’s taking, and continue to evolve and improve. Part of this is through the opportunity to connect with like-minded businesses.

Running a business with purpose at its heart is exciting for Henrietta, and it’s the little things that have the biggest impact on her. ‘Even though we’ve achieved some big milestones, I’m at my happiest reading a post or a letter from a pet owner telling us about their cat or dog and the difference our food has made’, she tells us. ‘It’s truly humbling and the reason I started Lily’s Kitchen. Plus twice a day I have a little leap of happiness seeing Lily tuck into one of her recipes!’

Lily's Kitchen