Honestly Good Dog Food - Meet Mike from Scratch!

Healthier kibble you can trust?

Scratch dog food caught our eye straight away, I've always been a sucker for a delivery subscription (say goodbye to luging 10kg bags of dog food to my car) but aside from the convenience of delivery, I was drawn to the transparency of Scratch Pet Food and their promise to shake up the pet food industry by setting a new standard for dog health. So I caught up briefly with Scratch cofounder Mike to ask him all the questions I've been dying to know about this young pet food company.

Pictured: Mike Hallinan from Scratch Pet Food with some key product testers

Jess: Mike, It's so great to finally get some time to catch up with you. As you know, I actually made the switch to Scratch recently myself. Duke was losing a bit of condition, he is 9 now and I was worried that his current diet just wasn't cutting it, and having been a fan of your really transparent approach to ingredients and chatting openly about what goes into your dog food I decided to give Scratch a go. It's only been about 12 weeks but we are seeing an improvement in Duke already. His coat is looking healthier, poos are really consistent and he is holding his weight for now - which given his previous loss is a good sign. He has always been a bit tricky to keep weight on due to his really active breed.

So I've put together a couple of questions that I was hoping to ask you, firstly, what motivated you to get involved with dog food?

Mike: My dog Brandy was starting to really slow down. She was a cocker spaniel with a permanent smile but she definitely wasn’t herself, so I started to look at what she was being fed. We’d always just fed her wet food that slopped out of the can. She seemed to like it and still had that smile on her face, so we didn’t think too much of it.

But dog food is one of those things that once you really start looking at, you can’t believe what you’re seeing. It was the vague claims on the front of the labels sitting next to a celebrity vet endorsement and photo of a dog running through the field that tipped me off at first. It was like every brand had its playbook for how to appear trustworthy.

And once I got to the nutritional labels and learnt how brands game them and how different reality is to labeling, I was pretty obsessed with doing it better.

I’d been working in eCommerce for the previous ten years and running brands that sold straight to customers so I sort of had my own lucky experience of being able to cut out stores and make a better product, direct for customers.

Jess: How is scratch different from other kibbles?

Mike: There’s the food itself, and the way we do things as a company.

Our 3 kibbles are on the super-premium side of things, but with premium prices. We use just about as much meat as anything out there, and it’s all sourced from the human-grade supply chain rather than the bits and pieces the pet-food supply chain uses.

And then we balance our recipes properly. We don’t have the same cost constraints of most brands so we use higher quantities of the more nutritious ingredients. A lot of grain-free dog foods swap grain fillers for grain-free fillers that are just as harmful in the long-term. All of our veggies are whole and far less processed. It equals a healthier, more delicious kibble than what you’ll find on the store shelves.

The other key reason people switch to Scratch is trust. We don’t want to be the biggest but we’re hellbent on earning the privilege of being Australia’s most trusted dog food. It all comes back to why we started it, so we’ve launched a few things that we think all dog foods should do:

  1. Our recipes show you how much we use of every ingredient so you know truly what’s in it.
  2. We only use specific ingredients (turkey instead of poultry for example, or salmon oil instead of fish oil). Dog food often changes batch to batch but it’s important to us that your food never changes, or that there’s a good reason if they do.
  3. We have public changelogs of any changes ever made to our recipes, and give customers a heads up ahead of time if we ever do decide to tweak them. A lot of pet parents use Scratch because their dog struggles with particular ingredients so this helps people make the most informed decisions for the life of their dogs.
  4. We donate 2% of all revenue to charity and have the most ambitious sustainability program in the market. We use natural resources with meat and farmed veggies, so it’s important to recognise that doing business comes at a cost to the planet in some small way. So we donate from every order to climate action and now also to some amazing dog welfare initiatives focused on early prevention of dogs needing a second home.
  5. We publish everything we do on a transparency front and advocate loudly for it so that the rest of the industry falls into line. We’re only small, but if we can pressure the big guys into implementing even 25% of what we do, it’d be a huge win for consumer transparency. I truly believe dogs would have a longer life from better decisions made through it.
Pictured: Product Testers busy at work

Jess: I noticed that you talk about the option to mix feed with Scratch, why is that?

Mike: There’s so much division and angst in how to feed your dogs. I mean you see it so much in those advocating for raw, and I get it. Because most kibble is so crap. It doesn’t have to be, but when you put crap ingredients in of course you’ll get crap food out.

We figure people are much smarter than brands give them credit for, so we don’t force an opinion or pretend it’s Scratch or nothing. I think raw feeding can be great, and I think kibble can be great. We’ll give you the facts and make it as easy as possible to feed your dog with us if that’s what you choose - even if that’s only a portion of their diet.

While we make more money if every dog eats just Scratch, we don’t need to make every cent possible. Scratch is a sustainable business and we want to do the best thing for the dogs on Scratch, and their humans.

That means making it really easy to feed with variety if that’s what their dogs prefer.

Or often, it’s just helping out someone who wants to feed their dogs the best but can’t afford to do it as 100% of their dog’s diet. Scratch isn’t super expensive, but we’re not a cheap supermarket brand either. A lot of people want to feed their dogs the best but might not have the circumstances to all the time, or just have a lot of big dogs to feed!

Jess: Tell us about a dog that you have now or previously in your life

I’ve been lucky to grow up since a kid in a family full of collies and cocker spaniels. But it’s actually a dog I was fostering after losing Brandy (around the time we were starting Scratch) that left the biggest impression on me.

We ended up fostering this beautiful labrador ‘Navi’ through a wonderful welfare organisation called Pets of the Homeless. Navi’s mum was going through a challenging time and needed someone to help her focus on herself. We had Navi for a year all up and not only did she become a huge part of our lives, but in returning her to her mum when ready, I got to see firsthand how much of an impact dogs can have on our lives.

Navi and her mum have been back together for a few years now and going strong.

Jess: I noticed you’ve got some pretty cool ‘club Scratch’ merch out at the moment, T-Shirts and the like. How do I get my hands on some?

Ha! Yes, we had fun with this.

Our community is amazing in advocating for what we’re doing and sharing how Scratch has helped their dogs. So we did a fun range of merch for them. You can’t buy it, but if you share with friends you can get a tee, dog bandana and keyring.

Jess: A big thanks to Mike for answering our questions and here is a hot-tip from me on how I feed Duke his Scratch to make it into a great enrichment activity for him!

Check out Scratch yourself here: www.scratchpetfood.com.au