With the price of meat rising rapidly, people who cook at home for their pets are facing budget challenges. We talk to pet lovers who run small, medium and large pet food businesses about how price changes affect their business, and share tips on how readers can cushion themselves from the economic impact.
Wong Puei Ee cooks for her five Schnauzers – Ocha, Puer, TehC, Cider and Kopi – and a cat named Cendol. She is also the artisanal dog food chef for her company in Kuala Lumpur.
“For my own dogs, I’m shifting from supermarkets to the wet market and wholesalers. I also select lower cuts, like instead of topside, I'll select silverside,” Wong says.
“For chicken, I buy the whole bird and not just breast meat, and I'll remove the skin and trim the fats myself. It’s more economical than buying skinless breast meat.“I also buy local veggies and fruits instead of imported. I look for spinach, winter melon, locally grown kailan, choy sum and green beans. In the fruit section, I look for papaya, watermelon and bananas.
“In terms of (the company), rising prices challenge our business objectives and beliefs. Do we maintain our food quality and increase our prices substantially or lower the quality and meet customers' comfortable price point? As our principal aim is to provide a healthy diet that maximises quality of life, we decided quality comes first.
“First, we've switched our packaging to vacuum pack for better pricing in the long run.
“Second, we're bulk-buying meat and freezing it. Buying in volume means we game pricing and maintain ingredient quality. We also keep a lookout for better pricing suppliers, although I must say our established suppliers have been collaborating with us to offer the best prices possible.”
Cheah Siew Yenn runs a cage-free boarding facility that also produces biologically appropriate dog food, treats and seasonal signature treats, like the ones for the Boat Festival.
“Prices always go up and down a little bit here and a little bit there,” Cheah points out. “When prices are low, we buy a lot of stock and then we ride out fluctuations during surges. However, this year is different.
“We’ve seen chicken and pork prices go up from RM12 to RM19, and RM12 to RM22,” she sighs. “In terms of sales, you can give a discount any time. However, you can only put prices up once a year, twice at the most.
“With selling chicken, beef, pork, salmon and other lines, we have 60 or so products,” Cheah explains. “When one ingredient soars, like chicken for example, we cut out those product lines for a while and concentrate on our other lines.”
Many boutique pet supply companies have complex ethical and social initiatives which complicate matters.
“At the moment, imported products can be cheaper than local,” Cheah points out. “This challenges one of our core concepts, to buy local. Frankly, it hurts! When we can, we support local business over imports, even if it costs a bit more. We buy in bulk so we get the best rates possible. But this year we have been dialling back product lines.
“Thankfully, this month we have seen a dip in pricing, so hopefully it will come down further.”
Being mum to five dogs – Maia, Pixel, Vixen, Becky and Teh Peng – as well as being a part-time rescuer, Cheah finds figuring out her own pawsome budget is a challenge too.
“We don’t skimp on the dogs but we are cutting our own human budgets,” she giggles. Then, sadly, “Also, in terms of rescue, no new dogs for me for a while. I can’t afford it.”
Stanley Saw, dad to poodles Whiskey and Brandy, and also managing director of a pet food supplies and marketing company.
“Rising costs are always in play but this time round global supply chain disruptions are the main issue. For pet lovers who are worried about pricing, I’d say look to our own food prices to see what will happen in pet food. When human food goes up, pet food follows soon after. As for forecast, I think we’ll see rises and turbulence next year.
“Companies hedge for price surges by bulk buying. I suggest that you do the same. Gather like-minded friends and buy in bulk from a wholesaler.”
Saw also advocates a mix-and-match approach to home cooking. “For Whiskey and Brandy, we cook at home, and supplement with commercial products because they contain special vitamins and minerals including enzymes and so forth that pets need to be healthy.
“In my opinion, unless there are very special circumstances, only offering homecooked food to dogs is not recommended, because it’s so tricky to get the nutrition right. Companies spend a fortune researching all the micronutrients, and they really are important for pet health.
“Therefore, I think balance is best. Alternate, supplement or mix homecooked meals with commercially prepared meals.
“When buying any pet food, go with common sense. Don’t believe the hype; read the (list of) ingredients and make sure they meet your pet’s dietary needs. Talk to your vet.
“As for a cheap treat, dogs love carrots and apples. Just buy, wash and cut them into chunks. Healthy, easy and affordable.”
Murphy is four months old, fully vaccinated and healthy. He is very active, dominant, and a good eater. He also has a wonderful bark and is a very alert boy. Murphy will make a wonderful pet but he can also be trained as a watch dog. Interested adopters please call SPCA Penang, Jalan Jeti Jelutong, 11600 Jelutong, Penang (phone: 04-281 6559 / website: https://spca-penang.net).