WOODBRIDGE, ONTARIO — For Leone Fine Foods, a leap into pet nutrition wasn’t farfetched. As a family-owned meat manufacturer based in Toronto, the company was already familiar with pet owners seeking raw and minimally processed nutrition for their four-legged companions.

“My father has been in the meat industry since 1993, so we’ve been around for a while,” said Michael Leone, founder of The Butcher’s Pup and former vice president of sales and marketing at Leone Fine Foods. “It was very organic for us going into the pet food world. Years ago, we started doing raw dog food locally — not even on a brand scale, just utilizing what we already had in stock to help customers feed their dogs.”

Michael Leone, founder of The Butcher's Pup.

Michael Leone, founder of The Butcher's Pup.

| Source: The Butcher's Pup

It wasn’t long before Leone realized there was a white space in the industry for gently cooked dog food, and Leone Fine Foods had the necessary scale and know-how to meet these needs. In 2021, The Butcher’s Pup officially launched with three single-source protein dinners for dogs, and most recently added a first-to-market product to its growing portfolio — Sous-Vide Sausages.

“Sausages for dogs was another thing that happened organically and stemmed from our human food operations,” Leone said. “We produce sausages weekly, which are sold at retail and in grocery store chains.”

According to Leone, the Sausages line came about as more of an entry level option for curious consumers, and the products have already drawn eyes at retail. Each ¼-lb sausage is complete and balanced and sold in 1-lb bags, four to a pack. Proteins include beef, chicken and pork, and all sausages are made with natural hog casings.

Although the sausages are complete-and-balanced to meet all dietary needs of a dog, Leone noted the product has also become popular as a meal enhancement.

“We’re now learning that the sausage is so easy to work with that people are using it as a topper or a frozen treat,” he said.

While The Butcher’s Pup leverages nutritional and manufacturing expertise from Leone Fine Foods, the brand runs segregated production and sources all its pet food ingredients specifically for the brand.

“When we first started, we were using offcuts suitable for pet food, but today we purchase everything specifically for our dog food formulas,” Leone explained.

The Butcher's Pup complete-and-balanced sous-vide sausage entrees for dogsSource: The Butcher's Pup

The Butcher’s Pup portfolio includes three sous-vide dinners and three sous-vide sausages, each available in single-source beef, chicken and pork proteins. All formulas are complete-and-balanced and incorporate human-grade ingredients. Product is manufactured, packaged and vacuum sealed before entering commercial-scale sous vide cookers at The Butcher’s Pup’s plant in Toronto, which is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“Some people don’t want to serve raw, so we sought something that mimics a raw diet, with minimal ingredients and a natural way of cooking to minimize nutritional loss,” he added. “That’s where sous-vide just checked all the boxes.”

For both its Sous-Vide Dinner and Sausages products, The Butcher’s Pup also includes all-natural ingredients that pet owners would recognize on the label, including dried shitake mushrooms, broccoli, oranges, cranberries, pumpkin, spinach, beets, cherries, strawberries and blueberries.

Beef heart and liver, as well as chicken and pork liver, are also included in their respective formulas to help meet nutritional guidelines for vitamins and minerals.

“If you look at our ingredient panel, it’s primarily muscle meat,” Leone said. “We do use liver and beef heart, but we don’t really mess with other organs or byproducts.”

The Butcher’s Pup is focused exclusively on the independent pet retail channel. The brand is currently distributed across Canada and is now working to expand its presence in the United States.

“Right now, our focus is gaining more traction for our new company,” Leone said. “We’re looking at getting on more independent pet retail shelves, and leaning on our distributor partners who have been in the industry for the past 40, 50, 60 years to support that expansion.”

With this latest product and growing distribution in the United States, The Butcher’s Pup aims to be part of the gently cooked pet food revolution as pet owners discover the nutritional benefits of minimal processing, and as the category approaches price parity with other pet food formats. Leone noted he expects a shift to more minimally processed pet diets over the next five years.

“What excites me most is the palatability of the product,” Leone said. “I’m happy to say we’ve created a product that dogs are really enjoying, and it does all you can ask for from a health perspective. Our dogs aren’t here for a long time, but let’s make their lives the best we can.”

Read more about new pet food and treat products.