Bayou some: Louisiana company hopes to be swamped with orders for nutria dog treats
What do you do with a ratty-looking invasive species that’s eating its way through thousands of acres of coastal wetlands?
In Louisiana, entrepreneurs have made hats and purses out of them, and, for several years, state wildlife officials have offered $5 bounties to hunters and trappers in an attempt to curtail their numbers.
Now, a local company is turning nutria into dog treats:
“Marsh Dog uses an innovative market-based approach to solve the problem — wild Nutria dog biscuits … Owners can treat their dogs to an all-natural, artisanal treat that tastes good and does good while helping to support the fight to conserve the fastest disappearing land in the world—coastal wetlands.”
The Marsh Dog website says the locally made treats are being sold in numerous pet care outlets in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
And, the website makes clear, nutria are not rats. Despite public perceptions, despite a similarly slinky appearance, and despite sharing the same taxonomic order (as do squirrels, beaver, and guinea pigs) nutria are actually more closely related to porcupines or capybaras.
And they taste much better, the website says.
The Marsh Dog idea was born last year when owners Veni Harlan, a graphic designer, and her brother, Hansel Harlan, an attorney, were awarded a $7,022 grant by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, which helps fund attempts to curb the nutria population in Louisiana’s wetlands.
“We both cook for our dogs,” Veni Harlan explained to The Advocate. ”We’ve both been involved with dogs all our life.”
The Harlans make the biscuits – each batch takes about four days — in their new commercial-grade kitchen in the backyard, and they say demand keeps increasing.
“People like that it’s all-natural and has no preservatives, and, of course, that it’s made locally,” said J.T. Hackett, a manager at Petz Plaza, a Baton Rouge pet shop.
Nutria are an invasive species native to South America. They gnaw at the roots of marsh vegetation, causing the plants to die, which contributes to coastal erosion.
The state’s Coastwide Nutria Control Program pays trappers $5 per nutria for each tail they bring out of the marsh. The program is federally funded and managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Trappers also have the option of selling the animals to companies like Marsh Dog, or Righteous Fur, a New Orleans-based company that makes hats, messenger bags and more out of nutria.
The state’s goal is to shrink the nutria population in south Louisiana by 400,000 animals a year.
Nutria make up about 20 percent of each dog treat. The treats also include brown rice and black strap molasses. An 8-ounce bag of the treats retails for about $8.50.
“We honestly didn’t know how well they would be received,” Veni Harlan said. “And we’ve just been blown away. The people have really responded. They get it. They understand what this is about — that it’s about Louisiana.”
Posted by jwoestendiek July 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biscuits, bounties, coastal, curtailing, dog, dog biscuits, dog food, dog treats, dogs, erosion, hunters, invasive, louisiana, marsh, marsh dog, molasses, new orleans, nutria, nutria dog treats, pet food, pet treats, pets, population, rice, species, trappers, treats, wetlands