Would you pay $618 a month for dog food?
We have two dogs. Libby is a 3-year-old female Labrador retriever, and Champ is our yellow male Labrador retriever "puppy" who is now 1 and came to live with us after our dog Mauer went missing last spring and was found dead. They are my sidekicks most mornings and nights when I go for walks.
Similar to our children, they cause commotion and trouble, but we love them anyway. Unlike our children, they sleep in a kennel, eat from a bowl with no utensils, and their food is the same every night. My dogs are not my children, but we love them as family pets. They are a combination of inside and outside dogs — not like the smelly farm dogs I grew up with that chase off raccoons at night, but also not like the inside dog a certain unnamed family member dressed in a sweater and shoes before taking on winter walks.
Libby and Champ provide companionship and family fun. Like many pet owners, we spend disposable income on our dogs, which is why I'm targeted on social media by the company The Farmer's Dog to receive their ads on "human-tested," "real food" dog food.
I was intrigued by the company name so I clicked on an ad one evening. I started filling out "profiles" on Libby and Champ, answering questions about my dogs' physique, activity level and preferences in terms of turkey, beef or pork. It was like filling out a profile for Stitch Fix (a custom clothing stylist subscription service I use) combined with Blue Apron (a family meal subscription I used once until their anti-modern agriculture marketing prompted me not to renew). I got to the part on my dogs' profile telling me how many calories a day they need and I exited out of the questionnaire.
But then the ads redirected and targeted me every time I was online. I love a great marketing effort, and The Farmer's Dog has one. I finished the questions and profiles for Libby and Champ.
Should my dogs have human-tested, real food instead of regular ol' dog food generations of dogs seem to survive and thrive on? The Farmer's Dog describes itself as "a subscription-based pet health brand with a mission to disrupt the pet food industry. Our products are human-quality, personalized and devoid of any marketing fluff (about the only kind of fluff we don't love). We bring peace of mind to our customers, health to their companions and fundamentally change the way people think about feeding their pets."
I love entrepreneurial spirit and new business ideas. The Farmer's Dog capitalizes off of affluent Americans who have no limit to the amount of disposable income they will spend on their pets.
But here's the problem. To feed Libby and Champ through The Farmer's Dog would cost $154 a week, $618 every four weeks or more than $8,000 a year.
To put that into perspective, $8,000 is more than my son's in-state college expenses were this past semester, and $618 is more than I spent feeding my family of four at home last month. How many charities and churches would benefit if we all donated $154 more a week?
The Farmer's Dog is a great business name, playing to an audience that will buy ... except me.
Libby and Champ will continue to eat Iams and Purina. I think it's fancy they eat two different dog foods. My husband buys our dog food and spends less than $100 a month. To limit Champ's chewing, I make homemade frozen dog treats, which cost me less than $5 for a month's supply — fancy enough for my country dogs and much more practical on our family budget.
We love our pets — but we don't humanize them. We will not spend more money on our dog's food than our family's grocery budget.
The median annual household income worldwide is about $10,000. I think a majority of people are with me and think it is ludicrous to spend almost that much on a year's worth of dog food. I don't care how tested and real it is.