Putting the ‘honesty’ in its products with its certified-organic ingredients.
By Anne Sedjo
“Onesta” is Italian for “honesty.” This ethic is high on zoologist Heidi Junger’s list of what her company, Onesta Organics Inc. in San Diego, should provide to its customers. These days, companies can claim they have organic ingredients. Many natural and holistic pet-food retailers know complexities exist in such statements.
Dr. Junger says her company was the first to sell USDA-certified organic pocket-pet food with its Pet Pasta. Although bigger companies with more capabilities to produce larger amounts of product have “caught up,” according to Junger, certifications remain a top priority to Onesta Organics. In fact, six certification stamps appear on the home page of the Web site.
Junger highlights the USDA Organic certification on the Onesta Organics site.
“USDA organic certification is the only way that people can be sure that the product is organic,” Junger says. “Organic certification is the only way to guarantee that organic claims made for pet foods are verified by an independent and USDA-accredited agency. Without a certified-organic claim or the USDA organic seal, everybody can claim their pet food is organic, but consumers should know that such noncertified organic claims have not been substantiated by an independent third party.
“I try to educate customers and retailers, too,” she continues. “Some of the retailers know the difference already but some don’t. Before I started this business, I, too, didn’t fully understand the difference between certified organic and organic claims without certification, as they apply to pet-food products.”
Junger first started putting out the Pet Pasta treats for small animals in 2006. She expanded into the dog market with Veggie-Hides. She currently is working on a cat food. She has a small team of four part-time or temporary employees and says this approach suits her company at this time.
“The advantage of a small-team approach is that I know exactly what is going on every step of the way, from ingredient sourcing (where it was grown) to manufacturing details (processing protocols and sanitation issues),” she notes.
Junger’s past augments her interest in producing food for pets. She grew up with animals in the Austrian countryside and wanted to help them with her work in zoology. She also was a scientific investigator.
Onesta Organics Inc.
At a Glance
Owner: Heidi Junger
Location: San Diego
No. of Employees: Four part time
Flagship Product: Pet Pasta and Veggie-Hides
No. of Years in Business: Three
“I believe I come to the pet-food industry with a very good knowledge base and the tools to understand what animals need,” she explains. “At least I hope so. I certainly keep my mind open. I surely can’t make any compromises. If I make a treat, and I know how I can make it good, I can’t make it with cheaper, noncertified organic, low-quality, possibly allergenic or unhealthy ingredients, such as refined ingredients, because I know that these ingredients don’t deliver a product that would be safe and optimally support animal health.”
She further explains it does become more expensive to use human-grade ingredients instead of feed-grade ingredients and to use a certified-organic ingredient over one that has been exposed to pesticides, but says a more-educated public understands.
“People who don’t know much about the topic and who don’t recognize the difference in quality don’t see a reason to pay more for a pet food if they can get another one for less money,” she says. “If you don’t realize that the cheaper food is over-processed and made of cheaper, unhealthier ingredients, why would you pay more?”
She adds that the visibility of the dog- and cat-food recalls has brought more awareness.
In addition to some benefits mentioned above, Junger says Onesta Organics uses hypoallergenic ingredients and no corn, soy, rice, gluten, sweeteners, artificial colors or synthetic chemicals. She describes the treats as human-grade and “dehydrated at a very low temperature, a process that yields live-food treats that are the next best thing to raw foods.”
“We use no food fragments,” she says. “Every time you isolate a nutrient out of a whole food, you can run into a problem. If you rely instead on the nutrients that occur naturally in the food, you can be sure that these are more bioavailable and rarely pose potentially serious health risks. Such endogenous nutrients can even act as buffers, balancing the actions of other nutrients that might otherwise have little, or perhaps even exaggerated, responses if delivered in isolated form.
“We believe that in order to provide potent and safe, naturally occurring nutrients and to keep supplementation with isolated nutrients to a minimum, it’s best to start with live ingredients and process these in ways that keep valuable endogenous nutrients alive and active,” Junger continues. “Where continuous supplementation is required, we attempt to do so with natural, rather than synthetic, nutrients.”
Junger started writing a blog on the Onesta Organics Web site in May 2008. She provides regular updates about nutrition in pet food and the benefits of knowing about ingredients. Further information about Onesta Organics’ philosophy and practices can be found on the Web site. <HOME>
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