Ben Whitelaw of Chattanooga, TN is the founder of a company called Barley Bones. They’re craft doggy treats from spent malted barley, a byproduct of the brewing process that’s high in protein and a good source of digestible fiber.
As an employee at a local microbrewery and a home brewer himself, the idea spawned from his desire to recycle the materials used in the brewing process.
The biscuits are a combination of the spent barley and other organic ingredients, including rye and oat flours, used to round out the base of the treats. Flavoring agents, like farmstead cheddar cheese and organic peanuts, are locally and regionally sourced to keep with the local mission of the company.
Production takes place in Whitelaw’s dining room where he has two stainless steel tables, a mixer, a peanut butter extruder, dough sheeter, and a couple of hand-built convection ovens where the treats are baked and dehydrated. “It’s a small operation, but we can produce 400 to 500 pounds in a week if needed,” Ben says.
When he says “we,” he largely means himself and a few friends. Although eventually the plan is to have his treats in big and small pet stores alike, right now everything about his operation is small. He has a few close friends working on production, branding, design, marketing, and sales.
One of his favorite locations carrying the treats currently is a place called Moccasin Bend Brewery in St. Elmo, TN, where dogs are allowed in the tasting room. The gig at Moccasin Bend prompted Ben to offer the treats in other dog-friendly locations as a way of connecting the product with the intended customers.
I told Ben when I spoke with him, “I have to admit, those treats look good to me, and I only have two legs.” He said I’m not the only one to say so, and he encourages everyone to try them. “I think it is important to know what your dog is eating. If it’s safe for you, then it’s safe for your dog,” he said. “They’re a little dry, so you need a drink with them for sure.”
And humans aren’t the only ones giving rave reviews. “I’ve heard quite a few stories about dogs scouting the treats from different locations, and tearing open whatever they were contained in. I recently heard a similar story about a cat doing the same,” he said.
If you’re not in Tennessee, but you’d like to try the treats, check out his website where they’re available for online order.