I was so excited when my mother brought home a bag of Barley Labs dog treats. OMG! I could not get enough of them…and I didn’t! My brother Charlie and sister Brownie didn’t seem to "get" that they were ALL FOR ME and I was forced to share. (phooey)
The good news is…we got more! More good news is that I got to learn more about Barley Labs by chatting with the Co-owner, Theresa Chu.
Tucker: Your concept is just so cool! How did you come up with this idea?
Theresa: My partner (in business and life) Scott Beaudry started brewing his own beer back in 2007. We were living in a tiny apartment (which meant finding brewing equipment in every closet and the bathtub) in Chicago, but then we moved into a larger place and adopted our dog Barley. Larger place for Scott meant more brewing, but he felt so badly about throwing out all the barley, or “spent grain,” that was left over from the process (brewers take the barley and steep it in water for a period of time, then remove just the water and use that to continue the brewing process). Scott did some research and realized he could take the spent grain and make dog treats with it. Barley, as you can imagine, was very excited.
It took us moving to Durham, N.C., to finally get serious about turning the idea into a business. We created a great partnership with Fullsteam Brewery to supply our grain, and in September 2012, Barley Labs finally was born. Scott and I run the business, Barley is the Chief Inspiration Officer and VP of Quality Control, and our newest fur-kid Hops is our Director of PR (he LOVES humans and going to events with us).
Tucker: Being a real "dog-foodie" I love that your treats are all-natural and have no preservatives. How are you able to keep the treats fresh without using preservatives?
Theresa: First, we oven bake the treats because we use eggs. We don’t want any bacteria so we bake them thoroughly in the oven. Then we dehydrate them to remove as much moisture as possible. This makes the treats very crunchy, which Barley loves because she’s a chewer, and allows them to be shelf stable.
Tucker: What are some of the key ingredients in your treats that make them so yummy?
Theresa: We currently have three flavors of treats – peanut butter, pumpkin, and cheese. These were all inspired by Barley. She, like most dogs, absolutely adores peanut butter. We decided on pumpkin because when Barley was younger, she had some potty issues, and the vet recommended adding pure pumpkin puree to her food. She nearly fell over trying frantically to eat that pumpkin as quickly as possible. Finally, we chose cheese because we used that as her training reward when she was a puppy. We are very lucky because we managed to find Cultured Cow Creamery, a dairy farm based in Durham that supplies our cheddar for the treats.
Tucker: My siblings, Charlie and Brownie, and I don't have tummy issues (except when we eat sticks) but I know some dogs do. Do you have any plans for grain-free treats?
Theresa: Yes, but first we’re working on wheat-free treats that use recycled barley from the beer brewing process. Then our next treat will be both grain and wheat free for pups with very sensitive tummies.
Tucker: I understand part of the proceeds from each sale is donated to a cause near and dear to you. Can you tell me about that?
Theresa: We adopted Barley from Paws Chicago in 2008. I had never had a dog (quite frankly, as a kid I was a little scared of them and as an adult I was mostly indifferent to them). Scott, on the other hand, has always loved dogs. But the moment we brought Barley home, it was over for me. There was this four-month-old, 30 pound, adorable black puppy that looked up at me with her big brown eyes, and my heart just melted.
Then just this past summer, I was delivering our treats to AniMall, a non-profit pet supply store that partners with local rescues and shelters to help find forever families for homeless animals. They host adoptable animals in the store, and that day they had a Border Collie mix from the rescue group Love Mutts Rescue. His name was Midget, and he was no dummy. He saw the sucker with an armful of dog treats, and he put on his cutest face. Sure enough, after a successful meet-and-greet with Scott and Barley, we officially adopted him in July and re-named him Hops.
We can’t imagine life without either of them now, and we owe so much of the joy they bring to us to the shelter and rescue staff and volunteers like the ones who saved Barley and Hops. That’s why we donate 10 cents from every bag sold to our local shelter in Durham. We also sponsor animal-related events and donate treats to other rescue organizations. With our new lines of treats, we plan to extend our sales-related donations to other rescues.
Tucker: Where can pet parents buy Barley Labs?
Theresa: Barley Labs is available at many independent shops, Harris Teeter, and Lowes Foods in North Carolina. You can search for a store near you, here. Outside of North Carolina, you can order either from our website or from wag.com -- they’ve got a great deal on shipping (free 2-day shipping on orders $49+ from any combination of their familyhood sites).
Thanks so much Theresa and Barley Labs.
I love your treats!