Food & Drink » Flavor

Ancestral Treats is a locally sourced single-ingredient dog treat brand with roots in Cambria

By

1 comment

Dog trainer and Ancestral Companions founder Juan Luzuriaga realized he had a hidden gem in his hands after his canine clientele lapped up his offal treats during obedience drills.

"I want to give the best to my dog," Luzuriaga said. "I would go to the store ... and I would look at the ingredient lists. I wouldn't even know what half of these things are, and I studied neuroscience."

After diving into research on dog nutrition, he landed on the simplest possible set of ingredients for treats—beef liver and kidneys. Luzuriaga's own dog, Moksha, devoured them during training sessions. It wasn't long before other owners noticed their dogs enjoying Luzuriaga's treats too and began inquiring. The flurry of interest resulted in Luzuriaga setting up Ancestral Treats, an offshoot of his dog training company, Ancestral Companions. He eventually moved from Merced to Cambria to grow the business and find local cattle ranches and butchers to buy livers and kidneys from.

FAMILY AFFAIR Founder Juan Luzuriaga (right) runs Ancestral Treats with his sister and Ayurveda enthusiast Maria Belen (front) who got him interested in learning more about dog nutrition for his pet, Moksha (center). - PHOTOS COURTESY OF JUAN LUZURIAGA
  • Photos Courtesy Of Juan Luzuriaga
  • FAMILY AFFAIR Founder Juan Luzuriaga (right) runs Ancestral Treats with his sister and Ayurveda enthusiast Maria Belen (front) who got him interested in learning more about dog nutrition for his pet, Moksha (center).

"We try to source as close as we can. ... Sometimes we have to go as far Fresno but within a 400-mile range, which is what the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] calls 'local,'" he said. "Our orders are on the smaller side but big enough where some of the smaller places don't have [kidneys and livers]. ... We're looking for the most sustainable beef production."

ROBUST SNACK Ancestral Treats offers freeze-dried beef liver and beef kidney chunks that immediately grab dogs' attention because of their powerful aroma, according to founder and dog trainer Juan Luzuriaga. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF JUAN LUZURIAGA
  • Photos Courtesy Of Juan Luzuriaga
  • ROBUST SNACK Ancestral Treats offers freeze-dried beef liver and beef kidney chunks that immediately grab dogs' attention because of their powerful aroma, according to founder and dog trainer Juan Luzuriaga.

Luzuriaga works with San Luis Obispo County purveyors like Molnar Cattle in Cayucos, which provides him with offal, while Cookie Crock Markets in Cambria sometimes processes meat for Ancestral Treats. He and his sister, Maria Belen—the only employees—freeze-dry chunks of kidneys and liver in a Broad Street commercial kitchen called SLO's Finest, and package them in small batches that are shelf stable for years.

The elevated brown paper bag the treats come in bears stickers that detail a very short list of ingredients. "Beef liver," said one. On another, "Beef kidney." Period.

"We definitely care about our connection with our ancestors," Luzuriaga said. "We want to eat like our ancestors did."

He is also working on rolling out chicken feet treats for Ancestral Treats, and is devising an educational campaign to go with it.

"In America, the only people that are comfortable with a hoof or a chicken foot, or whatever, would be farmers or people in rural areas who are used to seeing that and are closer to the process of putting down an animal and processing them and putting them in the market," Luzuriaga said. "This is the best option they have to clean their dog's teeth, for example, versus Greenies or something that's out there that has weird pea proteins."

WHAT'S IN A LABEL? Ancestral Treats' hand-placed labels get to the point with a short ingredient list and a QR code for dog-owning customers to learn more about training opportunities. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF JUAN LUZURIAGA
  • Photos Courtesy Of Juan Luzuriaga
  • WHAT'S IN A LABEL? Ancestral Treats' hand-placed labels get to the point with a short ingredient list and a QR code for dog-owning customers to learn more about training opportunities.

Local pet stores and smaller mom-and-pop pet pantries are slowly informing the public about the benefits of treats like chicken feet, he added. He's in talks with one of them—Maddie Mae's Pet Pantry in Cambria—to stock Ancestral Treats at the store. Ancestral Treats can be found at the store inside SLO's Finest, Stolo Vineyards, Bob & Jan's Bottle Shop, and will soon be available at Soto's True Earth Market. The solo-ingredient treats come in 1.5 ounce, 3 ounce, and 8 ounce bags for between $12 and $30. They can also be purchased at ancestraltreats.com/shop and usually whenever Luzuriaga offers free dog training for the community.

Luzuriaga is a seasoned dog trainer with a career spanning more than a decade. He studied under other coaches across the country, including a sheep-herding trainer in Florida, and continues to build a strong customer base across the Central Valley and SLO County. His next session is on May 12 at El Chorro dog park in SLO.

The demand for Ancestral Treats is slowly growing. Luzuriaga and his sister try to stay ahead of it by increasing the supply ever so slightly. They do so with happy caution.

"What we don't want is some of the things that happened to some of our favorite brands, which is start out really strong and then they drop down in ingredients," he said. "Or they start out with no preservatives, and then they add them later on. We're not interested in that." Δ

Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal will stock up on Ancestral Treats for her dog friends. Claim friendship at [email protected].

Tags

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Add a comment