Most people in Lancaster County are familiar with farm-to-table restaurants. Ken Charles has taken this concept one step further and is reaching out to pet parents with farm-to-bowl dog food that is made in Lancaster County.
Ken Charles is no stranger to the ever-evolving all-natural food market. He is a fourth-generation poultry farmer who experienced much success in developing fresh ideas for chicken lovers everywhere through his company, Charles Poultry.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Ken, who is a graduate of Penn Manor High School and West Chester University, began raising the first antibiotic-free chickens in the Northeast. When the large companies broke into the market, Ken stayed a jump ahead by becoming the East Coast’s leader in organic chicken production.
It wasn’t long before the large companies followed suit, spurring Ken to move in an altogether new direction by developing many new “high-quality, special niche” items that satisfied the needs of high-end specialty restaurants and gourmet chefs all over the country.
While Ken’s son now leads Charles Brothers, Ken, who is 71, wasn’t about to retire. Not one to sit around with nothing to do, he turned his attention to another group of consumers – pet parents and their beloved canines. He has become the first in the U.S. dog food industry to develop a high-quality, boneless, organic, farm-to-bowl dog food.
Ken credits a friend, who was looking for something better to feed her dogs, for sparking the idea. He discovered that it was difficult, at best, to find a dog food without a lot of additives or unnecessary ingredients. Oftentimes, pet food contains the cheapest parts of the animals, topped off with binders, fillers, additives and/or chemicals.
Intrigued by this discovery, Ken set out to make what would become a product that is different than anything else being sold in the U.S. today. Charles Pet Food, LLC, which was formed in 2018, offers products totally unique to the dog food industry – Naked Chicken Chow and Naked Chicken Chow with Whole Organic Brown Rice dog foods and Naked Chicken Jerky.
These products are humanely processed and handmade (not mass-produced). They do not contain inferior meat like chicken livers, kidneys or gizzards, etc. In other words, no organ meat is used as fillers. This allows Ken to be able to say his customers are getting the “highest-quality protein on the market.”
Since Ken’s buyers know exactly what is in the dog food, they are able to add supplements (vitamins, minerals, etc.) as recommended by their dog’s veterinarian, thus catering to the individual needs of each animal.
All of Ken’s products are certified-organic by the USDA and contain no gluten, bones, additives, binders, coloring, antibiotics, fillers, guar gum or carrageenan. In addition, they are GMO-free. He adds, “There is no other dog food in the U.S. that has no binders in it.” Apparently, it tastes good, too. A review on the company’s website shared, “When our 2 boys tried Naked Chicken Chow, they went crazy! They licked their dishes clean and then kept going back to make sure they didn’t leave any behind.”
Deboning the chicken by hand ensures a more quality product but does increase the price somewhat because the overall yield is less. Ken says, “With my products, you know exactly what you are feeding your dog.” The ingredients in Naked Chicken Chow consist of boneless organic chicken with juices and water. The Naked Chicken Chow with Whole Organic Brown Rice contains the identical ingredients, plus organic brown rice. Organic chicken breast meat and sea salt are the sole ingredients in Naked Chicken Jerky.
“It’s been a journey to get here” Ken shares. The approval processes were extensive. Special mechanical innovations had to be built for processing – several of which Ken designed himself. The process – from concept to product – took about two years.
Ken is quick to say he doesn’t want to devalue other dog food companies, stating, “Other companies have their own feelings and philosophies, and that’s fine.” His goal was simply to create a product that appeals to a more discriminating, high-end buyer “who desires something better.”
Ken’s goals for the future are ambitious as he aims to continue providing the best-quality dog food on the market and to eventually extend his market to all 50 states. He is presently working on an exciting new product that is, again, unique in the U.S.
Naked Chicken products can be purchased online at nakedchow.com or locally at Woof’N Tails, 809 New Holland Avenue; Basset and Lab, 1352 Harrisburg Pike; and That Pet Place, 237 Centerville Road.