Local biscuits get two paws up

Jan. 25, 2014 @ 10:15 AM

At the South Durham Farmers’ Market, not only can you stock up on good-for-you fruits and vegetables, you can also purchase healthy, handmade treats for that special furry someone in your life. Each Saturday, market-goers can visit Good Grace’s Dog Treats and select from an array of wholesome biscuits displayed in a handsome array of glass jars.

Blair McKinney and Lisa Small, owners of Good Grace’s, started baking their own dog treats three years ago for their very lucky Australian Cattle Dog, McGee. Disappointed with the quality of existing dog biscuits, they sought to make treats without any preservatives or additives from human-grade natural ingredients.

They researched canine nutrition to guide recipe development and shared the resulting biscuits with the dogs of friends and coworkers. The dogs wolfed them down and, before long, Blair was coming home from work with order requests; a business was born.  They decided to name it after Blair’s influential and supportive grandmother who passed away just as the business was taking off.

When I called Lisa and Blair for this article, Lisa was working on a new treat she called ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ made from antioxidant rich blueberries, garbanzo beans, eggs and cinnamon.  This new biscuit will be a gluten and grain-free addition to their line of 16 flavors.

They explained that all of their ingredients are selected for their health benefits. For example, the fish oil in their “Say Cheese” treats promotes a healthy coat and eases symptoms associated with arthritis. The flax seed in ”Red Rover” strengthens bones, and the dried cranberries in “Bark Bark” help to regulate the urinary tract. Good Grace’s offers several grain-free treats (a common allergen for pups), and their gluten-free treats are very popular among owners who are highly allergic to gluten but still desiring to treat their best friend. 

Lisa and Blair experiment constantly to create the tastiest and most nutritious canine cookies possible. On their journey to dog-cookie perfection, they have already retired and replaced seven flavors with new and improved versions. McGee has been joined by Shelby, another Australian Cattle Dog, as a professional taste-tester. Also, the neighborhood dogs don’t mind providing feedback during the research and development phase. “Once a treat gets two paws up, it goes to market,” said Blair.

They operate entirely out of their home in Cary. Their kitchen has turned into a bakery, and their dining room houses three commercial dehydrators and two refrigerators. Their tools are the same as any pastry chef’s: rolling pins, cookie cutters, piping bags and molds.  Once baked, the treats spend eight hours in the dehydrators (a process which significantly extends their lifespan) before going into the refrigerator. If kept in the refrigerator, the treats will last at least 3 months.

In addition to selling at farmers’ markets, Good Grace’s Dog Treats now has a free delivery subscription service with varying levels of frequency (a CSA for dogs!). They also sell mixed-flavor bags, allowing you to try out several varieties at once. Our own dogs, Leila and Helo, are partial to the “Eat Your Carrots” and “P, B and Yay” treats.

Visit them at market, and you will be greeted by a friendly woman in a shirt that says, “Sit Happens.” And, with treats this good, a trained “sit” might indeed just happen.

Elizabeth Zander is market manager for the South Durham Farmers’ Market, which in winter is open 9 a.m. noon each Saturday at Greenwood Commons Shopping Center, 5410 NC Highway 55.