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Jacqueline Prehogan launched Open Farm so her pugs could eat more sustainable food. Now, the company is a market leader in sustainability.Illustration by Kyle Sc

When Jacqueline Prehogan and her husband started searching out healthier, more sustainable meat alternatives for themselves, they decided they wanted to do the same thing for their pets. So they launched Toronto-based Open Farm. Now, the company is a market leader in sustainability. Prehogan explains how they got there:

“I was driving in a snowstorm and got stuck next to a transport truck carrying pigs. There was something about that moment, when we were inching along together, that I started to think, Where are these animals coming from? Where are they going?

My husband, Isaac, and I started to make the connection between the way ingredients were raised and grown, and the nutrition of what we were eating. We wanted to know where our food was coming from. We had two pugs at that time, and we wanted to do the same for them—they’re part of the family. So, we started to look for pet food that was humanely raised and sustainably sourced. It really didn’t exist. So, we decided to create it ourselves.

The best part is that we’re showing you don’t need to choose between a humane product, a sustainable product and a good-quality product. But a lot goes into that. We have an industry-leading animal-welfare program where 100% of our meat has third-party animal-welfare certifications. We want to make sure that any farm animal that’s been in our supply chain was treated with kindness and respect. This is important, because 25% of all the meat produced in the U.S. goes into pet food.

When we started, our supply chain didn’t exist. We had to go knock on doors and explain why we were different, and why it would be good to work with us. The result is that we built this incredible proprietary supply chain.

This is important, because 25% of all the meat produced in the U.S. goes into pet food

Now, we have three really big goals. The first is our zero-waste-to-landfill goal. Pet food is responsible for 30% of the environmental impact of meat. It’s massive. And the packaging waste is pretty much all going to landfill. We want to transition all our product packaging to the most recyclable substrates available by 2025. And we’re tracking to that.

We also have a goal to advance regenerative agriculture across a million acres of land by 2030. One of the challenges there is that there are no universal standards. So, we’ve worked with the University of Missouri to create a set of standards across different proteins and crop ingredients that we can open-source to these farms. Right now, we have 100,000 regenerative acres out of a total of 500,000 that we’re sourcing from, so we need to grow it tenfold.

And finally, in 2020 we committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 42% by 2030. That’s a huge task, because we need to reduce our emissions from our 2020 baseline when we’re growing by more than 80% every year. It’s going to be about electrifying our manufacturing operations, essentially.

When we started, nobody was talking about ethical sourcing. Now you see a lot of other brands at least talking about it, understanding that they need to do better. And our reach goes beyond the pet industry—we’re advocating for better transparency for all consumer packaged goods. Many years ago, we introduced a first-of-its-kind feature on our website that allowed you to call up a list of every ingredient in our products, the source of origin, safety reports and certifications. Last year, we doubled down, adding QR codes to all our products so pet parents can scan them on the shelf. And we’re the first pet-food company—and one of the only CPG companies—to publish the greenhouse gas emissions of every one of our products via QR code.

What keeps us up at night is making sure we never make a mistake that could’ve been avoided if we had just better planned for it and been more thoughtful. It’s not sexy—it’s just the nuts and bolts of building a great company.”

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