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Vancouver’s Original Raw Food Pet Shop

Article written for the Kerrisdale Insider
by Sarah Gordon

True Carnivores on West Boulevard feels like the “Cheers” of the pet world.

Inside this busy shop both customers and their pet companions are greeted by name and with a warm welcome. The day I visited the shop it was a beehive (or should I say doghouse or cat bed?) of activity as clients entered through the front door as soon as the business opened, while simultaneously through the back door a number of deliveries were being received to restock the freezers.

This is a business with an extremely loyal customer base; in fact, one client drives in from White Rock on a weekly basis. True Carnivores’ clients have made the decision to feed their pets a raw diet, which, as owner David Kariotakis points out, is coming full circle as the commercial food industry has only been around for about 100 years and prior to its existence this was the way pets were fed.

[David] bought the business four years ago from founder and mentor, Dakota Bawden-Tutte. She began the business after discovering the merits of feeding her dogs a raw diet. Her research found that raw food leads to healthy pets, with fresher breath, better teeth, and live longer lives. Switching a pet’s diet can help control allergies and hot spot skin conditions.

The enterprise began as a home-based business, starting with two freezers in her garage. With perseverance, and dodging some scepticism along the way, her business outgrew its space and Bawden-Tutte opened the Kerrisdale storefront in 1996.

The business has grown exponentially in 18 years. Today 15 chest freezers, along with a number of glass upright freezers along the wall, are stocked with raw pet food. In addition, there is a large walk in freezer in the back room and additional storage off site.

Some commercial pet foods, kibble in particular, may contain little protein and high grain content. [David] says that cats in particular, as obligate carnivores, benefit from eliminating grains (which are not part of their ancestral diet). He illustrates his case by going through the ingredient list of a popular pet food brand to show the percentage of protein versus grains and fillers.

True Carnivores is proud to carry food products that are human quality or better. What does this mean? The meats are non-medicated, hormone-free and have no preservatives. Freezers are stocked with smaller portions (good for cats) as well as larger carcasses and bones (as well as ground and chunk meat and organs). From the familiar (chicken, beef and fish) to the exotic (buffalo, elk, rabbit, emu, pheasant, ostrich, kangaroo), there is something to make every carnivore drool with delight.

A true testimony to believing in the company’s philosophy, [David] shopped at True Carnivores for a couple of years before he bought the business. He confesses he was initially out of his comfort zone without a bag of kibble in the store, however he quickly understood the health benefits, and has been feeding his own dogs and cats raw meat for six years.

As a world traveller and animal lover, [David] has seen many dogs and cats in their natural environments. He spent time in Central America where he would feed dogs in market squares, until he realized they were happy feeding and foraging independently. He witnessed the same pattern in China.

All of the shop’s knowledgeable staff have pets and feed them a raw diet. [David] is passionate about his business and educating people about the benefits of raw pet food. True Carnivores clients come from all walks of life and it is a destination store.

Every food item sold in the shop is considered with great care, and only those products that meet [the staff’s] high standards are available.

Local companies manufacture many of the foods carried at True Carnivores. All of them care deeply about the health and well being of our canine and feline companions.

In addition to raw food, True Carnivores sells some canned food, and pet supplies such as leather leashes, collars, lead-free and stainless steel, slickers, brushes, shampoo, beds, blankets, and toys.

If you are curious about switching your pet’s diet [David], along with his kind and caring staff, is eager to assist. Personal service is paramount. On weekdays they often have three staff at your service, and on weekends there can be as many as five employees on hand to assist.

They will take the time to listen to what you have been feeding your pet; they will explain the benefits of making a change, and how to go about making the transition to a new way of eating. It is often more stressful for the pet owner to part with the familiar, while dogs and cats will often enthusiastically embrace the change.

For larger orders, [David] makes home deliveries several times a week. I imagine many a dog or cat with its nose pressed against the window, eagerly awaiting his arrival!

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