There’s something special about Cornwall. People who go, go back, time and again. For some it’s the simple tangibles that appeal: lots of sand, sea and, if you’re lucky, sun. Others come for the snorkelling, surfing, and world-class seafood. Moreover, it’s clean and mystical and wild. To walk Polzeath beach first thing, is to be transported to John Masefield’s poem Sea Fever, where the wind is like ‘a whetted knife’.
Adrienne Michie (her surname is pronounced ‘Mickey’) knew all this and more when she set up her raw dog-food business two years ago. Locally born-and-bred, she knew the value of provenance, hence the firm’s name, ‘Michies of Cornwall’. Her husband James had been in the business all his life, growing up in a butcher’s family in the southern Cornish town of Launceston.
Both families had always lived with dogs: the Michies’ current four-legged friend is Brewster, an eight-year-old French Bulldog who wanders the home with a leisurely air. After mulling the idea for years, they finally took the plunge in 2017, setting up their own raw food business, after long talks with working-dog owners, vets, specialist nutritionists, and dog breeders. “We started out with our love of dogs in mind,” says Adrienne. “Our aim was to be a family business that made our customers, and more importantly their dogs, happy.”
Michie’s is all-natural and all-local, all of the time. Their website is crystal clear about provenance. British rabbit, beef, lamb, chicken and organs. Cornish fish. Plenty of local veggies, from broccoli and beans to strawberries and sweet potatoes, supplemented by immune boosters and antioxidants, including turmeric, rosemary, coconut oil and aloe vera.
“We say ‘no’ to nasties,” says Adrienne. “No added colourings or preservatives. No grain or rice. It’s all human-grade meats, locally sourced, gluten-free. Like all raw-food diets, you get dogs that are glossier of coat and fresher of breath, full of energy, and with better immune systems. They have stronger bones, teeth and joints. Their digestion is healthier and their stools are reduced.”
Michie’s ships around the UK (but not yet alas abroad), and delivers to a select range of Cornish pet shops. Its store in Launceston, opened in March 2018, was an overnight hit. “People come from all over the country,” she says. “A lot of families stop by to pick up a holiday’s worth of raw food for their dog.”
The firm has been selective in what it sells, going with what it knows. Most repeat orders involve the basics: tubs of raw duck, lamb & chicken, venison & rabbit. It’s good value too: a variety box of 18, 500-gramme portions will give you change from £40. Other best-sellers include the ‘treat’ packs of beef offal, venison offal, and fish skins, crumbled up and shredded for sprinkling into food bowls.
Dudley & Co’s eponymous canine co-founder can testify to the tastiness of the sprinkles (‘yum’ factor ten, his eyes and belly say). He loves them all, and frankly cannot get enough of the smoked salmon and trout fish skins, a part of our daily ‘find the treat’ game at Dudley HQ. All the plastic packaging is biodegradable, recyclable and compostable.
Then there is Michie’s range of ice cream for dogs, which comes in three flavours: coconut, strawberry and banana, and banana and blueberry. Each is locally sourced, made with pasteurised goats milk, and looks as good as anything you’d find in the frozen section at Tesco’s. Frankly, it makes this correspondent drool. “We want to be different from the other companies out there,” says Adrienne. That they most certainly are.