Indulging your household pet with ‘Clear Conscience’ treats

When Anthony Bennie decided to launch a pet nutrition company, he wrote on a blank sheet of paper the phrase that kept recurring to him: "Clear Conscience." "What is a true, clear conscience with respect to healthy pet treats?" he wondered.

To Mr. Bennie, a Wilton resident who had worked in the field in various capacities since 1991, "the dirty little secret" is that "the overwhelming majority of meat-based commercial pet food and treat ingredients come from 'factory farms' and feedlots instead of humanely raised, grass-fed meats."

He set out to find a way to "share our lives and homes with companion animals and still make life better for livestock animals, and the planet, " he said.

This was the spark that led to the creation of Clear Conscience Pet in 2010, which is the first pet nutrition company funded with the mission of using "humanely sourced meat ingredients from sustainable family farms to make healthy treats, chews and food-enhancing gravies," he said. "All Clear Conscience treats are made in the U.S. from free-range, grass-fed, or organically raised sources ... Our dream and vision is to follow a philosophy of uncompromising quality, ethics, and dedication to animals to go far beyond the treats of the past and set a new standard for better and healthier options in the future."

This includes a commitment to "no added growth hormones, steroids, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, flavors or colors," Mr. Bennie said.

The company, which Mr. Bennie operates with his wife, Amanda, recently won two national pet products industry awards, including the 2011 "Editor's Choice Award" from Pet Product News International, and 2012 "Green Spirit Award" from Pet Age magazine.

Mr. Bennie also appeared on "All Pause Pet Talk" on Pet Life radio, and has been a guest lecturer at several veterinary colleges, including Cornell University, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, and the University of Florida at Gainesville.

"We are honored and humbled to have been chosen among thousands of products by the independent Pet Age editorial board," said Mr. Bennie. "Our Bison Tendy Chewz were selected as the specific winning product but what really won the award was our core commitment to the 100% humane sourcing philosophy."

Their organic products have been endorsed by vets, such as Dr. Stacy Robertson of the South Wilton Veterinary group.

Currently the products are being sold in some 300 retail locations, including the South Wilton Veterinary Group, Oliver's in the town center, and Earth Animal in Westport, where Ms. Bennie was formerly employed.

Other products include Ginger Yaps, Lamb Airy Bits and Bison & Beef Liver Bark, all grain and gluten free dog treats.

Another product is SuperGravy Holistic Instant Gravy Mix, which "has been used by veterinarians and families to boost the appetites of pets fighting cancer," Ms. Bennie said. "One of the challenges of cancer treatment and other illnesses in dogs and cats is their natural instinct to decrease food intake when they are ill, and adding a small amount of SuperGravy to their meals has been shown to dramatically increase their interest in eating even when facing health challenges."

Mr. Bennie said when he came up with the idea for Clear Conscience Pet, he traveled throughout the country, meeting with farmers and ranchers who use "support the humane treatment of livestock" on free-range, organic and sustainable farms.

"These days, a disproportionately large amount of pet treats actually come from China, or use many ingredients sourced from China and other overseas sources with far less stringent food safety regulation than here in the U.S.," Mr. Bennie said. The massive and frightening recalls in the pet food business a few years ago were traced back to non-edible Chinese protein additives used to adulterate and cheapen products for low-cost export."

"Clear Conscience Pet allows conscientious and thoughtful companion animal families to make a better choice, for their pets, the environment, and the American economy," he said.

The company also recently entered the Mission: Small Business grant competition, in which 12 American small businesses will be awarded seed money grants of $250,000 to help them to reach "the next level in their industries," Mr. Bennie said. If his company receives a grant, he has pledged that "10% of the net proceeds will be distributed to families facing the high costs of cancer care for a pet."

"When our beloved golden retriever, Isis, was diagnosed with cancer last year, we personally learned how difficult it is for families to not only help their pet to fight the disease, but to manage the financial burden of treatment," said Ms. Bennie. "So we have started the Clear Conscience Pet ISIS Foundation as the charitable giving arm of our company."

For the competition, the company needs votes, which must come through individual Facebook accounts. "We entered this competition knowing that the odds of winning are very difficult with so many excellent small companies vying for a small number of grants," said Mr. Bennie "But anything that can help us to support our mission of bringing healthier products and humane sustainable sourcing to the pet food industry is worth our best effort."

Votes for Clear Conscience Pet may be cast at, using a Facebook account.