An Austin company is bringing food from the restaurant kitchen to the doggy bowl.
The Conscious Pet jumped into the pet food industry with meals made from upcycled restaurant scraps. With a launch party coming up next month at microbrewery Central Machine Works, Chief Dogxecutive Officer Mason Arnold talked to Austonia about how the company came about.
Arnold said he and Jessica Kezar, the vice pawsident of sales and marketing, were working on their podcast, A Mostly Green Life. A guest who’s heavily involved in composting showed them some projects he was working on, one of which looked like dog food.
“He's like, ‘Yeah, I've been feeding it to my dog and she loves it,” Arnold said. “And we had just gotten a dog recently when that happened and had been researching nutrition and realized that dog food is making a pretty big transition away from kibble and highly processed foods.”
But Arnold didn’t have much luck tracking down food that fit the perfect mix of nutrition and form factor for his Boykin Spaniel.
So they started making their own nutritious form of dog food that's gently cooked and as easy to serve as kibble. Arnold says that by upcycling restaurant kitchen scraps, it’s helping to solve a food waste problem, too.
Arnold declined to say which restaurants they’re getting scraps from. But think raw ingredients, like the trimmings of steak and such before it makes it to your plate.
The team is able to get the exact same product from the restaurants on a regular basis. So every batch has a mix of animal products plus fruit and veggies added to it.
The process involves gently cooking at a temperature high enough to kill pathogens and make it shelf-stable, but low enough that it keeps all of the fats intact for a nutritious meal.
With Austin’s 500,000 pup-ulation (the number of dogs here), the product is focused on dogs for now. But Arnold says they’ve identified some restaurants they’d want to use for cat food. He also noted Austin’s pet diversity, saying there are lizards, snakes and more that could handle some higher quality food.
“So as we get up off the ground, we really got a lot of options to expand into different pets and different ingredients and tweak the formulas as we grow,” Arnold said.
And on growth, The Conscious Pet is using Wefunder, a platform that allows people to invest in startups. It’s a relatively new approach that became possible through a 2016 law that made it legal for people to invest small amounts of money in startups, whereas before, only “accredited investors” could invest in a private company. Currently, the company has about 70 investors.
The company is launching exclusively in Austin, where it is offered online-only for now. But Arnold imagines that if the company ever expands to other markets, pet food miles will be a consideration and they would source from local restaurants in the area rather than shipping great lengths.
It’s a feat Arnold is game for. The serial entrepreneur has started six companies prior to The Conscious Pet. He said startups can feel like a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but that it's the life for him and that sustainability has always been a part of what he’s done.
“Somewhere along the way, I started describing myself as an artist, with commerce being my canvas,” Arnold said. “What I really love to do is create new things that didn't exist in the world before that I think make the world better.”
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Austin is one of the top metro areas where homebuyer income saw the greatest surge during the pandemic and it came at a cost to locals.
A new analysis by real estate services firm Redfin reports that affluent out-of-towers have contributed to surging home prices in metros like Austin. Due to this trend, Redfin notes, many local buyers with lower incomes have been priced out.
“For white-collar workers earning high salaries, remote work is a huge financial boon,” said Sheharyar Bokhari, Redfin senior economist. Jobs with that flexibility, Bokhari says, enable them to move from a tech hub like San Francisco to a more affordable part of the country where they can get more home for their money and even put some toward a rainy day fund.
“It can have the opposite effect on locals in those destinations–especially renters–who are watching from the sidelines as home prices skyrocket while their income stays mostly the same,” Bokhari said.
In Austin, the median homebuyer income surged 19% from 2019 to 2021, ultimately reaching $137,000. In that time, the median home price growth was 48%, just behind Boise, Idaho which was more than 50%.
But the housing market is starting to slow. Redfin says high mortgage rates and unsustainable price growth have driven demand down. In fact, Austin is among the 20 housing markets that have cooled the fastest in the first half of this year.
“People are still moving in from California and they still have enough money to buy nice homes in desirable neighborhoods, sometimes with all cash,” said Austin Redfin agent Gabriel Recio. “But the days of homes selling for 25% over asking price with multiple offers are over. Buyers are no longer as eager now that mortgage rates are up and there’s buzz in the air about the slowing housing market.”
As a result, Recio says, local and out-of-town buyers have an opportunity to buy a home at the asking price or even under.
Redfin carried out its analysis using data from the home mortgage disclosure act to review median household incomes for homebuyers who took out a mortgage, though it doesn’t include buyers who paid using all cash.
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School is back in session—do you know the latest TikTok trends?
With Austin ISD resuming session on Monday, school officials are keeping tabs on the newest TikTok trends that could pose classroom disruptions and property damage.
TikTok trends swept through Austin-area schools last year with the “Devious Lick” challenge, which encouraged students to steal from school property and reportedly caused $15,000 in damages at Round Round ISD; and the “slap a staff member” challenge.
On the distraction end, a substitute teacher was dismissed from Bowie High School in December after bringing in a karaoke machine to class and singing Britney Spears’ “Toxic” for the class on TikTok.
Officials told KXAN they are staying aware of the trends as they change during the 2022-2023 school year and the district will investigate perceived threats. Since TikTok trends vary in severity, they will also evaluate to see which trends could cause harm or not.
Finally, the school district said it does not tolerate violence or bullying and will focus its efforts on protecting students both physically and digitally.