H an g i n g wi th DC Me tro ’s d o g -c ra z y c ro wd
Treat Yourself (And Your Dog) By Bri an n a M a ssey
n this issue, we talk with Eric Parkhurst, co-owner of EJ’s Meats and Treats alongside his wife Julie. The Parkhursts created EJ’s 4 ½ years ago to supply the Virginia area with wholesome, all-natural, and safe dog and cat treats. With six kids and three dogs in the family, Eric refers to his crew as “the real-life Brady Bunch!” The Parkhursts reside in Fairfax. How did EJ’s get started? It goes back about six years. We had four kids in the house, so we would often buy half a cow to feed the whole family. The butcher asked if I wanted the parts that people typically don’t want like the heart and liver, etc. I said “sure,” and then put the organs away in the freezer. Around that same time, pet treats from overseas were being recalled, so we quit buying dog treats from stores. We did not feel safe feeding just any treats to our dogs. I thought, “We have the cow organs in the freezer, so why don’t we start making dog treats with those?” Our treats made their debut when we decided to donate a basket of them to Mutt Love Rescue for a silent auction. Everyone was like, “Where can we buy this stuff? It’s awesome!” After that, we decided to make a business out of it. I spent around eight months researching the legal aspects of the business and finding out what foods have the most nutrients and protein for dogs and cats. At first we sold to friends, but shortly after we expanded online, and now we’re in four stores in Virginia. What is one word or phrase that you would use to describe EJ’s, and why? “Treats that are good for your dogs and good for your conscience.” When making the products, we eliminate waste by using the entire animal, including the parts that humans don’t eat (but dogs love). And when you purchase the treats, not only are you supporting small businesses, but you’re also supporting American family farmers who pride themselves on all-natural and organic products. We work hard to keep our treats free from artificial preservatives and unnecessary additives. Who are your designated treat “taste testers?”
The Parkhurst pups and EJ’s official taste testers. From left to right: Katarina, Charlie, Marley.
Our taste testers are our three rescue dogs: Marley (7), Charlie (9), and Katarina (12). If we’re developing a new product, they always test it out, getting first dibs on every batch. They help us make sure that the consistency of the treats is correct, but most importantly that the taste is great! We couldn’t run EJ’s without them. Where can people find your treats? We’re currently selling our products in four retail stores in Virginia, and we will soon be expanding to a fifth. We have items in Commonwealth Dry Goods (a locally-owned small grocery store), Felix & Oscar (a family-owned independent pet food store), Great Country Farms (a pick-your-own-fruit farm), and Coco Clips (dog grooming). Our products are available online, and we even ship for free! Where do you hope to see EJ’s in the future? We hope to keep selling our treats in all-natural and organic boutiquelike pet stores and grow out that way. We have no interest in big box stores—it gets hard to support local farms that way. We also do everything in the process of creating the treats by hand, meaning that we have complete quality control from the time we get the meat until it gets into the hands of our customers. I worry that expanding to big box stores would eliminate this. Right now, the processing facility is in the basement of our house, but by the end of the year we’re hoping to buy additional land so we can build a barn for a bit more space! Visit https://www.ejsmeatsandtreats.com/ to learn more about EJ’s and to purchase their products. ND Brianna is a Junior at the George Washington University studying Journalism and Political Science. She spends her free time professionally walking dogs in the DC area to fill the puppy void she gets from being away from her 110-lb Cane Corso, Sampson. Visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/briannarosemassey to learn more about Brianna.
22 Northern Virginia Dog
| Summer 2018