Acadiana Business

Louisiana dog treat recipe: Don't forget to add nutria

by Heather Miller

Marsh Dog, a gourmet line of dog treats sold in pet stores throughout Baton Rouge and New Orleans, uses a blend of Louisiana ingredients, including brown rice from a Crowley rice mill, molasses from a Point Coupee Parish sugarcane plantation - and nutria rat.

Is your pooch hungry? Why wait for a Milk Bone when you can opt for a Louisiana-made dog biscuit that makes use of one of the biggest threats to Louisiana's coastal marshland?

According to The Advocate, a Louisiana brother-sister duo has made a big splash in the pet care industry with their line of gourmet dog treats, Marsh Dog, the recipe for which includes a blend of Louisiana ingredients like brown rice from a Crowley rice mill, molasses from a sugarcane plantation in Point Coupee Parish - and the pesky nutria rat that's been chewing away at Louisiana's coastline for decades:

The Marsh Dog idea was born last year when owners Veni Harlan and her brother, Hansel Harlan, were awarded a $7,022 grant by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, which helps fund creative ideas to help curb the nutria population in Louisiana's fragile wetlands.

The animals are an invasive species native to South America.

In Louisiana's marsh, nutria are known to gnaw the roots of marsh vegetation, causing the plants to die, which then contributes to coastal erosion.

"We both cook for our dogs," said Veni Harlan. "We've both been involved with dogs all our life.

"I show dogs," she added, noting she's also worked in animal rescue and animal fostering. "So, we're just animal people."

The Marsh Dog treats are made predominately from nutria hunted and trapped in the state's coastal areas. Trappers there are able to participate in the state's Coastwide Nutria Control Program, which pays trappers $5 per nutria for each tail they bring out of the marsh. The program is federally funded and managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The goal is to shrink the nutria population in south Louisiana by 400,000 animals a year, said Edmond Mouton, nutria control program manager for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The Advocate reports that pet care products have proven relatively recession-proof over the past few years, also noting that the locavore (buy local) movement has aided the dog-treat makers in their venture.

Read the full story here.