Em Elwood is the hard-working farmer behind the delicious dog meat company Elwood’s Organic Dog Meat. Elwood’s has been in the dog farming business for two generations and offers the absolute best quality canine steaks, brats, ground meat, and filets as well as specialty items like tasty milk from the finest Golden Retrievers. Elwood’s pug bellies simply can’t be beaten and could be the perfect addition to your next party menu! EVERYone loves pug bellies!
Em was kind enough to sit down with us, over Zoom of course (TY Covid! Zoonoses just ruin everything!). In this interview, she gives us a peek into her life as a hardworking, respected, backbone of our country farmer who works nonstop to get food on the table.
Elwood’s Organic Dog Meat: An Interview Part 1
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Watch the video interview or read the transcript below.
LVG: Em, so glad to have you here! What an interesting job you have, raising dogs for the table. Such hard work for you but so necessary! How did you get started in farming? Is this a family business?
Dog Farming as a Family Business
EM: Our step-uncle started the farm in 1981 with just a few head of dogs, backyard dogging, really, enough for the family and neighbors. After college, my husband Landon and I had had enough of the city and wanted to get back to our country roots, so we went to support our step-uncle. We did a lot of planning and dreaming and breeding and grew the farm to where it is now. It’s a dream come true, really, to live this life, to have this farm lifestyle.
Dog Farming is so Fulfilling!
Now, it’s a family thing. Me and my husband and run it with a crew of amazing farmhands. Our Step uncle has stepped back a bit to focus on a new venture, which I can’t share about just yet, but it’s going to be exciting.
Our dream and hope is that we can keep going and continue this family legacy.
LVG: Dogs are so cute and fluffy! It must be so much fun to work with them! You have, what, like 18,000 of them, though! Way too many to pet or play with! Do your dogs seem to mind?
EM: A lot of people think farming dogs would be a lot of fun, which is how many dog farmers get in over their heads. Dog farming is work–it’s long hours and it’s tough decisions. But these animals are farm animals, bred for food. We don’t keep them for fun.
There is so much work to do on the farm that there wouldn’t be time to bond with the animals if we wanted to.
It’s a LOT of Work, but We LOVE It!
But we do take the time to recognize a few noteworthy dogs on our social media pages, especially those who’ve been cornerstones of the farm, like 239, one of our leading milkers for the last 8 years. Her dairy days ended last week, but we were so proud to have raised her to reach her fullest potential.
LVG: Which breeds do you raise?
EM: We are constantly experimenting with new breeds, but it takes a while to breed them to the size and temperament to be a good staple of our farm. But there are some breeds you can always find on our farm: We raise lab, pug, chihuahua, corgi, spaniel, and dachshund.
Labrador steaks are our biggest seller, as well as our pugs. Pugs are so versatile–they roast beautifully, and their bellies make the best bacon.
We also keep Golden Retrievers and Doodles for dairy and have a few Pyrenees whose hair we sell.
LVG: We all know how to grow veal. Just take a baby cow and keep it very still for about four months. Put them in the little crate, easy peasy. The meat is incredible. So tender. When will puppy veal be available from Elwood’s? I’m salivating just thinking about it!
EM: Veal season is March through October, so you’re just catching the end of it! We have two cost points for our veal–you can get our crated Retrievers, which are much more affordable, but we also offer a smaller batch of free-range doodle puppies, who have some access to pasture––access to grass results in a beautiful rose-colored meat. These are spendier cuts, obviously, but worth it for a special occasion.
“We take the time to slaughter in small batches, year-round, so we can supply customers with the cuts they need when they need them.”
LVG: Not all dogs get to be meat dogs! Some get to be dairy dogs! Lots of people don’t know how delicious and nutritious dog milk is. Please give us the scoop!
EM: Our Retrievers and Dairy Doodles offer the freshest, sweetest milk––there’s really nothing like it. It’s wholesome, local, with nothing added. Dog milk naturally contains 6 strains of wonderfully healthy bacteria, great for building good gut health. And because they’re grass-fed, the milk is higher in vitamins that come from plants. So you can drink more milk and eat fewer veggies. And there’s nothing like fresh doodle milk in your coffee.
LVG: Your steaks are so fresh you can almost hear them bark! Ruff ruff! Good job! How do you manage to do that?
So Fresh! Woof Woof!
EM: We take the time to slaughter in small batches, year-round, so we can supply customers with the cuts they need when they need them.
LVG: For people listening who might want to grow their own dogs for meat or even for milk, do you have any advice or tips?
EM: A lot of folks have expressed an interest in getting back to the land and farming dogs in their backyard. It’s a lot of work, but there’s no better feeling than raising and harvesting your own dogs!
A lot of people think they can start with companion dogs, but you really need dogs that have been bred for this, bred to be especially large and bulky.
For folks interested in starting, we recommend ordering from a reputable farm supplier, like Elwood’s. We’ve been sending puppies through the mail for decades, and the postal service is very adept at handling orders! They can survive shipment as long as they are kept warm and arrive within three days at the most.
It’s recommended you order more than you need. The extras will help keep the others warm, they also act as cushioning, and you can decide what to do with them once they arrive.
“We can’t let emotion play a role in the decisions we make on the farm. Maybe these people think it’s easy to get food on their plate. They don’t think of the financial losses we endure.”
LVG: It’s not all fun and games, though. So sorry to hear you lost all those Golden Doodles to Lyme disease. Gassing them must have been so hard on you, even if you knew it had to be done.
EM: Thanks for asking about this, it was a really tough time for us. It’s really rough sometimes, but that’s the reality of farming dogs. It’s not always cute. There are hard decisions. When we shared this, obviously people were upset–they worried if there would be enough milk for their families–some people even thought they might have to choose plant-based milk, but no one wants soy boobs!
LVG: Eww! Gross! Soy boobs!
EM: Others were mad that we gassed them because they were sad for the dogs. But they were bred for this. We can’t let emotion play a role in the decisions we make on the farm. Maybe these people think it’s easy to get food on their plate. They don’t think of the financial losses we endure.
Thank God for Subsidies and Insurance!
LVG: Lots of things are getting blamed on our food animals, like climate change and pollution and so on, but also diseases and pandemics. Wait, I have a list. Anthrax, Brucellosis, Campylobacter, Covid19, Cryptosporidium, E Coli, Leptospirosis, Listeria, Swine Flu from pigs, Avian Flu from chickens, Mad Cow Disease, MRSA, Staph A, Q Fever, Ringworm, Hookworm, Tapeworm, Salmonella, and so on. Which diseases do we have to watch out for when we’re keeping dogs for food … other than distemper and rabies?
EM: This is a good question. All of these things are possible–currently, we’re doing everything we can to prevent a dog flu outbreak–you may have read about that on our blog.
But let’s face the facts: diseases are an inevitable part of this business. As an owner of a large dog farm, we do house animals by the thousands in crowded indoor facilities. But we do this to meet demand and match the low costs our customers demand!
“Eww! Gross! Soy boobs!”
And Yes, unfortunately, that’s the ideal breeding ground for the mutation of viral pathogens into novel strains that can be passed on to farm workers and veterinarians. And yes, our farmworkers are routinely exposed to dogs who can pass on zoonotic infections. But this is the same for ANY farm.
Dog flu is NOT a reflection on us or our practices. We know most of our customers have our backs. But it is still sad to see the anti-dog meat activists and the naysayers try to use this to denigrate us.
LVG: OK, I gotta ask, I know you’re a big operation, but can folks come out to your place and meet the dogs before they’re harvested? Could they pick one out for their own table?
U-Pick Available! Choose the Dog for your Table Right on the Farm!
EM: Yes! We just had our annual Barn Brunch last month–families came out and got to “meat” the animals, pick out their holiday roast, and then we had a big feast! We have our corn maze open now–we’re doing Pyrenees rides and the BBQ food truck on the weekends, so a lot of families and kids are getting the chance to visit the farm and really connect with where their food comes from.
This is so important as more and more people think food just comes from the store. It’s great to give people the chance to see the dogs as living, breathing animals who get to live a short but happy life on the farm before blessing our tables.
LVG: Just to reassure people, you do use humane slaughter practices, right? Do I even want to know this!?
EM: Uh, we use the word harvest.
Folks like to say they have questions about the harvesting process but when you get down to it, they really don’t want to know––they don’t want to know that animals even have to be killed.
But the truth is, the dogs really seem to understand that this is their purpose. They give themselves to us, to nourish us. So we use the word harvest.
When we harvest, we do it according to USDA guidelines. It’s a humane process, done with respect. For example, when we harvested our 26 chocolate labs last month–they spent their final moments stress-free in the barn.
We Honor Every Animal
Then, they were trucked over to the neighbors’ outdoor processing facility under an old oak tree (that tree, I’m telling you was huge–like 150 years old!) and, there, with an audience of family and friends, each one was turned into food.
It’s always a humbling experience–but there’s nothing like knowing exactly how your food was raised, butchered, and packaged. Of course, it’s a bittersweet family event–and it’s the circle of life! Survival of the fittest. It is beautiful.
LVG: And finally, of course, what are a few of your favorite recipes?
EM: This time of year, we’re all about the warm, hearty meals: Stews, chilis, and meatloaves. I do this Aussie brisket in the Instant Pot that’s to die for. Now, some people say Aussie brisket can be a bit hit and miss––sometimes it is very stringy and fatty or lacking in flavor. But if you season the heck out of it, it is an amazing cut.
I season with salt and pepper, then do a stock with balsamic vinegar, stock, tomatoes, onions, and garlic and cook it down to create a rich gravy which you might want to eat with a spoon. I serve it with potatoes. DELISH.
LVG: Where can folks find your farm?
We’re local! You can come to visit the farm, we’re on River Rd just past old Route 6.
Find Elwood’s Dog Meat online:
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