Tyson Foods, Inc. logo
Tyson Foods, Inc. logo - 
Listen To The Story


Kai Ryssdal: Many of us are learning to do more with less. Or maybe even just scraping by doing the same with less. Not so for our pets. From kitty condos to puppy perfume and gourmet treats, there is plenty of evidence that our creatures are still living in plenty of comfort. About $52 billion worth of comfort every single year, as a matter a fact. And now one big company in the human-food business is taking notice as Marketplace's Caitlan Carroll explains.

CAITLAN CARROLL: Tyson foods produces chops, chicken breasts, steak. The company usually puts food on the table. Now it wants to put food under the table.

Tyson said today it's joining forces with Freshpet to market the first national brand of refrigerated dog food. The products will be sold in supermarkets. Freshpet founder Scott Morris says its food for dogs not dog food.

SCOTT MORRIS: The difference here is they all start with fresh meats. They blend in vegetables, brown rice, and then they're gently processed which is part of the magic here.

The real magic will be getting consumers to spend 10 or 15 percent extra for Freshpets' doggie meatballs and bologna, especially when they're trading down on their own groceries. Lisa Harper runs specialty store Puparazzi in Oregon. She says even in the downturn customers are still willing to pay up for pricey chow.

LISA HARPER: They're not willing to give up on the food quality level. But they are willing to give up on some of other things.

That could be good news for Tyson. It's been hurt by slowing demand for its people food. The pet food industry brings in about $20 billion a year, and it's growing. Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart's taken notice too. She's launching an online pet channel and has a line of pet products in the works. Pet industry expert Michael Dillon says Americans are in the full throes of puppy-and-pet love.

MICHAEL DILLON: I think it's partially due to the changing demographics of America, the aging of America. People are having fewer children later in life, and they are highly emotionally attached to pets.

So yeah, the economy's going to the dogs.

In Los Angeles, I'm Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace