Jobless journalist opens Slovenia’s first dog bakery

Updated 04 September 2013
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Jobless journalist opens Slovenia’s first dog bakery

Who would have thought the answer to unemployment in the city worst hit by Slovenia’s economic crisis could be meat, mint and peanut butter-flavored snacks for pooches.
But that’s just what happened for Nastja Verdnik, a 26-year-old journalism graduate who has opened the Balkan country’s first bakery for dogs.
“I used to make biscuits for my dog, but never dreamt of making a career out of it,” Verdnik told AFP in her tiny shop in the northern city of Maribor, where she sells home-made biscuits, muffins and cakes, including for dogs with allergies.
After graduating from Ljubljana University last year, her hunt for a job in journalism led nowhere. She had already made biscuits for friends’ dogs and even sold small quantities to a local pet shop.
“I saw at the employment office a program for promoting entrepreneurship among young people,” she said, so put forth the idea for a dog bakery and got immediately backing .
“Hov Hov” — Slovenian for “woof woof” — was born.
“There are more dogs registered in Slovenia than children under nine. And owners, before getting a dog, know they will have the financial resources to keep it,” said Verdnik.
Her confidence was boosted by research showing during a dog’s lifetime, owners can spend the equivalent of the price of a car on their pet.
Since she opened in June, her business — strategically located at the entrance to Maribor’s main park, a favorite playground for dogs — has not stopped growing.
“In September I will open a new shop in the capital, Ljubljana, and later might do it also abroad,” she said, with eyes on neighboring Croatia or Austria.
Once a major industrial center, Maribor has struggled more than the rest of Slovenia with the economic crisis. Unemployment in June was 18.1 percent, compared with 12.6 percent in Ljubljana.
Anger over rampant corruption in city hall also prompted violent demonstrations last winter.
But dog biscuits have proven remarkably crisis-resistant, with people in and around Maribor willing to go the extra mile to indulge their pets.
“We are not from this neighborhood, we live on the outskirts of Maribor, but we care about the quality of our dogs’ food and we also like buying them home-made biscuits,” Vera, the owner of two greyhounds, told AFP.
Hov Hov’s selection ranges from the classic beef, lamb, venison, turkey and tuna to banana, peanut butter and even mint-flavored biscuits to fight bad breath.
The snacks cost three to four euros ($4-5.50) for a 150-gram (5.3-ounce) package and are available in gluten-free and no-egg versions. She makes all shapes and sizes — bones being a favorite — and will even make special birthday cakes.
“I only use healthy ingredients as I would for my own pets,” said Verdnik, who gets advice from a veterinarian friend and adds no artificial ingredients.
And it’s not just the canines who are eating Hov Hov’s biscuits, as some of their owners confess to nibbling the vegetarian treats, said Verdnik.
“This is our second visit: now we have returned with a list of orders for our neighbors and friends,” said Marija, the owner of a German shepherd.
Keeping up supplies means baking at home an average of five kilogrammes (11 pounds) of biscuits each day. To cope with increasing demand, Verdnik plans to rent a kitchen and probably hire one or two helpers in September.
“Two hands aren’t enough any longer,” she said.
She has not totally ruled out journalism. But if she did ever find a job, she would only use her skills “to write about pets, pet-food and related issues,” she said.


Restaurants could be 1st to get genetically modified salmon

Updated 21 June 2019
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Restaurants could be 1st to get genetically modified salmon

  • The salmon produced by AquaBounty are the first genetically modified animals approved for human consumption in the US
  • They represent one way companies are pushing to transform the plants and animals we eat, even as consumer advocacy groups call for greater caution

NEW YORK: Inside an Indiana aquafarming complex, thousands of salmon eggs genetically modified to grow faster than normal are hatching into tiny fish. After growing to roughly 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in indoor tanks, they could be served in restaurants by late next year.
The salmon produced by AquaBounty are the first genetically modified animals approved for human consumption in the US. They represent one way companies are pushing to transform the plants and animals we eat, even as consumer advocacy groups call for greater caution.
AquaBounty hasn’t sold any fish in the US yet, but it says its salmon may first turn up in places like restaurants or university cafeterias, which would decide whether to tell diners that the fish are genetically modified.
“It’s their customer, not ours,” said Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO.
To produce its fish, Aquabounty injected Atlantic salmon with DNA from other fish species that make them grow to full size in about 18 months, which could be about twice as fast as regular salmon. The company says that’s more efficient since less feed is required. The eggs were shipped to the US from the company’s Canadian location last month after clearing final regulatory hurdles.
As AquaBounty worked through years of government approvals, several grocers including Kroger and Whole Foods responded to a campaign by consumer groups with a vow to not sell the fish.
Already, most corn and soy in the US is genetically modified to be more resistant to pests and herbicides. But as genetically modified salmon make their way to dinner plates, the pace of change to the food supply could accelerate.
This month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to simplify regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals. The move comes as companies are turning to a newer gene-editing technology that makes it easier to tinker with plant and animal DNA.
That’s blurring the lines around what should be considered a genetically modified organism, and how such foods are perceived. In 2015, an Associated Press-GfK poll found two-thirds of Americans supported labeling of genetically modified ingredients on food packages. The following year, Congress directed regulators to establish national standards for disclosing the presence of bioengineered foods.
But foods made with the newer gene-editing technique wouldn’t necessarily be subject to the regulation, since companies say the resulting plants and animals could theoretically be produced with conventional breeding. And while AquaBounty’s salmon was produced with an older technique, it may not always be obvious when people are buying the fish either.
The disclosure regulation will start being implemented next year, but mandatory compliance doesn’t start until 2022. And under the rules , companies can provide the disclosures through codes people scan with their phones. The disclosure also would note that products have “bioengineered” ingredients, which advocacy groups say could be confusing.
“Nobody uses that term,” said Amy van Saun of the Center for Food Safety, who noted “genetically engineered” or “genetically modified” are more common.
The center is suing over the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of AquaBounty’s salmon, and it is among the groups that asked grocers to pledge they wouldn’t sell the fish.
The disclosure rules also do not apply to restaurants and similar food service establishments. Greg Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest noted that AquaBounty’s fish will represent a tiny fraction of the US salmon supply, and that many people may not care whether they’re eating genetically modified food. Still, he said restaurants could make the information available to customers who ask about it.
“The information should not be hidden,” Jaffe said.
AquaBounty’s Wulf noted its salmon has already been sold in Canada, where disclosure is not required. She said the company believes in transparency but questioned why people would want to know whether the fish are genetically modified.
“It’s identical to Atlantic salmon, with the exception of one gene,” she said.