The Bil-Jac Story
A Passion to See Dogs Thrive.
Growing up on a farm, Bill and Jack Kelly always had a passion for animals, especially Bill.
Both men were called and served in World War II. When Bill found out his boot camp base was home to a large kennel of German Shepherds being trained as bomb-sniffing dogs, he immediately went to visit them. He saw that they were scraggly and undernourished, and asked permission to help them. With his supervisors’ approval, he asked his Dad to send fresh meat, cereal and supplements so that he could prepare nutritious food for the dogs. In no time, they were looking and performing far better. Bill was transferred shortly after, but he never lost that passion for dogs and the benefits of high-quality nutrition.
When Bill returned home after the war, he realized his passion for helping dogs to thrive had not left him. With his wife Ruth’s blessing, he and Jack set out to improve dog food nutrition. Back then, almost every food provided protein that was vegetable or gluten based (corn gluten, wheat gluten, etc.). This type of vegetable-based protein with added meat or chicken meal was not easily utilized by dogs, meaning that they did not benefit from all the essential and non-essential amino acids dogs needs to thrive. Through trial and error, for many months, he worked to refine the recipe to help find the best combination of ingredients, vitamins and minerals. He also realized one more critical piece to dog food – protecting the key nutrients in the raw ingredients as they are made into food.
"Our dad realized that there was an awful lot that could be done in the area of pet nutrition - namely with dog and cats," said Bob Kelly, President of Bil-Jac Foods and son of co-founder Bill Kelly. "He thought a great improvement could be made in what was being offered to the consumer."
In 1947, Bil-Jac was founded.
The original recipe was Bil-Jac Frozen Dog Food, which used meat as a #1 ingredient, as it still does today. This was radically different than other foods that used gluten proteins instead of real meat. The recipe and the very specific way it was made was so revolutionary; the Kelly’s were able to get the first dog food US Patent in 1951. While it started with the 6 lbs. of food the brothers sold that day, it didn’t take long for people to see the difference in their dogs. "It really happened quickly for our customers at the time to see a difference, especially breeders", said Jim Kelly, EVP of Bil-Jac Foods. "The outstanding nutrition was providing everything a dog needed with this different approach."
A Dry Idea
In the 1970's, Bill began to regularly field questions from customers regarding dry dog food. "People always asked my Dad why he didn't have a dry dog food, and I heard his answer many, many times," Bob Kelly said. "He wasn't going to make a dry food until he was confident that he could present his customers with a product of the same quality as his frozen foods."
Slow-Cooking is our Secret Ingredient
The specific concern about creating dry dog food was the traditional process used in pet food manufacturing, especially taking meat and “rendering” it into a meat meal. During this process, the temperatures used to create the dry ingredient climbed so high, the nutritional value of each ingredient was often sacrificed. This nutritional loss was unacceptable to Bill since it limited the nutrients that would benefit dogs. That inspired Bill to invent a new way, to use more fresh meat ingredients and to help protect them with a more gentle cooking and drying method.
It took 10 years and in the 1980’s, Bil-Jac introduced a dry dog food that was up to the outstanding nutritional standards of Bil-Jac. Using his proprietary Nutri-Lock cooking, he was able to use an abundance of fresh chicken ingredients, slow-cooked in small batches, then gently dried. We have continued to build on this innovation, allowing us to use an incredible 25 lbs. of fresh chicken to make a 30 lb. bag of Adult Select. By simmering our food in its own juices, it also delivers a taste dogs love to eat, bowl after bowl. It's not a fast nor convenient process ― it's a labor of love from a family devoted to putting dogs' nutritional needs first to best help dogs thrive.
Your Dogs are Our Legacy
Bil-Jac continues to be family-owned and operated passionately dedicated to making nutritious and great tasting dog food. To this day, Bill's three sons―Bob, Ray, and Jim―manage the day-to-day operations of the business. Ray Kelly confirms the family’s passion for Bil-Jac and the values Bill founded the company on, “From the formulas to the ingredients to the packaging, and everything in-between, we will continue to be involved every step of the way. Just like our Dad, we are dedicated to high-quality food, uniquely made to deliver outstanding nutritional value and a taste dogs love. We are excited to see the third generation of Kelly’s contributing to the business.” Bob Kelly stresses, "Our goal is not to be the largest pet food manufacturer out there. Our goal has been - and will always be - to do the best job we can for dogs."