By SaNdy CheBat
Big Creek Foods LLC in Gainesville, Ga., is a fam- ily-owned and -operated
company that was founded by
brothers Jeff and Tommy Gay in
2013. But the pair’s pet food ingredient and processing experience
extends much further back. Both
men grew up in the catfish and
poultry processing industries,
providing value-added ingredients to pet food manufacturers.
The company, maker of the
Look Who’s Happy dog treat
brand, aims to provide innovative, premium pet treats that
are made from quality ingredients and produced under strict
U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) human food safety
Pet Product News: Share your backgrounds and your current roles at Big
tommy Gay: Our family has been
involved in the pet food industry
for over 30 years. We have another business located in Mississippi
where we produce and supply
high-quality ingredients for prestigious pet food brands. Jeff and I
are the co-founders of Big Creek
Foods, and I am the president.
Jeff’s main role is running our
other company, Protein Products,
PPN: What led you to start Big Creek
tG: Big Creek Foods was born
from the desire to provide a facility to produce nutritious and safe
treats for pets. We built a state-of-the-art facility in Gainesville,
Ga., that is designed to efficiently
produce high-quality treats. We
produce all of our treats through
custom-built smokehouses, using
beechwood smoking chips.
[In naming the company,] Big
Creek is an actual clear and pristine creek that flows out of Rich
Mountain in Ellijay, Ga. It is one
of my favorite places because my
family and I have made many
memories there since building
our family cabin 18 years ago.
To our family, Big Creek is synonymous with nature, outdoors,
clean water, wildlife and great
family times. When thinking of a
company name, it just made sense
to use Big Creek in the name.
PPN: how has your company grown since
its founding? What is its company culture
tG: Our sales and production demand has been steadily growing
since we started the company. We
are continuously adding new talent to our team as we grow.
We have more than 30 employees. Our culture is established by a team with the passion
to develop a product for a positive purpose. By creating an environment with safety and structure, each employee sees clearly
how significant their role is as an
individual. This empowers them
to know their value, which leads
to strong morale as a team.
PPN: What has been Big Creek Foods’ biggest challenge during its first few years?
What is your proudest accomplishment as
far as your company is concerned?
tG: The biggest challenge has
been building a new facility from
the ground up while managing
growth and volume forecasting.
My proudest accomplishment
with the company is producing
treats that pets absolutely love
and getting to be a part of the
bond between a pet parent and
PPN: talk about your new facility in Gainesville. What is the Innovation Center?
tG: We have a [Safe Quality Food]
SQF2-certified facility, with all
new equipment. This takes pet
treat-making to a new caliber by
functioning at the standards of a
The Innovation Center is a test
lab where treat experimentation
and pioneering are executed on a
smaller scale than the production
floor. This gives us the ability to
not only perfect recipes, but to
push the boundaries of conventional flavors and methods.
PPN: your mission is to strive daily to provide innovative, premium pet treats that
are made from only the finest ingredients
and produced under strict Fda human
food safety guidelines. Share how you
tG: Living in the poultry capital of
the world, we use the same U.S.
Department of Agriculture-inspected chicken that consumers
purchase in the grocery store. We
proudly source all of our ingredients from the USA. In production,
we enforce good manufacturing
practices to ensure that our treats
are not only safe, but sanitary.
We have a talented, well-trained
quality assurance team working
every day to provide safe and
PPN: talk about the Look Who’s happy
tG: When the devastating China
dog treat scare happened, we
knew we had to do something.
From there we set out to create
an all-natural, USA-sourced and
There are four Look Who’s
Happy lines available: Fetch’n
Fillets, which is a whole muscle
protein jerky; Tempt’n Tenders,
which is whole muscle chicken
that is combined with a fruit or a
vegetable; Happy Wraps, which is
a carrot or sweet potato wrapped
with whole muscle chicken; and
Farm’n Fresh, which is chicken
or chicken and duck mixed with
quinoa, kale and peas.
PPN: What sets the Look Who’s happy
brand apart from others in the treat cat-
egory? What are the company’s newest
tG: One of the biggest differences
is that we make them in our own
facility. There are very few brands
that actually make the treats they
sell. The treats are so high quality,
they are good enough for you, but
made for your pet. They are com-
posed of all-natural, limited ingre-
dients and no artificial preserva-
tives. They smell and taste great.
Farm’n Fresh is our new-
est product; [it] features duck
and chicken with quinoa, kale
and peas. It is offered in bite
sizes or sticks. We are explor-
ing adding more local-sourced
proteins and venturing into the
feline market with a local, sin-
PPN: Share why safety is an important fo-
cus for your company.
tG: Safety is our priority. We re-
cently celebrated two years ac-
cident-free and rewarded the
team for their attentiveness and
diligence. This is important to
us because of our team. Safety
is a matter of attention to detail,
which correlates into all facets of
Our good manufacturing
practices are how we implement
safety in the facility. This ensures
that the production floor is free
from any hazardous materials
that could potentially be introduced into the treats.
PPN: how does Big Creek Foods give back
to animals and the community?
tG: Big Creek Foods donates to
our local humane society and
provides samples to all adopted
animals (even the cats love our
tenders!). We also attend events
within the community involving
the Chamber of Commerce, the
March of Dimes and more.
Putting Pets and Safety First
This family-owned and -operated pet treat manufacturer’s
focus on quality, systems and safety ensures a stellar
reputation and plenty of happy pets and people.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Tommy Gay, co-founder and president of Big Creek Foods,
with his dog, Chessie J.
Big Creek Foods’ new state-of-the-art facility in Gainesville, Ga.
When the devastating
China dog treat scare
happened, we knew we
had to do something.
From there we set out
to create an all-natural,