Tag Archives: throwdown

Bella Gives Two Paws Up to Orijen

BellaRecently, Bella, a blue silver classic tabby, and reader of Green Little Cat, wrote in to tell us about her latest culinary discovery, Orijen.  Fresh, local, never-frozen, free-run poultry, free-range meat, wild-caught fish, and sustainably farmed, fished or ranched, Orijen’s ingredients read like a menu at a trendy Californian restaurant.  But, these are actually the ingredients that go into their cat and dog foods.

Bella sniffed her nose up at other natural cat foods, but she loves Orijen. Bella’s owner spent many hours testing and researching cat food in order to give Bella the best cat food she could find. I can certainly relate. Those of you who read my Natural Cat Food Throwdown know that I investigated the eco-friendliness of several natural cat foods when I was looking for a high protein diet to help Furball manage his struvite crystals. Before Furball’s bladder issues, I had also reviewed several brands of organic cat food too. Despite all this research, I was surprised that I had never learned of Orijen before.

Orijen is made by Champion Pet Foods, a Canadian-based company located in Alberta. Their philosophy on pet food is to create fresh, biologically appropriate food. By biologically appropriate, they try to mirror the natural diet that dogs and cats would consume in their natural environment and for which they evolved. Basically, this is a high-protein diet with 80{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} protein and 20{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} fruits and/or vegetables. No grains are included in any of their foods. They also process their pet foods themselves in a state-of-the-art food processing facility in Alberta.

As with anything that is brought to my attention, I do like to do a little due diligence. In this blood pressure case, I used my favourite search phrase for digging up dirt on pet food companies. Here it is. Simply enter the name of the food or the company in your search query and add the word, “recall” after it. In this case, I did a search for Orijen recall.

There was one major incident in 2008 where a number of cats in Australia suffered paralysis and/or death and it was linked to eating Orijen cat food. No dogs were affected. Apparently the problem was not the contents of the food, but the irradiation process used to treat the food for export to Australia. As a result, Australia banned the irradiation of cat food. It makes you wonder when many foods for humans are also irradiated.

I also found a dog forum where owners were concerned about finding salmon bone fragments in the dog food. Champion discovered that the problem was with one of their suppliers and had halted shipment on the food, but a few batches still got out. They also responded to the post on the dog forum and depending on your perspective, this was either a heinous disrespect of dog lovers everywhere or a sound, balanced and appropriate response. Honestly, I felt the latter, but I don’t have a dog, so I can’t really say how I would feel if I saw my dog eating food with bone fragments.

All in all, I would have to say that I agree with Orijen’s philosophy on pet food and applaud it for its dedication to local ingredients, sustainable harvesting, human-grade foods and free range meats. Thanks for the tip Bella!

The Natural Cat Food Throwdown: Natura Pet Products Enters the Arena

Natura Pet Products brought out their star fighter for the Natural Cat Food Throwdown. Don Scott, President of Natura, answered my questions about the company’s green initiatives and also about the ingredients in their EVO canned cat food. He even included a little cheeky reference to the Throwdown in his email response.

In case you’re not up to date on the Natural Cat Food Throwdown, Furball’s holistic vet recommended a number of high protein natural cat foods to help control his struvite crystals. I decided to contact the manufacturers to ask them some tough green questions about their products and practices. Based on the results, I’ll shortlist contenders to make it to Round 2, which is Furball’s finicky palate.

Mr. Scott’s response was by far, one of the longest. Here’s the text of the letter, but if you only want to read  the Throwdown summary, you can jump straight to the Judge’s Verdict.

Dear Holly,

Thank you for your interest in Natura Pet Products and the EVO brand of cat food. We understand your concerns and are happy to answer your questions.

Could you please tell me where your product is manufactured in terms of the ingredients and the processing?
All Natura Pet Products dry cat foods are produced at our own manufacturing facility in Fremont, Nebraska. Under supervision by Natura quality control personnel and utilizing the same quality management standards as in our own dry food manufacturing plant, Natura’s canned cat foods are manufactured by Menu Foods exclusively at its Emporia, Kansas facility.

By controlling all aspects of our production processes, Natura can be sure each and every bite of our pet food is manufactured with the strictest standards for quality, safety, reliability and consistency.  Natura provides a virtual tour of our manufacturing facility at www.naturapet.com, showcasing our commitment to breaking the transparency barrier between the manufacturer and the consumer.

Where are your products sourced?
Recently, Natura announced that every ingredient used in our healthful formulas is sourced from trusted non-Chinese suppliers, including certain vitamins and supplements which had previously been available only from China. This pertains to all of Natura’s dry, wet and baked pet products. At this time, we are the only pet food manufacturer that we are aware of that can make this claim.

Natura also guarantees that every fresh ingredient used in our formulas are sourced from trusted U.S. suppliers that meet strict guidelines for safety and quality control. To ensure product safety, Natura has taken the extra step to validate the origin of each ingredient used in our formulas.

What quality control programs do you have in place? [I didn’t actually ask this question, but can appreciate how they inserted it into the response]
Natura became the first pet food company in the industry to test and guarantee that all of its products are free from melamine and cyanuric acid, and our Quality Control Programs have received numerous certifications by the most respected food safety and quality control agencies and auditing firms in the United States, including a “Superior” rating from the American Institute of Baking, USDA Organic production certification, and registration with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Natura has received certification of conformance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for Food Safety Management 22000:2005. Natura is the only pet food manufacturer in the United States to receive this superior distinction. Natura also previously achieved and retains its ISO 9001:2001 certification.

All of this is backed by a team of dedicated and highly trained professionals including two board-certified veterinary nutritionists: Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (DACVN) and Sally Perea, DVM, MS, DACVN.

Are any of your products outsourced to other companies?
Yes, all of our canned products are manufactured by Menu Foods in their Emporia, Kansas facility.

Are any of your foods made by Menu Foods?
Natura Pet Products canned pet foods are manufactured by Menu Foods at its Emporia, Kansas facility. Natural nutrition, ingredient selection, product design, quality, and food safety are essential tenets of all Natura products. Natura, together with Menu Foods, developed and follows a robust quality management program which fully mirrors the quality programs Natura employs in our own manufacturing plants. A Positive Release protocol including proof of full compliance with analytical guarantees and organoleptic standards, as well as confirmation of quality and production data are components of the program. Every production lot is approved by Natura prior to final release.  Members of Natura’s Quality team conduct monthly quality and food safety audits of Menu’s facility to assure Natura’s strict quality standards are met.

No Natura canned or dry products were implicated in the 2007 pet food recalls.

What are you doing to adopt greener business practices?
Natura is proud to be on the forefront of the pet food industry’s efforts to be eco-friendly. Within the last year Natura has engaged in many green initiatives.

  • One of the biggest changes included making the switch to hybrid cars for the company’s corporate and sales team. By using hybrids, Natura reduced our yearly gas consumption by 2,000 gallons – a decrease of 30{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} – which cuts automobile pollution and produces a measurable reduction in CO2 emissions, and smog, while conserving natural resources.
  • To reduce paper consumption, the company had moved much of our communications online to NaturaPet.com and NaturaVet.com. Other advances include the usage of PCW (post consumer waste) paper and vegetable-based inks in print marketing materials, along with the replacement of plastic trade show bags with re-usable bags made from recycled content.
  • By utilizing a large percentage of fresh ingredients, Natura’s ingredients involve less processing – resulting in a significant reduction in energy consumption. This also helps Natura ensure that not only are the ingredients safe, but that they deliver the all-natural nutrition animal companions require.
  • We have continued to reduce our carbon footprint by adding a state-of-the-art videoconferencing system to minimize air travel between our California and Nebraska offices, similarly cutting down on fuel consumption and pollution.
  • In construction of our new Davis, CA, office, we required the building be pre-wired for solar panel usage in the future. The facility also incorporates energy star equipment wherever possible, many bike racks to encourage bicycle commuting, lots of low E windows to allow for natural lighting as well as operable windows to allow for fresh air, motion sensing light switches to turn fluorescent lights off automatically when not in use, and employs many water conserving features including drip irrigation and a large bioswell to handle runoff water onsite.

As your veterinarian has recommended, a grain-free, high protein, low carbohydrate diet may be the correct nutritional choice for your cat. EVO Cat and Kitten dry kibble, EVO Cat and Kitten canned food, and EVO 95{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} meat canned foods can provide your cat with the benefits of a grain-free, high protein, low carbohydrate diet without the safety concerns of feeding a raw diet. Each bag of EVO Cat and Kitten dry formula contains an industry leading 88{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} protein-rich meat and dairy content plus 11{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} fruits and vegetables.

Thank you,

Don Scott
President
Natura Pet Products


THE JUDGE’S VERDICT

I had originally written off Natura because I hadn’t heard back from them and wrote a post about it.  However, their PR people are right on top of things because they contacted me within hours of the post going live.  They told me that Don Scott had written back to me, but if I hadn’t received his message, to let them know and they would resend it.  I dug around my spam folder and did indeed find his message.

I have to admit I was impressed with the lengthy response on letterhead (in PDF), organized by question, and finished off with a signature from Don Scott.  The large glossy JPGs included with the email also set the stage favourably.  The added touch was Mr. Scott’s reference to Furball and the Throwdown.

Setting aside aesthetics and first impressions, I read through the content and concluded that quality control and food safety is a priority for Natura Pet Products, and that they do care about being green.  Here’s the pros vs. cons summary:

Pluses:

  • All fresh ingredients are sourced in the U.S. and Natura validates the origin of each ingredient used in their formulas
  • Natura tests and guarantee that all of its products are free from melamine and cyanuric acid
  • Natura has made significant company-wide efforts to be more green such as:
    • Switching to hybrid cars for the company’s corporate and sales teams
    • Using marketing materials made from post-consumer waste, vegetable-based inks and handing out reusable bags made from recycled content at trade shows
    • Installing videoconferencing to cut down on travel between offices
    • New office in California is built to be eco-friendly: pre-wired for solar panel usage in the future, energy efficient equipment and windows, lots of bike storage to encourage bike commuting, motion sensitive fluorescent lights, and water conserving features including drip irrigation and a large bioswell to handle runoff water onsite.

Minuses:

  • Canned food is processed by Menu Foods in their Kansas facility.  This is one of those “mixed bag” items.  On one hand, the food is processed in the U.S. and this plant wasn’t involved in the pet food recall of 2007.  On the other hand, Menu Foods is a giant corporation that processes most of the canned pet food available in the U.S.

Conclusion:

My biggest concern with EVO is that it’s processed by Menu Foods.  However, once you do some digging, you’ll discover that Menu Foods is everywhere and most companies use them. Natura Pet Products is one of the largest natural pet food manufacturers.  Although I do tend to favour smaller, more local business, I recognize that the bigger players have a crucial role in greening the pet industry.  In some cases, they can actually be more green because the larger scale of their operations results in greater efficiencies (eg. efficient distribution networks).  They can also wield more influence by leading the way in eco-friendly practices and showing that going green is profitable.

Furball and I have the good fortune to live in California where there is a plethora of choice for green, earth-mother, tree-hugging, granola-y products and services.  However, if you don’t have this selection available where you live,  Natura Pet Products may be the best choice for you.  Because of its size, their products are  widely distributed.  There’s a handy store locator on their website at: http://www.naturapet.com/where-to-buy/default.asp.

Natura Pet Products is making genuine efforts to be more eco-friendly and not just giving lip service to being green.  Their EVO canned cat food comes in a couple of poultry flavours and since the only other contender, Tiki Cat, is all about the fish, EVO makes it to next round of the Natural Cat Food Throwdown.  Stay tuned to see who Furball declares the winner!

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The Natural Cat Food ThrowdownOn the Stage: Nature’s Variety

Instinct by Nature’s Variety is the next contender in the Natural Cat Food Throwdown.  I emailed a shortlist of natural pet food manufacturers to find out how eco-friendly they are. The most thoughtful and eco-friendly company will be selected as Furball’s new food of choice to help control his struvite crystals.

I sent the emails on Friday, May 1st and a customer service rep from Nature’s Variety wrote back on Monday morning.  Here’s the email I received:

Dear Holly,

Thanks for emailing!

All the animals used in NV diets are raised and slaughtered according to government regulations of humane care and handling. The meat and organs in our raw do not contain any added antibiotics or growth hormones. The meat and organs are from animals inspected and deemed fit for human consumption. Moreover, the fruits and vegetables are the same fruits and vegetables sold in local grocery stores.

All poultry (organic chicken, regular chicken, organic turkey, and regular turkey) are raised in large, long barns with open access. They are free to roam about while still being protected from the elements. They are not in cages. The pigs are also raised in large houses with freedom to move about. They are not in cages. Beef, lamb, and deer (venison) are raised outside on large pastures. They are not confined to small corrals. The rabbits are housed in hutches because rabbits will fight and injure one another unless separated from one another.

All animals are raised on vegetarian diets. The organic chickens and turkeys are fed an organic vegetarian feed.

Our organic chicken diet is certified organic by a third party. It uses 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} organic ingredients.

Our manufacturers are considered proprietary information, we do not release specific information like this. We can tell you that all of our diets are manufactured here in the U.S. Our kibble in Texas, our canned in Kansas and our raw diet in Nebraska.

Sincerely,

Customer Service

THE JUDGE’S VERDICT

My first impression was that this was a mixed response of positives and negatives.  The organic ingredients were great, but I’m still a little unsure of the manufacturing process, which as an environmentalist, I believe is just as important as the ingredients.  As well, the issue of a green policy seemed to be skirted over and the response was more geared towards addressing animal cruelty.  Overall, this response left me with more questions.  I was rating responses in terms of pluses and minuses, but I need to make a new category for this response: Mixed Bag.

Mixed Bag

  • Meat used in Raw Diets product does not contain added antibiotics or growth hormones, but no mention of whether this holds true for Instinct canned food.  Looking at their website, Instinct does not tout “natural ingredients” like Raw Diets does.
  • Pigs and chickens are not confined to cages.  Cows and deer are raised outside in pastures.  Animals are “raised and slaughtered according to government regulations of humane care and handling”.  Well, I’ve seen Fast Food Nation and read John Robbins’ The Food Revolution.  Simply meeting government regulations doesn’t make me sleep soundly at night.
  • Manufacturing facilities are located in the U.S., but did not answer whether or not Menu Foods makes their products

Pluses

  • Human-grade ingredients
  • All animals are raised on vegetarian diets

Minuses

  • No mention of comapny’s green or environmental policies
  • “Our manufacturers are considered proprietary information, we do not release specific information like this.”  This makes me wonder if Menu Foods is one of their vendors.  My reasoning is that if a company had nothing to do with Menu Foods, they would say so.

I really had too many questions after receiving this email, so I decided to do a bit more digging.  I find the magic Google phrase to search for is the pet food manufacturer’s name PLUS the phrase “recall”.  This usually brings up any dirt, although you do need to take it with a grain of salt as not all information on the Internet is accurate or backed with facts.

I found some interesting comments to this 2007 post on the Gothamist where people claimed that Nature’s Variety was associated with Menu Foods, but that their products were not affected by the recall.  Nature’s Variety did tell me that their canned food was manufactured in Kansas.  Hmm, looking at the Menu Foods site, I found that they have a manufacturing facility in Emporia, Kansas.  I also know that they make a lot of the canned foods for many pet food brands, even the organic ones.

Another trick in the bag that I use to get to the bottom of things, is to trace the corporate lineage.  There are a lot of large companies portraying themselves as “ma pop” local businesses.  The smaller lines may have started out that way and then be bought out by a conglomerate.  One sign is that the website looks too slick.  Often, they’ll list the parent company in the small text at the bottom of the site.  In this case, I couldn’t find a parent company until I looked at where the email came from, which was miindustries.com.

There wasn’t much information on their website other than, “M.I. Industries offers a wide variety of protein based pet treats for the rapidly expanding natural market. We market our products under several of our own brands. M.I. Industries was established more than 25 years ago on a foundation of customer-driven quality, innovation, integrity and superior service. Today, these elements continue to define how we serve our customers.” Well, I know that natural pet food was definitely not considered an “industry” 25 years ago. Even natural people food was very grassroots back then.

CONCLUSION

For me, there were too many questions that went unanswered.  Instinct by Nature’s Variety is out of contention!

For more info on Nature’s Variety: http://www.naturesvariety.com/instinct_cat_can

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Green Little Cat is the only blog that's all about eco-friendly ideas for cats and cat lovers. This blog is a labor of love, created by Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys.