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There are rumors on the internet that some raw brands are sourcing ingredients and buying vitamin mixes from China.
With so many brands jumping into the raw feeding world in an attempt to meet the demands of pet owners for better food, we have to expect that many will want to cut costs by working with foreign manufacturers. Although brands should make this known up front (and many do), I think it’s important that we, as our dogs’ advocates, ask questions about where these brands source their ingredients.
Why I'm Concerned About Dog Food Ingredients from China
Since 2007, the FDA has received over 5,000 complaints about pets becoming ill after consuming jerky treats made in China.
“DeLauro points to an alarming Asia Inspection study that found that almost half of Chinese food-processing plants fail to meet internationally acceptable standards. In some cases, laboratory tests found abnormal levels of pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals, bacteria or viruses that could put consumers at risk.” Source: PoisonedPets.com
Thanks to the chicken jerky treat scare, many dog lovers are running scared when they hear that a food or treat for dogs is made in China.
“Everything comes from China! Good luck finding something that doesn't!!”
I was curious about the number of pet products that come from China and went to the store with the simple challenge of finding a dog dish that didn't come from China. I did! I found one dog dish, however, it was covered in ceramic, and the dish didn't say “lead-free.”
It's like I'm raising dogs in a toxic dump. Is anything safe?
Questions I Ask Raw Dog Food Brands
The fear is real. Many in the pet food industry will tell you that it's no big deal. That the plant that processes their food in China meets all standards and is perfectly safe. But is it worth the risk?
Since I'm not an expert in this area, I tend to ask a lot of questions when I'm introduced to a new raw brand. I expect that most proteins in pre-made raw dog food are sourced from the United States. Venison and elk may come from New Zealand. But I'd rather ask than assume, so my email a new brand asking…
- Does your vitamin mix come from China?
- Is melamine used in the food or vitamin mix?
- Are any ingredients shipped to China for processing?
Vitamin Mixes in Dog Food
I've been told that most vitamin mixes (for humans and pets) come from China. It's very expensive to source the mixes in the United States and keep the price of the food affordable.
One of the reasons for all of the pet food recalls was the melamine (a compound created when heating cyanide and used to make plastic) that was added to the vitamin mix in pet food. According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, “Chinese manufacturers added it to their premix to boost the protein content as cheaply as possible.”
Just because a brand uses a vitamin mix doesn't mean that their food isn't safe. In speaking with many small businesses, I've learned that they try to get the highest quality vitamin mix from a safe source. However, they aren't able to vet every single ingredient within the mix.
“Made in the USA” Can Be Misleading
A friend who owns a dog treat company informed me that the label “Made in the USA,” isn't always a complete story. For instance, some brands source their chicken from US farms, and they make their chicken jerky treats in a US facility. However, they ship the chicken carcasses overseas for processing. Technically, the “Made in the USA” label isn't false, but it can be misleading.
I've become comfortable questioning brands about their sourcing, and many brands are forthcoming about where they source their ingredients, but there are a few who dance around the subject or refuse to respond to questions; these are the brands I avoid.
Sojos Sources Vegetables from China
This is a rumor that turned out to be true. Sojos was sourcing celery from China until they received pushback from their customers. They have now changed where they source their ingredients and have the following note on the Ingredients Pages of Sojos.com:
“SOJOS DOG FOOD AND TREATS are made from scratch with REAL ingredients. No GMO's. No fillers or preservatives. Nothing artificial. Just a short, sweet list of human-grade ingredients. And absolutely nothing from China.”
Because I know that websites can contain outdated information, I reached out to Sojos to find out about where they sourced their ingredients.
Thanks for the message! We can assure you that none of our recipes (food, treats, meat treats, everything included) use ingredients from China. Several years ago, we did source some celery from China, but made a conscious decision not to do so, since so many of the pet parents feeding our food felt strongly about feeding Chinese ingredients. Now, not one of our recipes uses anything from China.
We uphold all of our ingredients to the utmost quality standards and test everything multiple times throughout the food-making process to ensure only the best possible, quality food ends up in each bag!
We source as many ingredients as possible domestically (about 70-75%), but because of seasonality and the protein options we offer, we do source some items internationally. For example, our Venison comes from New Zealand.
If you have any other questions about our ingredients, or our foods, please don't hesitate to reach out. You can also reach our Customer Service Team at: 888-867-6567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
What About the Sojos Vitamin Mix?
After a few days, that response from Sojos just wasn't enough. So I asked about their vitamin mix and this is their fast response:
“Thank you for taking the time to write to us about our Sojos Vitamin mix we use. We absolutely do not source anything from china.”
Acquisition of Sojos by WellPet
In a letter that I read on TruthAboutPetFood.com, there aren’t any plans to make changes to Sojos:
“There will be no changes to the day-to-day operations of either company. Both organizations have significant talent and expertise that will benefit WellPet and Sojos. Ward and Maggie Johnson will continue to help with the transition. Distributor and retail customers of Sojos will continue with ‘business as usual’ with the Sojos team.”
I’m not a fan of WellPet, because of my experience with how local stores stored their treats that allowed bugs to grow within bulk bins. Although my issue is more with the store than the brand, I never bought the treats again.
If you're concerned about Sojos changing their recipes or sourcing, stay in contact with the brand by following them on social media and subscribing to a customer newsletter. This will give you a better chance of learning of any changes to their food.
Nature’s Variety Sources Rabbit from China
I read on several sites online that Nature’s Variety sources their rabbit from China. I’m not sure how true this is, so I sent an email to Nature’s Variety to find out if any of the ingredients in their raw, canned, or kibble are sourced from China. I will update this post once I hear from them about their sourcing.
Visiting the Nature's Variety FAQ page, there is a statement that none of their meat or poultry (isn't poultry meat?) is sourced from China:
“Nature's Variety is committed to using high quality, safe ingredients from government-inspected facilities. Our natural ingredients are continuously inspected for quality and tested for analytical compliance before being accepted at our facilities.
We do not source any of our meat or poultry from China.
All of our poultry and pork come from the U.S., our beef is from the U.S. and New Zealand, our lamb is from the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, our venison is imported from Australia and New Zealand, and our rabbit is imported from France and Italy. We are very stringent in our sourcing standards and prioritize building close relationships with our vendors.”
Who Owns Nature's Variety?
I learned that Nature's Variety was sold this year. I think many dog lovers share the fear that when their favorite pet food brand is sold, the quality of the food is going to decline. I don't know much about Agrolimen; I read that it's a Spanish organization that is invested in food, pet food, and restaurants.
“Nature’s Variety, makers of Instinct® Pet Food, today announced that Agrolimen has acquired the remaining interest in the company by purchasing shares held by L Catterton and other shareholders. L Catterton made its initial investment in Nature’s Variety in 2008 and Agrolimen entered into a joint venture with L Catterton and other Nature’s Variety shareholders in July 2014.” Source: NaturesVariety.com
As with Sojos, if you're concerned about a change in the quality of the food or sourcing of ingredients, follow Nature's Variety on social media and subscribe to their customer newsletter.
You can also contact these brands directly as I do.
Nature's Variety Clarifies Sourcing of Rabbit
Thank you for writing!
Here are the answers to your questions.
- Rabbit Sourcing – In late 2013 we announced that we no longer have any China-sourced rabbit in any of our products. While we had complete confidence in the quality of the rabbit we were sourcing from China, we realized that the consumer perception of China sourced materials remains a challenge. Our team worked for many months on seeking out new, trusted rabbit sources that meet our high quality specifications and can supply our volume needs. We transitioned all of our rabbit sourcing out of China and now source all of our rabbit from France and Italy.
- Vitamin & Mineral Sourcing – Our vitamins and minerals are from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. We source most of our ingredients from the U.S. and turn to other locations only as needed. We are very stringent on our sourcing and have good relationships built with our vendors for quality ingredients.
- Melamine – None of our products contain any melamine.
Shannon, Consumer Engagement Team, 1-888-519-7387, www.naturesvariety.com“
Making Sure Your Favorite Brands Are Safe
Despite the chicken jerky travesty, it's important to remember that not all food and products from China are dangerous. As I learned when shopping at local pet stores, we're hard-pressed to buy anything that wasn't made in China. What's important to me is having a clear understanding of what my dogs are eating, which is why I feed raw. Although 90% of the food my dogs eat is homemade, I do feed my dogs premade commercial raw (see a list of most fed brands below). In my experience, most raw brands are very forthcoming about their ingredients and sourcing.
However, there are a few who have proprietary recipes and aren't willing to share information on where they source their ingredients. If you're comfortable with a brand, then no worries. If you're new to a brand, their lack of transparency may raise red flags. Either way, it's up to you to ask the questions before spending your hard earned dollar for food that's your dog will eat.
So don't be afraid to ask questions, because many raw brands are very responsive and want to educate their customers and potential customers. And if you're having trouble getting an answer, remember that there is enough competition today that you'll find a raw brand that meets your needs.
Raw Dog Food Brands I Recommend
These are a few brands that I feed to my dogs:
There are many other amazing raw food brands – feel free to add your favorite brands in the comments to help others.