When you pick up a bag of dog food you’ll notice that there are certain claims being made, often regarding the quality of the product. You might see words like “natural” or “wholesome” in addition to pictures of happy, healthy-looking dogs. Something you may not always notice but is something you should look for on a pet food package is the claim, “Made in the USA”. But what exactly does it mean if a dog food is made in the United States? Keep reading to find out.
What Does “Made in the USA” Really Mean?
Pet food manufacturers do everything they can to minimize their expenses and maximize profits. For some of the lower quality brands, that means bulking up their recipes with inexpensive ingredients like grains and fillers – it might also mean making heavy use of pictures and health claims on their product packaging to appeal to consumers. What you need to know is that many of the claims you see on pet food product labels are not regulated in the same way that the products you find on grocery store shelves are regulated – you can’t always believe what you read.
The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates and monitors the production and sale of animal feed and pet foods similar to the way the FDA regulates food for people. Whereas the FDA has strict definitions for the terms that can be used on product labels, many of the claims made on pet food products don’t have a set definition – this means that pet food manufacturers can use them however they like. One of the claims that does have a specific definition, however, is the claim “made in the USA”. You usually see this label on the pack of the package, often above the barcode.
According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, this claim means that the product is made from all or virtually all products from the United States. To dig a little deeper, AAFCO defines the phrase “all or virtually all” to mean that “all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of US origin” and that the product contains no or negligible foreign content. Given these definitions, you can see how the “made in the USA” claim doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of the ingredients or the manufacturing process, it only requires that the product be made from ingredients that are sourced in the United States. If the product includes any foreign ingredients, the FTC state that it must carry a label such as the following, “Made in the USA with Duck from France”.
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What Should You Know About Foreign Ingredients?
If you want a dog food that is made from US-sourced ingredients, looking for the “made in the USA” label is a good place to start. But is it safe to assume that all ingredients that come from other countries are bad? Not necessarily. It is becoming more and more common for pet food manufacturers to source some of their proteins outside of the U.S. This is often the case for novel proteins like lamb, duck, and rabbit as well as exotic proteins like kangaroo.
Though you shouldn’t assume that all foreign ingredients are bad, you still need to be careful and do your research. Ingredients that come from New Zealand and Australia are generally considered safe. In fact, New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the safest places in the world to manufacture pet foods. Ingredients from certain European countries like France and Spain are usually safe as well – ingredients like duck and rabbit tend to be sourced from these countries. You should, however, be wary of any ingredient that comes from China.
While all ingredients sourced from China may not be of low quality, this country has a history of causing problems in the pet food industry. The year 2007 saw one of the largest pet food recalls in recent history and it was all due to contaminated ingredients that were imported from China. China doesn’t have the same regulations in place regarding their ingredients or manufacturing processes, so it is usually best not to take the risk when it comes to your dog’s health and wellbeing.
What Are Some of the Top Dog Food Brands Made in the USA?
Though being made in the United States does not necessarily guarantee the quality of a pet food product, choosing a dog food made in the USA is a step in the right direction. Just be sure that you take the time to review the information on the packaging to ensure that the product offers good quality nutrition for your dog. If you need help getting started in your search for a dog food made in the USA, try one of the top-rated brands reviewed below:
Nutro – The Nutro company recently underwent some new branding and is now advertising their “feed clean” philosophy which features high-quality, all-natural ingredients in each of their recipes. Nutro understands that there is no greater privilege than being loved by a pet, but also no greater responsibility. As a dog owner, Nutro believes that it is your job to give your dog the best that nature has to offer and that means Nutro dog food. More than ninety years ago, Nutro was a pioneer in the natural pet food industry and they continue to be a leader in wholesome, US-made dog food. Nutro pet foods energize your dog from the inside out, featuring simple and purposeful recipes made with real, recognizable ingredients. When it comes to their dog food products, Nutro offers three distinct brands and a variety of product lines. The Nutro Wholesome Essentials lineup features nutrient-rich recipes made with real meat as the number-1 ingredient. The Grain-Free lineup features life stages formulas made without gluten or grains and the Limited Ingredient Diet line includes recipes made with no more than 10 key ingredients. There is also the Wild Frontier high-protein lineup and two other brands – Nutro Max and Nutro Ultra.
Wellness – The WellPet company owns several brands of pet food but Wellness is their most popular. The Wellness brand is committed to offering pets unconditional love through the power of uncompromising nutrition. Each of their products is developed with a sound foundation of holistic nutrition. Every recipe offers an ideal balance of nature’s finest nutrients with carefully selected ingredients to sustain and nourish your dog’s body from the inside out. Wellness uses only the finest lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies in their formulas – no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial additives. When it comes to their dog food products, Wellness offers quite a varied selection divided over four product lines. The Complete Health line features whole food nutrition including grain-free options for everyday nutrition. The CORE lineup features protein-rich, grain-free recipes and the Simple line features limited ingredient diets for dogs with food allergies and sensitivities. The TruFood product line features slow-baked recipes loaded with natural flavor and powerful nutrients. Among these four product lines you can choose from dry foods, wet foods, mixers, toppers, and treats.
Castor and Pollux – Castor and Pollux is one of the few pet food brands out there that offers recipes made with certified organic ingredients and cooked in an organic certified USA kitchen. This brand offers an assortment of safe, simple recipes made with only the finest ingredients combined in the most healthful formulas. Castor and Pollux pet foods are the result of more than twenty years of experience in the natural pet food industry and they are assembled by an expert team of veterinarians and animal nutritionists. This brand offers four distinct product lines – Organix, Organix with Raw Bites, Natural Ultramix and Natural Ultramix with Raw Bites. The Organix line features original and grain-free dry foods and wet foods made with premium proteins like lamb, salmon, chicken, and turkey. The Natural Ultramix line features an assortment of natural recipes supplemented with essential vitamins and minerals for complete and balanced nutrition. Each of these product lines has a spin-off line that combines the high-quality kibble with freeze-dried raw bites for a boost of nutrition and flavor. Each raw bite features protein-rich fish that is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids to support your dog’s healthy skin and coat. Every recipe is free from corn, wheat, and soy as well as other grains.
Merrick – The Merrick Pet Care company doesn’t believe they make good pet food – they believe they make the best food ever. This company offers a varied lineup of real, wholesome recipes that are made with USDA-inspected deboned meat and fresh produce to ensure industry-leading levels of protein and essential nutrients. This brand handcrafts all their products in Hereford, Texas and never uses any ingredients imported from China. They source all of their ingredients from farmers they know and trust to ensure the safety, quality, and integrity of their products. Merrick offers five different product lines for dry food and wet food as well as a dedicated line of dog treats featuring real deboned meat as the number-1 ingredient. The Classic product line features real meat, fish, or poultry as the main ingredient with ancient grains for maximum digestibility. The Limited Ingredient Diet line features grain-free formulas made with single-source animal proteins and a short list of simple ingredients. Merrick offers a grain-free line of products similar to the Classic lineup but featuring grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato. The Backcountry line features grain-free, high-protein kibbles infused with freeze-dried raw pieces. There is also the Backcountry Raw line which consists of only those freeze-dried raw pieces in a variety of different flavors.
Nature’s Variety – With a name like Nature’s Variety, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that this company uses only the finest natural ingredients. Nature’s Variety is based in Lincoln, Nebraska and they produce all of their recipes in the United States. This company offers two distinct brands for dog food – Prairie and Instinct. The Prairie brand is designed to offer wholesome nutrition at an affordable price point while the Instinct brand is designed to offer maximum quality and uncompromised nutrition – the best that money can buy. The Prairie line of products is somewhat limited in terms of choices, but the Instinct brand is divided into six different product lines. The Instinct Originals line features high-protein, grain-free kibble in highly digestible formulas for puppies and adult dogs. The Limited Ingredient Diets line features recipes that offer optimal nutrition through the simplest essential ingredients. There is a line of Ultimate Protein dog foods as well as the Raw Boost line of grain-free kibble infused with freeze-dried raw pieces. Instinct also offers a line of raw frozen nuggets, patties, and medallions as well as the Raw Market line of freeze-dried meal blends.
As a responsible dog owner, it is your job to choose the best food for your dog that you can. Not only does this mean evaluating the quality of the ingredients used in the dog food, but it also means making sure that the product is made in the USA. If you need some help choosing a US-made dog food brand, consider one of our top-rated brands reviewed above.