As we get ready to celebrate America’s birthday we may wonder what “made in the USA” really means when it comes to the products we buy for our families and our pets. These days in the world of pet food manufacturing, the phrase “made in the USA,” can mean a lot of things, and not necessarily what you thought.
What Can Go Wrong with Pet Food
The concern about where pet food ingredients come from after the melamine crisis of 2005/2006 is still front and center in many pet parents’ minds. That particular incident was due to an unscrupulous Chinese company trying to make their wheat gluten look purer by adding the plastic product melamine, which contains lots of nitrogen -- creating something that looked like a high protein product based on the current methods by which protein sources are assessed. As you may know, this caused acute kidney problems in many dogs and cats. This incident made ingredient sourcing a big issue for United States manufacturers of commercial pet food, and a big issue for lots of pet parents.
What is unfortunate is that the actual phrase “made in the USA,” means very little when marketing pet food. Nearly all of the dog and cat foods you can find in the grocery or pet store are made in the USA since importing and exporting is a difficult venue. (Recent trade changes have made it very difficult to import dog and cat food from Europe or elsewhere.) There is some importation and exportation of dog food, but it becomes a costly endeavor for the companies and the consumers. If you’re interested in whether the food is made in the US, then you are probably more interested in whether all the ingredients are “sourced in the USA” or "sourced with USA ingredients."
Made in USA vs. Sourced in the USA
Sourcing of ingredients means that the poultry meal, ground rice, or other ingredient was actually grown and produced on American soil. Some manufacturers do this, however many of the cheaper sources of ingredients are overseas, meaning it takes a lot of forethought and expense on the part of the company to get this done and to find a reliable and constant source of that ingredient. One of the major problems in ensuring that this policy is continuously used by a company is that they will have to be willing to spend extra money to make their pet food if their supplier is short on a certain supply, like lamb meal for example. About two years ago local lamb supply was short so many manufacturers had to purchase lamb from Australia or New Zealand. These types of commodity issues do occur.
If a company is committed to making a product that is “sourced with USA ingredients” then they will have to have a backup vendor or two that they can go to so that their formulation will not change if a supplier is short on an ingredient. Though this does not happen often, pet food formulations may change a little bit. For example, you may have seen a slightly different color to your pet food from batch to batch. Don’t get worried, often this is just normal variation, particularly when an ingredient supplier changes even if it’s a similar lamb meal or barley.
In all reality, the claim of “sourced in the USA” may become a thing of the past. As companies merge internationally and fewer factories around the world make certain things like vitamins and minerals, we are getting to a point where certain nutrients may only be made in other countries. For example, if a weight maintenance diet were to add carnitine because this particular nutrient can only be sourced overseas now, the food would by necessity not be all sourced in the US.
As of today both vitamin C and taurine are not made in the United States by any suppliers for vitamin and mineral pre-mixes that are used for pet foods. More and more often we vets are hearing about shortages of certain vitamins for medical or feed purposes since there are only a handful of manufacturers in the world today. If you are concerned about whether vitamins and minerals are being sources overseas then call the food manufacturer to check on how their ingredients are sourced.
The Bottom Line
Thankfully, many of the most important ingredients in pet foods, what you normally see as the top 7 or 8 ingredients (the meats, fats, and grains) can faithfully be sourced in the USA.
Made in the USA Pet Supplies Showcase
With the Fourth of July coming up, you might be feeling a bit patriotic. What better way to show your love for our country than to support companies that source, manufacture, and deliver all right here in the United States?
Pet supplies, like many things these days, can be mash-ups of ingredients and parts from all over the globe. This can keep costs down and improve efficiency, which can mean savings on our end; but sometimes we want something that we know was home-grown from the very beginning.
Raise your flag to these made -- and sourced! -- in the USA pet supplies!
Made in the USA Pet Toys
Kong Classic Dog Toy: Give your dog something fun to gnaw on -- this all-American toy even has a hidey-hole for treats, to add extra fun.
JW Megalast Bone Toy: This bone will stand up to the sharpest American doggie teeth. It's durable, fun, and 100% US-made.
Home-Grown Grooming Supplies
Furminator deOdorizing Ultra Premium Shampoo: Get rid of all the extra hair on your dog before it gets strewn about your home.
Furminator deShedding Tool: Brush your dog with this handy tool to reduce shedding up to 90%!
Circle T Latigo Twist Lead and Latigo Leather Collars & Leads: These comfortable and attractive leashes and collars are made to look great and work well. They're durable and made of high-quality US leather.
Van Ness Plastic Bowls: These break-resistant bowls are as hearty as your pet's appetite. The pure plastic is food-grade and machine washable.
Van Ness Pet Food Container: This cat and dog food container can hold 4 pounds of dry food and is ergonomically designed. The plastic is FDA-approved for food contact.
Scrumptious USA Dog Treats
Newman's Own Organics Chicken Dog Treats: These treats aren't just home-grown, they're also USDA Certified Organic, meaning 95% of the ingredients are verified organic. Your dog will know something is special because of the great taste!
More on Pet Foods
Your Dog Food Questions Answered
GMO Food Crops in Pet Food
More on USA Products
Made in the USA Pet Supplies Showcase
This article was written by PetCareRx Consulting Nutritionist Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine. The information contained, however, is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian.