Why Made in USA Pet Food is Worth It

If you care about the health of your pets, you might find some of this article troubling. But, if you’re wondering if paying extra for Made in USA pet food is worth the cost, read on!

Anyone with a dog or cat knows that the price of pet food varies wildly. If you are a Made in USA aficionado,  you have already discovered that bags or cans featuring Old Glory are among the most expensive. But why? And is the premium worth it?

The Source of Ingredients Matters

Pets becoming sick or dying from pet food containing contaminated non-US ingredients has become a real concern. In 2007, pet food contaminated with melamine killed cats and dogs across the US and around the world (Wikipedia). Melamine was added to pet food ingredients by non-US suppliers to fool tests into reporting that the food contained higher protein content than it did. Although the true death toll will never be known, a 2011 class action lawsuit settlement included 13,242 pets who died and another 9,001 who fell ill (Pet MD).

For pet owners who view their dogs or cats as more than just “property,” these numbers are devastating. In 2007, 2008, and 2011, the FDA issued warnings about pet treats from China after numerous reports of pets becoming sick or dying.  In 2014, the FDA issued yet another warning about cat and dog treats made in China. After years of warnings, PetCo and PetSmart decided to halt the sale of cat and dog treats made in China.

The Importance of Made in USA Pet Food & US-Sourced Ingredients

Many pet foods contain ingredients sourced from all over the world. These ingredients are often used because they are cheaper than US-sourced ingredients. However, manufacturers of ingredients from outside of the US are not subject to US laws. Thus, they do not face the civil and criminal penalties US manufacturers face. Non-US manufacturers are also more difficult to monitor.

The FTC requires that “Made in USA” labeled pet food be made from all, or virtually all, US ingredients. Manufacturers who label their pet food as made in the USA are subject to FTC, and FDA, regulations regarding the claims made about the source and contents of the ingredients. Of course, true US-made pet foods are often more expensive. But the Made in USA label provides a degree of protection for pet owners concerned about questionable practices in other countries that can endanger the lives of our furry loved ones.

Watch Out for Tricky Pet Food Labels

As owners are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers posed by contaminated ingredients, more are looking for American-made pet food. Companies know this. In response, more and more pet food companies are labeling their products.

Now for the bad news . . . Not all labels are created the same. You must read very carefully to determine whether a product was made in the US from US ingredients vs. merely produced in the US from non-US ingredients. A company which labels “Made in USA” (no modifiers) is indicating to the FTC that the product is made from all, or virtually all, US ingredients.  Even better are companies which name the source of their ingredients (e.g., “Made in USA with 100% US-Sourced Ingredients”).

One company that makes a “made in the USA” claim is Halo. Here’s a quote from the Dogington Post (is that a real thing?) regarding HALO’s US-made dog food:

The State of Dog Food Today by The Dogington Post

The State of Dog Food Today by The Dogington Post

Even more conclusively, NutriSource sports the Made in USA label on at least some of their products, like this cat food I recently purchased. But remember, since no promises are made for the entire brand (cats and dogs, grain-free, etc.), you, the educated consumer, must check for a Made in USA pet food label on the back (as shown in my photo below).

NutriSource Cat Food (Made in USA)

NutriSource Cat Food (Made in USA)

A fairly clear claim, from The Honest Kitchen, is “Made in the USA, Nothing from China” along with “100% Human Grade.” Human grade “food” is regulated much more tightly than pet “feed” per US law.

The Honest Kitchen - Made in the USA, Nothing from China, 100% Human Grade

The Honest Kitchen – Made in the USA, Nothing from China, 100% Human Grade

So, Is Made in USA Pet Food Worth It?

Yes. If you value your pet as a member of the family, it’s worth reading labels carefully! You can help ensure your pet is eating healthy, untainted food. If in doubt, write to the manufacturer to ask country of origin of ingredients. For more American-made pet products, take a look at the Made in USA List under the Pets category.

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