Made in the USA Dog Food: Our Top 3 Recommendations

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Pet food manufacturers make a wide variety of different claims on their product labels but one that they are most proud of is the “Made in the USA” label. But is pet food made in the USA always the best option, and what does that even mean?

Many dog owners don’t understand the details of pet food regulation, but they do know that products made in the United States tend to be safer and of better quality than products made elsewhere. Keep reading to learn more about U.S.-made pet food and to receive our top three recommendations.

Why Does It Matter Where Your Pet’s Food is Made?

In the United States, there are several regulatory agencies that monitor the manufacture and sale of human food products, including the FDA and the USDA. These organizations enforce certain requirements to guarantee the quality and safety of food products intended for human consumption. Unfortunately, there is less regulation for pet foods so it is largely up to the consumer to do the work needed to determine the quality and safety of any given product.

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a non-profit organization that sets certain standards for animal feed and pet food, but the requirements are less strict than for human food. It is also worth noting that the primary purpose AAFCO serves is to ensure that pet foods meet certain minimum nutritional requirements. The fact of the matter is, however, that the standards of quality for ingredients used in pet foods are much lower – even in the United States.

A pet food manufactured in the United States is less likely to contain toxic ingredients due to federal regulations, but that doesn’t mean pet food manufacturers can’t use low-quality ingredients like propylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze. Pet food manufacturers are also allowed to use rendered ingredients. The process of rendering is one in which everything from feathers, blood and bone to whole dead animals is collected and heated to remove moisture and fat, creating a “meal” that can be used as a source of protein in pet foods. This practice is very common, even for pet foods manufactured in the United States.

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Is “Made in the USA” Different From “Sourced in the USA?”

Given the information from the last section, you can see how claims of pet food products being “Made in the USA” can’t necessarily be associated with quality. The truth remains, however, that pet foods made in the United States tend to be safer on the whole than pet foods made in China. But there is a difference between the two statements, “Made in the USA” and “Sourced in the USA”. If you think back to the year 2005, you may remember the melamine crisis that killed thousands of pets across the country. The ingredient that caused the problem was sourced from China, but could still be found in products made in the USA. Do you see the problem?

In order for a product to carry the “Made in the USA label,” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that it must be made from “all, or virtually all, products from the United States.” According to AAFCO, the phrase “all, or virtually all,” can be interpreted as, “all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of US origin… that is, the product should contain no – or negligible – foreign content.” If the product contains mostly US-sourced ingredients, the FTC requires the package to carry a disclaimer such as the following, “Made in the USA with lamb from New Zealand.” Unfortunately, the FTC does not investigate claims of “Made in the USA” unless a complaint is filed so it is entirely possible for a pet food manufacturer to use this claim falsely.

The Top 3 Recommended Brands of Made in the USA Dog Food

While there are dozens of pet food brands that are made in the USA, few of them seem to use US-sourced ingredients exclusively. It is becoming increasingly common for high-quality pet food brands to source some of their meats from other countries. For example, New Zealand lamb is very common, as is duck raised in France. Other countries do have their own ingredient regulations, however, any product made in the United States is still subject to FDA and AAFCO regulation.

If you want to feed your dog a high-quality brand of dog food that is made in the United States, we personally recommend the following three brands:

Merrick Dog Food Shop

The Merrick Petcare company follows the tagline, “Whole health made right.” This company is dedicated not just to making quality pet food, but to making the best pet food ever. Their recipes feature USDA-inspected deboned meat and fresh fruits and vegetables for unbeatable levels of protein and healthy nutrients. Merrick never uses ingredients from China and all of their products are hand-crafted and produced in Hereford, Texas using locally sourced ingredients. Merrick offers their customers four promises for their pets – the quality they want, the nutrition they need, and the taste they love. They also offer the Merrick Five Star Promise which guarantees local growers, real whole foods, company-owned kitchens, balanced nutrition, and health you can see.

Merrick offers five different product lines for dog food as well as a dedicated line of treats. There are two Backcountry product lines, one featuring ancestral canine diets for all-natural, grain free kibble infused with freeze-dried raw pieces and a second that consists only of freeze-dried raw pieces. Both product lines include recipes that are completely free from grain and gluten with deboned meat as the #1 ingredient. The Limited Ingredient Diet line of products features pure and simple grain-free recipes for dogs with sensitive stomachs or food allergies. The Merrick Grain-Free line of products is just that, a line of grain-free recipes made with real whole foods including 70% poultry and fish ingredients plus 30% produce, vitamins and minerals. The final product line, Classic, includes original recipes made with deboned chicken, whole grains, and wholesome fruits and veggies.

Nature’s Variety Dog Food Shop

An independent pet food company based in St. Louis, Missouri, Nature’s Variety is one of the top brands of natural pet food. This company is passionate about providing pets with the quality, holistic nutrition they need to live long and healthy lives. Nature’s Variety uses only the highest quality ingredients in each of their formulas, all of which are free from corn, wheat, soy, and artificial additives. Every one of Nature’s Variety’s recipes are loaded with protein and essential nutrients. All of Nature’s Variety’s products are manufactured in the United States, but they do source some of their protein from other countries. For example, they get some of their lamb and venison from Australia and New Zealand as well as some of their rabbit from France. The company states, however, that they are very strict with sourcing standards to ensure the quality and safety of their products.

When it comes to their products, Nature’s Variety actually offers two brands and an assortment of different product lines. The Prairie brand features holistic pet food products made with simple, natural ingredients and available at an affordable price point. The Instinct brand includes half a dozen different product lines including original, grain-free, high-protein, freeze-dried, and raw recipes. In addition to their Originals line of high-protein, grain-free kibbles, Nature’s Variety Instinct offers the Ultimate Protein line of kibbles with up to three times as much protein as conventional dry dog food. The Limited Ingredient Diets product line includes simple recipes made with a handful of essential ingredients. The Instinct Raw Boost lineup features protein-rich, grain-free kibbles infused with raw pieces and the Instinct Raw product line features frozen raw patties, nuggets and bites.

Castor and Pollux Dog Food Shop

Castor and Pollux is one of the few pet food companies in the United States that offers USDA-certified pet foods. This company is the self-named leader in organic and natural pet food and they have five different product lines. The Organix line of products features original and grain-free recipes made with certified organic ingredients and cooked in an organically certified USA kitchen. Organix dog foods are made with real chicken, salmon, or lamb as the first ingredient and they are hand-crafted in small batches. These products are free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and antibiotics and growth hormones. They are also supplemented with organic fruits and vegetables for nutritional balance. There is also a spin-off product line, Organix with Raw Bites, which features Organix kibble infused with freeze-dried raw pieces.

The third product line Castor and Pollux has to offer is the Natural Ultramix line of products. This line features recipes made with fresh, natural ingredients including natural chicken as the #1 ingredient. These formulas are supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidants as well as dietary fiber and essential nutrients. These formulas are also free from corn, wheat, and soy as well as artificial additives. There is a spin-off product line, Natural Ultramix with Raw Bites, which features Natural Ultramix kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites. The final product line is the Good Buddy line of original and grain-free dog treats, all made in the United States.

Although claims of being “made in the USA” cannot be construed as a guarantee of quality, pet foods made in the United States tend to be safer than those made in China. There are, however, some international countries where manufacturing standards are very high – Australia and New Zealand are good examples. There are also several top-quality brands made in Canada. In the end, what really matters is the quality of the ingredients and the safety of the manufacturing process. As long as the brand is committed to these two things, it is worth your consideration.

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