BY ERIC STENSON
Since the melamine pet food crisis of 2007, USA sourcing has become a greater priority among manufacturers of cat food. According to Nicole Lindsley, owner and operator of Steve’s Real Food in Cottonwood, Utah, it’s really simple why her company uses ingredients strictly from the United States.
“It is what the customer demands,” she said.
In addition to its dog-only foods, Steve’s makes chicken, duck and turducken diets for cats and dogs. It is available in freeze-dried nuggets and raw frozen patties and nuggets.
“In terms of our diets, we use all human grade ingredients,” Lindsley said. “[They] are minimally processed, [and they] are one of the most convenient and affordable raw foods for cats.”
The company has plans to expand its cat offerings due to increase in demand, according to Lindsley.
“We also have a new product called PurrGurt, which is freeze dried raw goat milk yogurt with red krill and salmon oil,” she said. “It is formulated to help cats with urinary issues, the most common cat ailment there is.”
When it comes to suggesting how retailers could direct customer attention to their commitment to USA sourcing, Lindsley suggests taking a page from the grocer’s book.
“Let the customers know what falls into the category,” she said. “I would advise using signage on the shelves similar to how Whole Foods tags products as ‘I am Local.’”
Merrick Purrfect Bistro cat foods are U.S.-sourced and cooked in the company’s kitchens in Hereford, Texas. Pete Brace, Merrick’s vice president of pet parent relations and communications, emphasizes the importance in consumers knowing the ingredients in their cat’s food are of the highest quality and safety.
“That’s why we use the best quality, regionally sourced ingredients, including no ingredients from China,” he said.
Merrick’s PurrFect Bistro line has dry and canned foods in duck, chicken, turkey and salmon, as well as weight-control and kitten formulas. The company’s products are grain-free, protein-rich and high in fiber with probiotics, essential vitamins and minerals. The recipes are highly digestible and high in essential fatty acids, such as omega-6s and omega-3s, to support healthy skin and fur.
“Cats’ unique physiology makes them carnivores, meaning high-quality protein and grain-free foods should be a significant part of their diets,” he said.
Earth Animal of Southport, Connecticut, is a family-owned small business co-founded by holistic veterinarian Dr. Bob Goldstein and his wife, Susan. The company produces treats, chews, herbal remedies, with all its ingredients being U.S. sourced.
“We believe in looking at everything we do in a whole way, for the whole animal and for the whole Earth,” said Stephanie Volo, Earth Animal’s vice president of brand and communications. “A big part of that is knowing where our ingredients are from, where they are made, etc.”
Earth Animal has a retail store in which it carries products from other companies, including cat foods from Hound & Gatos, which sources its cat food ingredients from the U.S. except for New Zealand lamb.
One of the Earth Animal’s core guiding pillars involves supporting manufacturers who produce responsibly in the U.S., which includes environmentally friendly practices.
“We support all green efforts for our planet and each other,” Volo said. “We believe strongly in the fight against pesticides and insecticides and their use on animals.”
Barry Berman, founder of Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals in New York City, produces three varieties of dry cat food and six types of canned. Other than the Dinners in Gravy line (from Canada), all cat foods are sourced and manufactured in the U.S. His company is unusual in that it is owned by independent pet retailers.
“No big boxes or mass retailers,” he said.
His canned varieties are chicken, salmon, whitefish and chicken, chicken and liver, ocean fish and chicken, mackerel and sardine, pork liver and chicken, and sardine and ocean fish. Dry includes chicken and herring, chicken and fish, and salmon. The dry foods feature DL-Methionine, which is naturally occurring in Grandma Mae’s ingredients and encourages urinary tract health.
“Quality of ingredients is so important for palatability and safety,” Berman said. “It must be something they enjoy and won’t harm them.”
Harald Fisker, president of Grizzly Pet Products of Woodinville, Washington, uses one major ingredient in his cat food–human-grade, wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Consequently, his food, available in dehydrated and oven-baked formulas, is U.S. sourced.
“It all comes back to imports that we got a few years ago,” he said. “More and more people won’t take products unless they are sourced in the U.S.”
Fisker’s cat food is 85 percent salmon, so—as he describes—the only way to get more is if you feed your cat an actual can of salmon. There are no rice or potato starches, and the food has a very low carbohydrate content, which he cites as something many consumers are seeking for their cats. And there is no need to fortify the food with additional vitamins, he said.
“Everything comes naturally from the salmon,” he said. “Palatability is exceptional.”
From a retailer perspective, Jennifer Scott, owner of Pawprint Market in Darien, Connecticut, said that all her dry cat food and much of her canned products are U.S.-sourced and manufactured. She deals strictly with independent manufacturers, and the brands she stocks include Precise, Animate, Fromm, Orijen and Wellness.
“People want good ingredients; they’re slowly gravitating to feeding better quality food to cats,” she said. “Often, they want to upgrade because they have a cat that was not doing well on grocery store food.”
She suggests emphasizing canned food over dry because of the moisture content, since cats don’t drink much water and a lack of hydration can lead to urinary stones. She advises retailers to recommend cat owners be careful when transitioning their pet’s food.
“Most cats like grocery store food because it’s like McDonald’s,” she said. “It’s much more dangerous for cats not to eat than it is for dogs. Cats can get sick very quickly.”