Pet Food and Treats: Who makes what. Co-Packing, and Private Labeling

If you found this post via google, we will not copack or private label treats for you. So please stop emailing us about manufacturing treats for you. We feel that this widespread practice is ultimately deceptive to consumers.

If you go into any pet store, large or small, you might think there are thousands of different products and companies.

In reality, the number is much smaller.

Most people are aware that large conglomerates such as Nestle and Mars own many of the pet food brands you see at this point in time.

Companies like Diamond, JM Smucker (which owns Big Heart Brands), Well Pet, Midwestern Pet, Pets Global, Mid-American Pet Food, also offer several brands.

Who Really Makes the Pet Food

Many food, treat, and supplement companies do manufacture their own products. However, Co-Packing and Private labeling are still extremely common. While there aren’t any statistics, I feel entirely comfortable saying it makes up a very sizeable percentage. Now some of them you have likely heard of, such as Evangers or Diamond.

However, most of the companies you have probably never heard of. Companies like Simmons, CJ Foods, Brightpet Nutrition Group which operates Ohio Pet Foods and Southern Tier Pet Nutrition, Performance Pet Products, Nunn Milling, Perfection Pet Food, Sunshine Mills, Tuffy, Breeders Choice, Pied Piper Mill, Taplow Feeds to name just a few.

When it comes to treats you have companies such as, Natural Pet Innovations, Loving Pet, The Pound Bakery, Hearthside Foods, RNF Pet Products, Dog Treat Factory, and Butchers Block, Carnivore Meat Company (Vital Essentials).

These are just a few examples there are many more for food, treats, and supplements.

Private Labeling

This is why it is crucial to look on the packaging to see if it says Manufactured For, Distributed by, Made for, Manufactured By, etc. This goes for food and treats.

§ 101.5 Food; name and place of business of manufacturer, packer, or distributor.

(a) The label of a food in packaged form shall specify conspicuously the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.

(b) The requirement for declaration of the name of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor shall be deemed to be satisfied, in the case of a corporation, only by the actual corporate name, which may be preceded or followed by the name of the particular division of the corporation. In the case of an individual, partnership, or association, the name under which the business is conducted shall be used.

(c) Where the food is not manufactured by the person whose name appears on the label, the name shall be qualified by a phrase that reveals the connection such person has with such food; such as “Manufactured for ___”, “Distributed by ___”, or any other wording that expresses the facts.

There are countless companies claiming their treats or food are Small Batch, Hand-Crafted, Local (Local to Whom) etc, yet when you look closer it says manufactured for insert company name.

Lexico.com defines small batch as “Designating or relating to a type of small-scale production in which goods are made in limited quantities, often by means of traditional or artisanal methods.”

Companies get away with using these terms for their products that are mass produced by another company because there is no legal definition of small batch, hand crafted, local etc. They are simply marketing terms that any company can get away with using.

There are ultimately many companies that at least in my opinion are deceptively using these terms to describe their products, but that is based on my own personal definition of what small batch hand crafted and local mean.

While some of them may be small batch hand crafted and local based on your definition.

These are all ultimately subjective terms until we as a society define them, or there is a legal definition which might vary based on the industry.

For example small batch in the pet industry might mean something different than small batch in the whisky industry.

As much as I may dislike certain aspects of AAFCO, they are the organization that is ultimately responsible for defining many of these terms, and until they define these and other terms they will continue to be abused.

Co-Packing

Lotus (a subsidiary of Centinela Feed), and Carna4 both use Bio Biscuit to Manufacture their dry food. Bio Biscuit is the owner of Oven Baked Traditions and Treat time. 

Several varieties of Annamaet are manufactured by Brightpet Nutrition Group.

Diamond manufactures Costco’s, and Taste of the Wild.

Now Some (Very Few) companies are transparent about this fact. Natures Logic for examples has it on their website that Simmons Pet food manufactures their canned food, Butcher’s Block manufactures their treats, CJ Foods Inc. manufactures their dry food and Calumet Diversified Meats manufactures their raw food. 

Update Aug 8th 2021

Natures logic was purchases by Mid American Pet Food better known as the manufacturer of Victor’s Dog food. That being the case there is a strong possibility that the information above will change in the near future.

Many companies, however, are not transparent. You would have to call most companies to get the information, and it’s possible the brand reps you have likely seen at a store don’t know, and neither do most pet store owners, and employees.  Now some small retailers do, but they are the exception.

Now Truth About Pet Food did publish a list of who makes what, but the list is from 2012, so needless to say, it is out of date as many companies will switch manufacturer, and many companies have come under new ownership. Who Makes What in Pet Food – Truth about Pet Food.

For example, sticking with Natures Logic, their dry food was previously manufactured by Mid American Pet Food.

Co-packing and Private Labeling also brings up issues of oversight. Some companies have employees present, while others do not have an employee overseeing things to ensure everything is done according to their standards.

We all know The Pet industry needs more transparency, and I actually applaud Natures Logic for making the information available on their website, and I wish more companies were more transparent about who makes their food and treats.

Ingredients

Ultimately, many of the ingredients used in foods and treats manufactured in the same facility use the exact same ingredients.

It’s not like one brand gets this batch of ____ and this batch of _______ to this brand.

So while you think you are getting a better product, or one companies sourcing is better, or they claim to make their treats in small batches, if the products are made in the same facility, they are likely the same ingredients in many instances.

Some companies do source and deliver their ingredients themselves, but this is by no means a rule. Open Farm and Petkind are two such examples.

There is also the issue that many companies use the same exact suppliers.

In 2014 Purina sued Blue Buffalo for false advertising. It pertained to Blue Buffalos claim that their foods are formulated with the finest natural ingredients and contain no chicken/poultry by product meals. No Corn, Wheat or soy and no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.

In May of 2015, Blue Buffalo acknowledged in court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold to consumers contained poultry by-product meal, despite advertising claims to the contrary. 

Now this wasn’t entirely Blue Buffalos fault as they did sue their supplier, also several of the people involved ended pleading guilty to charges of adulteration or misbranding of food.

This however does not means Blue Buffalo, now owned by General Mills, was not still at fault as they should have tested the ingredients before using them in their food. 

I wonder why Purina knew that the claims by Blue Buffalo were false. I wonder why they knew to test the food. Was it because they use the same supplier?

While owning and staffing a facility wouldn’t be economically feasible for most companies. This does leave our pets at risk. Especially when you consider that the Hills and possibly the Midwestern Pet recalls are the result of them not following their own procedures.

Now this issue is probably not isolated to just these two companies. We will see if more recalls occur because of similar issues in the coming months and years, or whether other companies are going to be more diligent about following their procedures. This also assumes that they don’t become complacent and stop following their own rules and policies.

This is why we believe when discussing recalls, we need to concentrate not just on the brands, but also on the facilities where the recalls occurred due to potential cross-contamination.

I’m sure there are many people who feed or fed Earthborn who saw the Sportsmix recall by Midwestern Pet, and were not in the least bit concerned about it potentially impacting the food they feed.

The above issues are the reason why when recalls happen, they can expand very quickly to encompass not only foods within one brand but also other brands.  Think the Pentobarbital recall from 2017, Or Melamine from 2007.

Conclusion

So, I would encourage all pet owners to look a little more closely at the labels of the products they are purchasing and see if the company is making it themselves or whether someone else is making it for them.

That doesn’t mean it is necessarily a deal-breaker, but it does mean that other questions need to be asked. Such as:

  • Who Manufactures the Food or Treats?
  • Where is the product manufactured?
  • Do you source your own ingredients?
  • Do you have an employee overseeing everything?

Would you pay more for a McDonalds Burger if it was just rebranded as Burger Palace, and it said Hand-Crafted, Local, Small Batch.

Would you pay more for a Taco from Taco Bell, because they have a booth at your local farmers market?

Of Course Not.

There is ultimately no reason to pay a premium price when the product is the exact same or using the exact same quality of ingredients as a cheaper product.

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