Who Makes 4health?
4health is a Tractor Supply exclusive brand. Dry food is manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods and canned food is manufactured by Simmons Pet Food. The food was launched by Tractor Supply in 2010.
Reviewing 4health and Tractor Supply as a Brand
Company Know How
Tractor Supply is simply the owner of the 4health brand, but the vast majority of the knowledge about pet food comes from their contract manufacturers Diamond Pet Foods and Simmons Pet Foods.
Diamond does employ a small team of experts including a veterinarian and a PhD Animal Nutritionist. They also have a more robust quality assurance team. However, it is clear that Diamond does not invest in nutritional innovation or research, but instead focuses on providing a contract manufacturing service.
Simmons on the other hand appears to have put slightly more focus into nutrition, innovation and research and development, but their team is not as well academically credentialed as Diamond’s.
Overall, there is minimal know-how standing behind 4health. The food does not appear to have undergone any sort of feeding trials, although foods have been formulated to target a specific urine pH. It is unlikely this has been confirmed in actual cats, however.
Tractor Supply is a publicly traded retail company whose business model heavily depends on developing Tractor Supply exclusive brands. These include not only pet food but workwear, heavy equipment, tools etc. Their mission is to provide quality yet affordable products for all aspects of rural life. However, in order to do so they rely heavily on the companies they contract with, in this case Diamond Pet Foods and Simmons Pet Foods. However, Tractor Supply appears to take a slightly more hands-on approach to their store brands than most other retail companies. They appear to invest resources in products they put on the shelf, rather than using generic brands to simply undercut competition.
That being said, the values of both Diamond Pet Food and Simmons Pet food have come into question in the past. While Diamond has been involved in several notable recalls, Simmons has been accused of major labor violations. One facility had become almost entirely reliant on forced labor through an addiction treatment program. Both of these companies are privately held, and it appears that the owners are more interested in turning a profit than making a quality product.
It is difficult to say that Tractor Supply outsources production of their 4health food. A more accurate description is that Tractor Supply puts their 4health name on a line of Diamond dry pet food and a line of Simmons canned pet food. Due to this, the brand 4health is largely dependent on the quality standards of these two manufacturers. Both companies have a handful of locations across the US, and Simmons has one additional facility in Toronto Canada.
|Injury or Illness?
|All dry foods made in the Gaston SC facility
|14 people became ill
|Dry cat food
|Low vitamin B1
|Canned dog and cat food
Simmons and Diamond are neither the best or the worst pet food manufacturers, but it is interesting to note that many pet food companies have chosen to cut ties with Diamond after their 2012 recalls, but 4health continues to use them as their manufacturer. For the size of the 4health brand, they have had several recalls. It is unlikely that Tractor Supply is performing any additional checks on their 4health foods, so it is entirely up to the manufacturers to maintain the quality control.
Emails containing questions to Tractor Supply took nearly two weeks to receive a boilerplate reply that did not answer any of our questions. Given that the emails were sent during unprecedented sales due to the coronavirus panic it is hard to place too much blame on the company. However, upon calling Tractor Supply customer service, we were told to call our local store, who then told us to call a different product-specific phone number. This phone was only maintained during normal business hours and even when calling during those hours it was recommended to leave a message.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, questions on the individual product pages for 4health foods were answered by Tractor Supply’s customer service. However, it appears that there is no longer anyone looking over these questions. Thanks to questions in the past, information such as phosphorus content can be found for many foods. However we were unable to get any information about copper content or ask any questions about the food at all.
The fact that questions cannot be answered about 4health is not a trivial issue. Imagine a veterinarian trying to call the company because of a pet that became ill from 4health and only getting an answering machine.
What Foods Does 4health Make?
4health has three lines of cat food, 4health Original, Grain-Free, Untamed, and Special Care. Special care targets health conditions such as urinary health and weight management. They make dry food, canned food and food in aluminum cups.
4health’s Wet Food Offerings
4health wet cat foods come in both pate and shredded textures. Proteins are typically chicken, turkey and/or fish, but other proteins such as duck and beef appear as well. Interestingly, cans come in both the standard 3 oz and 5.5 oz sizes as well as a 13.2 oz can. Some foods even come in a 7 oz can and others in a 3.5 oz tin.
4health Wet Food Nutrition Review
The first few ingredients in 4health wet cat food are meat and meat broths. This is a great start to a cat food . Meat is then typically, but not always, followed by a dried egg white or dried egg product. Eggs are a great way to increase animal proteins while enhancing the texture of the canned food.
Unfortunately, the majority of the formulas include a carbohydrate source, even though carbohydrates are not required for the production of canned cat food or for the nutrition of cats. Grain-free formulas, when a carbohydrate source is included, use potato starch or lentils. In other formulas, brewers rice, barley and peas can be seen.
Most of the 4health formulas only rely on meat to provide protein. However, the Untamed line of foods also includes pea protein. This is a cheap way to increase the protein of the food, but offers less nutritional value than meat due to the different amino acid composition. Interestingly, Untamed also uses an assortment of oils in the formulation. These include rapeseed oil, fish oil, and safflower oil. Although fish oil is a great ingredient to see in cat food due to its high omega-3s, rapeseed oil and safflower oil are pro-inflammatory and high in omega-6.
4health uses guar gum and carrageenan in order to thicken their cat foods. These are natural soluble fibers which help enhance the texture and palatability of the food.
Several formulas have ingredients such as carrots, cranberries, blueberries and apples. These ingredients appear low on the list and make up a very small portion of the food. It is unlikely that these ingredients bring much nutritional benefit and are instead added to make the ingredient list look more appealing to humans.
Some formulas of 4health include chicory root or inulin. Chicory root is a natural source of inulin, which is a prebiotic that helps keep cats’ guts healthy. Formulas may also include yucca schidigera extract, which is an ingredient that reduces the odor of feces in the litterbox.
Untamed 4health foods include sodium tripolyphosphate. This ingredient has a bad reputation because it can be used as a preservative in meat and seafood. However, this is not why it appears in cat food. The ingredient binds to calcium in the saliva and prevents dental tartar buildup. It easily breaks down and releases the calcium later in the digestive system.
The mineral supplement 4health uses is chelated. This is a higher-end type of supplement. The minerals are bound to amino acids, which makes them more readily absorbed by the body.
- Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates
Dry matter protein content of 4health wet cat foods ranges from 40% to 56%, with no obvious trends between different lines of foods. Dry matter fat content is around 25% on average. A single tuna flavored food has only 9% fat on a dry matter basis, but all of the other flavors sit much closer to the average.
Carbohydrate content in 4health wet cat foods varies significantly between flavors. Some varieties have as low as 1.8% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis (Grain-Free Chicken & Whitefish Dinner) while others have as high as 17% dry matter carbohydrate content. Overall, most of the foods have a dry matter carbohydrate percentage in the mid-teens. However, there are a handful of grain-free formulas which have no significant carbohydrate source and have a much lower content.
Levels of phosphorus are higher than ideal in 4health wet cat foods. On average, the foods have a dry matter phosphorus content of 1.6%. Due to the high rate of kidney disease in cats, it is best for cat foods to sit closer to 1.0% in dry matter phosphorus content. On the bright side, none of the 4health wet foods appear to have an extremely high phosphorus content, with foods ranging from 1.3% to 1.7%.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 and omega-6 content is listed on many of the 4health wet cat foods. Grain-free varieties are listed with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 10:1, but there are several grain-free flavors that do not have any values listed at all. Based on the ingredients, it is likely that these foods have a much higher ratio. Most other formulas are listed with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5:1.
Overall, omega-6 to omega-3 ratios should be 6:1 or less, so many of 4health foods meet this standard, which is great news. However, many flavors do not have a source of EPA or DHA omega-3s, but rely on flaxseed as their omega-3 source. Although flaxseed is healthy, it only provides ALA. Cats require all three types of omega-3s in their diet, and significant amounts of EPA and DHA only come from fish or fish oils.
4health’s Dry Food Offerings
There are nine varieties of 4health dry cat food. Proteins are primarily chicken or fish and special formulas focus on indoor cats, urinary health or weight management.
4health Dry Food Nutrition Review
Ingredients are listed by weight and the first ingredient in 4health foods is meat, followed by a meat meal. For example, the Original All-Life Stages food has “Chicken, Chicken Meal” listed. This is somewhat deceptive as chicken is weighed including its water weight, thus “artificially” making it the first ingredient. However, chicken meal is the dry weight, so chicken is in-fact the majority ingredient of this cat food.
Next on the ingredient list is a carbohydrate source. Although cats don’t need carbohydrates, dry kibbles require them in order to hold their shape. In the Original formulas white rice, peas, barley and potatoes are used. In the grain-free formulas garbanzo beans, lentils and/or peas are used. The formulas include multiple sources of carbohydrates, partially to split up the carbohydrate sources. It is likely that if there were a single carbohydrate in this food, it would be listed before the meats on the list.
Foods include salmon meal, ocean fish meal or salmon oil. This is a great source of EPA and DHA omega-3s. Foods also include flaxseed, which is a source of ALA omega-3s.
Unfortunately, some formulas include potato protein, which is a cheap way for 4health to increase the protein content of the food. However, the amino acid composition of potato protein makes it less valuable to cats and does not hold nearly as much nutritional value as meat proteins.
Foods include sodium bisulfate to help acidify urine and target the correct urine pH. This is essential in cats in order to prevent urinary stones. The fact that this ingredient is included shows that advanced techniques were used to formulate this food.
There are both probiotic bacteria and prebiotic ingredients, such as dried chicory root, included in the 4health foods. This is great for digestive health.
Again, many formulas include vegetables and fruits such as carrots, apples, tomatoes, blueberries and spinach. Considering how low these ingredients are on the list, they are unlikely to bring nutritional benefit but are instead used so that pictures of them can be used in the marketing material for 4health foods.
Finally, like the canned foods, 4health uses a chelated mineral mix. This means that minerals are more easily absorbed by your cat’s body because they are bound to amino acids.
- Calories, Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat
Calorie content of 4health foods range between 313 and 368 calories per a cup. This is a reasonable calorie count for a cat food. Additionally, the weight management food has only 288 calories per a cup, which is a significant reduction from the other foods in the 4health line.
The dry matter protein content ranges from 33% to 38%, with an average of 35% between flavors. Overall this is a relatively low protein content for a cat food, but still is well above the 26% legal minimum for adult cats. The dry matter fat content ranges from 10% to 20%, with an average of 16% between flavors.
The dry matter carbohydrate content ranges from 26% to 45%, with an average of 36% between flavors. These values mean that 4health ranges from reasonable carbohydrate content to fairly high carbohydrate content between formulas. One positive is that the weight loss formula has 35% carbohydrate content on a dry matter basis. While many weight loss formulas increase the carbohydrate content, which can lead to diabetes and issues metabolizing fat, 4health has done a good job of making a weight loss food which does not up the carbohydrate content compared to their other formulas.
The average dry matter phosphorus content in 4health foods is 1.3%, with a range from 1.0% to 1.8%. Overall this is a well controlled phosphorus level, although owners should be careful to avoid the flavors with higher phosphorus, such as “Grain-Free Whitefish.” Keeping phosphorus levels low is critically important, especially in dry cat food, due to the extremely high rate of kidney disease in cats.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
4health has really done a good job in providing enough omega-3s in their dry cat foods. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in the foods are all 6:1 or lower (with the exception of the weight loss food which has a ratio of 8:1). These values sit perfectly within the target omega-3 levels. All formulas also include a fish or fish oil and flaxseed in order to ensure that all three omega-3 types, ALA, EPA and DHA, are included in the diet.