Caution: Private Label Manufacturing in Pet Food Industry

Pet food can be made by the company itself but many times brands will hire manufacturing facilities to make their foods. These companies are called “co-packers” or “private label manufacturers. Some of the larger companies are Diamond, Alphia (formerly American Nutrition and CJ Foods), and Simmons. I make a point of tracking the quality records and business decisions of these companies, as they are very often sources of recalls. 

I have had the experience of touring pet food manufacturing plants. I know first-hand how important management’s and employee’s roles are in maintaining quality and safety standards. When a brand doesn’t make their own food, it can be very difficult to research what kind of standards are being followed behind the scenes. 

For example, both Simmons and American Nutrition (now Alphia after merging with CJ Foods in 2020) have a mid-tier reputation. I would be more concerned about brands made in these plants as opposed to manufacturers with better quality records. 

Another large manufacturer, Diamond, has several manufacturing plants. They have also had a few recalls due to salmonella. These recalls were traced to a single plant in South Carolina. This shows that even plant-to-plant management differences within a company can greatly affect the safety of pet food. 

JM Smucker purchased Ainsworth Pet Nutrition in 2018 (the makers of Rachel Ray’s Nutrish and many other brands). JM Smucker already had 5 manufacturing locations for pet food. This purchase nearly doubled their capacity by adding a Meadville, PA, facility and a Frontenac, KS, facility to their portfolio.

Of important note, it is extremely common for wet cat foods to be made in Thailand. Wet cat food manufacturing in Thailand grew out of the tuna canning industry for human consumption and is considered as safe, sometimes safer, than manufacturing in the United States. Thailand has a very good track record of safety and quality in pet food.

Jaimee Alsing, an animal nutritionist, holds a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University, where she focused her coursework heavily on animal nutrition. She founded a small award-winning company, Colorado Care Co., which formulated and produced all-natural hermit crab and reptile food. Having worked in the industry, she understands that a lot can be hidden behind a label and strives to do extensive research beyond the ingredient list. For every article Alsing writes, she devotes a significant amount of time to researching each pet food company.

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