Who Makes Pure Balance?
Pure Balance is Walmart’s generic brand of cat and dog food. The brand began in 2012 and is exclusively carried in Walmart stores.
Reviewing Pure Balance and Walmart as Brands
Company Know How
Walmart owns the Pure Balance brand, but does not manufacture the food. Walmart will not publicly say who makes their cat foods, but it is believed that Ainsworth (now owned by JM Smucker) makes the dry food and wet food cups, while Simmons makes the canned food.
Both Simmons and JM Smucker have animal nutritionists on staff to help formulate their foods. However, their focus on the nutrition of the products they make extends only as far as their customer (Walmart) is interested. It is unlikely that the food has undergone any feeding trials when it was formulated.
Walmart’s corporate mission is “to save people money so they can live better.” This also appears to be the goal of their Pure Balance pet food line. However, they have made an affordable pet food line by cutting many important costs associated with running a pet food, such as answering customer questions, testing the food with feeding trials and having a website with information about the food.
Considering how heavily Walmart relies on their contract manufacturers of this food, it may be more useful to look at the values of JM Smucker and Simmons. Both of these companies have raised the eyebrows of pet owners. JM Smucker has had many notable recalls which they would not reveal critical information. Simmons has had a facility in Oklahoma accused of relying entirely on forced labor.
Pure Balance Recalls
The Pure Balance Brand has not had any FDA recalls. Additionally, JM Smucker/Ainsworth has not had any dry food recalls since they started producing Pure Balance. Simmons has had a recall in 2017 for metal fragments in their canned dog and cat foods, but Pure Balance was not included in the recall.
The only recall in our research that came close to Pure Balance was a Ainsworth wet cup pet food product line in 2015. These foods had excess vitamin D, and although Pure Balance was not included in the recall, this was mostly due to luck, as the recalled foods used the same ingredients and manufacturing line as Pure Balance.
Ainsworth was a relatively higher quality pet food manufacturing facility, and likely remains so under the same management team and practices since being purchased by JM Smucker. Simmons is neither the best nor worst manufacturer, but on the scale Walmart requires it may have been their best option.
Transparency is by far the biggest downfall of Pure Balance cat foods. Despite multiple attempts at reaching out to the company, it was impossible to get any information about the foods. Email requests for information were ignored, despite an automated response saying someone would get back within 48 hours.
Calling the phone number listed on the packaging only brings an answering service of sorts. The call center employee requires the UPC and lot number information before they will answer any questions. This is impossible to provide without physically holding the food in your hand. This made asking about phosphorus levels in the different foods impossible. They also have no ability to answer most questions, but forward them on to the manufacturer who may or may not respond.
The only sign of transparency with Pure Balance foods is that occasionally the product page on walmart.com will have an answered question from the Pure Balance team.
What Foods Does Pure Balance Make?
Pure Balance has a modest size line of both wet and dry cat foods, but when we checked our local store, only two varieties of dry food were available and the store did not carry any Pure Balance wet cat foods. Food comes in several varieties including grain-free, high protein and indoor formulas. Proteins are chicken, turkey or salmon.
Pure Balance’s Wet Food Offerings
A to F
Wet foods are available in both cuts-in-gravy and pate textures. Foods are available only in the smaller 3 oz can size.
Pure Balance Wet Food Nutrition Review
Overall the ingredient list of the wet foods is relatively simple. The first two ingredients are meat and a meat broth. This shows a high meat content in the food.
The third ingredient is sweet potatoes or potatoes. These are simply fillers in the foods, as wet cat foods do not require a carbohydrate source.
Some recipes include flaxseed, which is an omega-3 source. Some recipes also include dried egg, which is a great protein-rich texture enhancer.
Pure Balance uses three types of natural thickeners in their wet foods: carrageenan gum, guar gum and cassia gum. These all enhance the texture of the food while providing soluble fiber.
Finally the mineral mix used in the wet cat foods is chelated. This means that the minerals are bound to amino acids and are more easily absorbed by your cat’s body. This is the gold standard in mineral supplements in pet food.
The dry matter protein content for Pure Balance wet cat foods is in the 41% to 50% range. The dry matter fat content is in the 22% to 27% range. Unfortunately, Walmart was unable to provide information on the carbohydrate content of the food. They also do not provide the ash content of the foods, so the carbohydrate content is impossible to accurately estimate, but it appears that the dry matter carbohydrate content is under 25%.
We were unable to obtain any phosphorus information from Walmart.
A few of the Pure Balance wet cat foods actually list their omega-3 and omega-6 content. These foods have a 5:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This is an excellent level of omega-3s. Some foods contain ingredients such as salmon and flaxseed, while others have no omega-3 source at all. So the omega-3 content of Pure Balance wet cat foods ranges from very good to very poor.
Pure Balance’s Dry Food Offerings
A- to F
Dry foods come in three main lines, High-Protein Grain-Free, “Classic” Pure Balance, and Wild & Free. “Classic” Pure Balance is available in both Indoor and regular varieties.
Pure Balance Dry Food Nutrition Review
The first ingredient in the dry foods is a meat, such as salmon and chicken, followed by a meat meal, such as chicken or lamb. Although ingredients such as “Salmon” are measured including their moisture content, “meals” are dried meat, so seeing them high in the ingredient list shows that the meat truly is the first ingredient.
Following the meat ingredients, Pure Balance formulas have a mixture of carbohydrates. In grain-free formulas these are peas, tapioca starch and/or potatoes. Grain-inclusive formulas have many carbohydrate sources, including chickpeas, barkley, sorghum, brown rice and peas. The fact that there are several carbohydrate ingredients indicates that there is a large amount of plant material in these foods.
Unfortunately, formulas also use plant proteins, such as potato protein and pea protein. These protein sources have a poor amino acid composition and are less readily used by cats. Plant proteins are a cheap way to increase the protein content of the food without providing much nutritional benefit.
Many formulas have added fiber sources, which will help keep cats full. These ingredients include beet pulp, brewers yeast, and pea fiber.
Sunflower oil is used in some formulas, which is not ideal. This oil is rich in pro-inflammatory fats and has a high omega-6 content.
Finally, Pure Balance is inconsistent on their mineral mixes they use with the food. It appears that higher-end formulas do in fact use chelated minerals, while the regular formulas do not.
The calorie count in Pure Balance dry cat foods ranges from 300 to 450 calories per a cup. Although the indoor formulas appear to have a reasonable calorie count, most of the flavors sit much closer to the 450 calories per a cup range. This is fairly high for a dry cat food.
The dry matter protein content of the foods ranges from 36% to 44%, with an average of 42% between all of the flavors. Dry matter fat content ranges from 10% to 20%, with an average of 17% between all of the flavors. Unfortunately, we do not know the carbohydrate content of Pure Balance foods, as they were unable to respond to requests for information. The protein and fat content is relatively high, but it is impossible to say where carbohydrates sit at for this food. This makes it extremely difficult to determine the meat content of the food.
Again, Walmart was not able to provide the phosphorus content information for their foods. A single dry matter phosphorus content for the chicken and brown rice formula was found in the question and answer section online, indicating 1.6% phosphorus in the food. This is a fairly high level of phosphorus for a cat food.
Many dry foods list a minimum of 0.8% phosphorus, but this is clearly a very low estimation for the phosphorus content. True phosphorus levels are much higher.
Omega-3 and omega-6 levels are reported in the guaranteed analysis for the majority of the Pure Balance foods. Formulas appear to all have a source of EPA and DHA omega-3s, which must come from fish oil or fish meal. Despite this, the omega-3 content listed on the label varies greatly.
Ideally omega-6 to omega-3 ratios should be 6:1 or lower. The ratio for Pure Balance recipes ranges from the extremely poor 50:1 to the nearly adequate 7:1.