Choosing a pet food for a beloved animal is one of the most important choices we make for our furry friends and, in my opinion, it should not be taken lightly. Making an informed pet food choice and being happy with the selection we make for our pets demands that we have a working knowledge of how pet food is made, where the ingredients are sourced, and how the food is both cooked and processed.

Details like these are crucial to making a pet food selection that is founded in logic rather than based on TV ads and self-promotional marketing.

Food transparency is extremely important to me. In general, the more transparent a pet food company is with us, their customers, the better. Transparency provides the information we consumers need to validate and confirm the ingredient and nutrition claims between one product and another.

When it comes to transparency we want to know what's in the pet food.
  • What do the first 10 ingredients consist of – meat and whole foods?
  • Is it real meat? Is it fresh meat? On the ingredients label, we want to see chicken, not chicken by-products.
  • We want pet foods that are free of chemicals and artificial preservatives like ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, and artificially made vitamins.
  • We do not want to see ingredient splitting.
What is ingredient splitting? This is a deceptive practice of subdividing more abundant yet inferior- quality ingredients into smaller portions.

As we consumers have become more aware of the importance of real, fresh meat and fish in our pet’s food, many of us have made it a habit to flip over the bag and check the ingredient panel to make sure we see meat as the #1 ingredient. But this may not be enough.

Some less than transparent makers manipulate the ingredient information so meat is the #1 ingredient – but when you dig deeper into the panel, you see that it’s not. When I see this questionable ploy being used to artificially raise a specific meat item to a higher position on the ingredients list and lower a substandard one, I know these companies are not being transparent.

Here’s how it’s done: Dog food ingredients are listed by weight and this can allow a pet food company to take a formula of chicken and peas, and have the first few ingredients look like this: chicken, peas, pea flour, pea protein, pea paste, etc. By breaking peas down into different categories and forms, the weight of the peas can be divided into four, leaving the meat ingredient the number one ingredient, when in reality it sits further down the list. It’s more like a 4:1 ratio of peas to chicken. I find this is very deceptive to Pet Lovers.

My fellow Transparency Council members and I participated in an informative session with those responsible with making Champion Petfoods.

When I applied to become a Pet Lover representative on the Champion Transparency Council, I wrote about all of these concerns in the pet food industry. And that’s why I was really excited to be selected for the council and to tour their kitchen, meet their personnel and talk with their suppliers.

Having Champion open their doors and show me how the food is cooked and made demonstrates they are being transparent to their pet-loving customers. Learning more about all aspects of their pet food shows me that they are being transparent about the quality ingredients that go into cooking and making their pet foods.

Having toured Champion’s DogStar Kitchen and seeing both the fresh and raw ingredients they use to cook their pet food or make their raw formulas was a real treat and a testament to how they want to be transparent with Pet Lovers everywhere and how they follow their BAFRINO (Biologically Appropriate Regional Ingredients Never Outsourced) mission. It reassured me that when they say fresh meat on the food label, I know that's what's actually in the bag.

DogStar Kitchen Manager, David Ruch, showed us how fresh proteins are handled in the refrigerated area.

During our first meeting at the DogStar Kitchen, we had the opportunity to visit one of their suppliers of catfish.

I saw how they catch their fish and handle it. The fish is caught fresh out of the lake and humanely. The fish are all-natural and delivered fresh daily to be used in cooked or freeze-dried pet food. This makes me confident that the fish is free of chemicals and artificial preservatives. When a pet food is made from real meats and fresh ingredients, the majority of vitamins and minerals are naturally in the pet food.

Champion cooks and makes all their recipes in house and are never outsourced.

Being out on the boat with Champion’s catfish suppliers to watch how they catch, select and handle the fish gave me a fresh perspective.

When I toured the kitchen, I witnessed how Champion’s pet food is cooked at a low temperature of 90 degree Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) instead of hot and fast at temperatures of 120 to 160 degrees Celsius (248 to 320 degrees Fahrenheit) – or in their raw formulas freeze-dried.

When a pet food is cooked at a high temperature it creates HCA and PAHs (heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) Theses occur when creatine and amino acids (both found in meat) react together with the heat at temperatures over 100 Celsius.

Basically, the hotter and longer meat is cooked, the more HCAs and PAHs are created. Raw food or food cooked at low temperatures (like at Champion), don’t contain HCAs or PAHs. This is why having a pet food company be transparent about how they make and cook their pet food is very important to me.

I hope this inspires you to check your pet food’s ingredient label and nutrition panel. Or visit a brand’s website to learn more about how they source, process, and make the foods you’re feeding your pet.

Like me, you might find the most important pet food ingredient of all is Transparency.
Asking questions during the DogStar Kitchen tour and getting straight-forward answers was an indicator to me of how Champion operates with transparency.
Taking your pet’s food seriously is an important responsibility. I’m pleased to have this opportunity to serve my fellow Pet Lovers on the Transparency Council and share what I’ve learned with you.
About April Scott

April Scott is an avid Pet Lover from Ontario, Canada. Having had a puppy with unknown food sensitivities, April devoted herself to researching and better understanding the connection between quality food ingredients and her dog’s better health and wellbeing.



Is Champion Earning Our Trust?