Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Natural Cat Food Throwdown: Natura Pet Products Enters the Arena

Natura Pet Products brought out their star fighter for the Natural Cat Food Throwdown. Don Scott, President of Natura, answered my questions about the company’s green initiatives and also about the ingredients in their EVO canned cat food. He even included a little cheeky reference to the Throwdown in his email response.

In case you’re not up to date on the Natural Cat Food Throwdown, Furball’s holistic vet recommended a number of high protein natural cat foods to help control his struvite crystals. I decided to contact the manufacturers to ask them some tough green questions about their products and practices. Based on the results, I’ll shortlist contenders to make it to Round 2, which is Furball’s finicky palate.

Mr. Scott’s response was by far, one of the longest. Here’s the text of the letter, but if you only want to read  the Throwdown summary, you can jump straight to the Judge’s Verdict.

Dear Holly,

Thank you for your interest in Natura Pet Products and the EVO brand of cat food. We understand your concerns and are happy to answer your questions.

Could you please tell me where your product is manufactured in terms of the ingredients and the processing?
All Natura Pet Products dry cat foods are produced at our own manufacturing facility in Fremont, Nebraska. Under supervision by Natura quality control personnel and utilizing the same quality management standards as in our own dry food manufacturing plant, Natura’s canned cat foods are manufactured by Menu Foods exclusively at its Emporia, Kansas facility.

By controlling all aspects of our production processes, Natura can be sure each and every bite of our pet food is manufactured with the strictest standards for quality, safety, reliability and consistency.  Natura provides a virtual tour of our manufacturing facility at www.naturapet.com, showcasing our commitment to breaking the transparency barrier between the manufacturer and the consumer.

Where are your products sourced?
Recently, Natura announced that every ingredient used in our healthful formulas is sourced from trusted non-Chinese suppliers, including certain vitamins and supplements which had previously been available only from China. This pertains to all of Natura’s dry, wet and baked pet products. At this time, we are the only pet food manufacturer that we are aware of that can make this claim.

Natura also guarantees that every fresh ingredient used in our formulas are sourced from trusted U.S. suppliers that meet strict guidelines for safety and quality control. To ensure product safety, Natura has taken the extra step to validate the origin of each ingredient used in our formulas.

What quality control programs do you have in place? [I didn't actually ask this question, but can appreciate how they inserted it into the response]
Natura became the first pet food company in the industry to test and guarantee that all of its products are free from melamine and cyanuric acid, and our Quality Control Programs have received numerous certifications by the most respected food safety and quality control agencies and auditing firms in the United States, including a “Superior” rating from the American Institute of Baking, USDA Organic production certification, and registration with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Natura has received certification of conformance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for Food Safety Management 22000:2005. Natura is the only pet food manufacturer in the United States to receive this superior distinction. Natura also previously achieved and retains its ISO 9001:2001 certification.

All of this is backed by a team of dedicated and highly trained professionals including two board-certified veterinary nutritionists: Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (DACVN) and Sally Perea, DVM, MS, DACVN.

Are any of your products outsourced to other companies?
Yes, all of our canned products are manufactured by Menu Foods in their Emporia, Kansas facility.

Are any of your foods made by Menu Foods?
Natura Pet Products canned pet foods are manufactured by Menu Foods at its Emporia, Kansas facility. Natural nutrition, ingredient selection, product design, quality, and food safety are essential tenets of all Natura products. Natura, together with Menu Foods, developed and follows a robust quality management program which fully mirrors the quality programs Natura employs in our own manufacturing plants. A Positive Release protocol including proof of full compliance with analytical guarantees and organoleptic standards, as well as confirmation of quality and production data are components of the program. Every production lot is approved by Natura prior to final release.  Members of Natura’s Quality team conduct monthly quality and food safety audits of Menu’s facility to assure Natura’s strict quality standards are met.

No Natura canned or dry products were implicated in the 2007 pet food recalls.

What are you doing to adopt greener business practices?
Natura is proud to be on the forefront of the pet food industry’s efforts to be eco-friendly. Within the last year Natura has engaged in many green initiatives.

  • One of the biggest changes included making the switch to hybrid cars for the company’s corporate and sales team. By using hybrids, Natura reduced our yearly gas consumption by 2,000 gallons – a decrease of 30% – which cuts automobile pollution and produces a measurable reduction in CO2 emissions, and smog, while conserving natural resources.
  • To reduce paper consumption, the company had moved much of our communications online to NaturaPet.com and NaturaVet.com. Other advances include the usage of PCW (post consumer waste) paper and vegetable-based inks in print marketing materials, along with the replacement of plastic trade show bags with re-usable bags made from recycled content.
  • By utilizing a large percentage of fresh ingredients, Natura’s ingredients involve less processing – resulting in a significant reduction in energy consumption. This also helps Natura ensure that not only are the ingredients safe, but that they deliver the all-natural nutrition animal companions require.
  • We have continued to reduce our carbon footprint by adding a state-of-the-art videoconferencing system to minimize air travel between our California and Nebraska offices, similarly cutting down on fuel consumption and pollution.
  • In construction of our new Davis, CA, office, we required the building be pre-wired for solar panel usage in the future. The facility also incorporates energy star equipment wherever possible, many bike racks to encourage bicycle commuting, lots of low E windows to allow for natural lighting as well as operable windows to allow for fresh air, motion sensing light switches to turn fluorescent lights off automatically when not in use, and employs many water conserving features including drip irrigation and a large bioswell to handle runoff water onsite.

As your veterinarian has recommended, a grain-free, high protein, low carbohydrate diet may be the correct nutritional choice for your cat. EVO Cat and Kitten dry kibble, EVO Cat and Kitten canned food, and EVO 95% meat canned foods can provide your cat with the benefits of a grain-free, high protein, low carbohydrate diet without the safety concerns of feeding a raw diet. Each bag of EVO Cat and Kitten dry formula contains an industry leading 88% protein-rich meat and dairy content plus 11% fruits and vegetables.

Thank you,

Don Scott
President
Natura Pet Products


THE JUDGE’S VERDICT

I had originally written off Natura because I hadn’t heard back from them and wrote a post about it.  However, their PR people are right on top of things because they contacted me within hours of the post going live.  They told me that Don Scott had written back to me, but if I hadn’t received his message, to let them know and they would resend it.  I dug around my spam folder and did indeed find his message.

I have to admit I was impressed with the lengthy response on letterhead (in PDF), organized by question, and finished off with a signature from Don Scott.  The large glossy JPGs included with the email also set the stage favourably.  The added touch was Mr. Scott’s reference to Furball and the Throwdown.

Setting aside aesthetics and first impressions, I read through the content and concluded that quality control and food safety is a priority for Natura Pet Products, and that they do care about being green.  Here’s the pros vs. cons summary:

Pluses:

  • All fresh ingredients are sourced in the U.S. and Natura validates the origin of each ingredient used in their formulas
  • Natura tests and guarantee that all of its products are free from melamine and cyanuric acid
  • Natura has made significant company-wide efforts to be more green such as:
    • Switching to hybrid cars for the company’s corporate and sales teams
    • Using marketing materials made from post-consumer waste, vegetable-based inks and handing out reusable bags made from recycled content at trade shows
    • Installing videoconferencing to cut down on travel between offices
    • New office in California is built to be eco-friendly: pre-wired for solar panel usage in the future, energy efficient equipment and windows, lots of bike storage to encourage bike commuting, motion sensitive fluorescent lights, and water conserving features including drip irrigation and a large bioswell to handle runoff water onsite.

Minuses:

  • Canned food is processed by Menu Foods in their Kansas facility.  This is one of those “mixed bag” items.  On one hand, the food is processed in the U.S. and this plant wasn’t involved in the pet food recall of 2007.  On the other hand, Menu Foods is a giant corporation that processes most of the canned pet food available in the U.S.

Conclusion:

My biggest concern with EVO is that it’s processed by Menu Foods.  However, once you do some digging, you’ll discover that Menu Foods is everywhere and most companies use them. Natura Pet Products is one of the largest natural pet food manufacturers.  Although I do tend to favour smaller, more local business, I recognize that the bigger players have a crucial role in greening the pet industry.  In some cases, they can actually be more green because the larger scale of their operations results in greater efficiencies (eg. efficient distribution networks).  They can also wield more influence by leading the way in eco-friendly practices and showing that going green is profitable.

Furball and I have the good fortune to live in California where there is a plethora of choice for green, earth-mother, tree-hugging, granola-y products and services.  However, if you don’t have this selection available where you live,  Natura Pet Products may be the best choice for you.  Because of its size, their products are  widely distributed.  There’s a handy store locator on their website at: http://www.naturapet.com/where-to-buy/default.asp.

Natura Pet Products is making genuine efforts to be more eco-friendly and not just giving lip service to being green.  Their EVO canned cat food comes in a couple of poultry flavours and since the only other contender, Tiki Cat, is all about the fish, EVO makes it to next round of the Natural Cat Food Throwdown.  Stay tuned to see who Furball declares the winner!

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