The Natural Cat Food ThrowdownOn the Stage: Nature’s Variety

Instinct by Nature’s Variety is the next contender in the Natural Cat Food Throwdown.  I emailed a shortlist of natural pet food manufacturers to find out how eco-friendly they are. The most thoughtful and eco-friendly company will be selected as Furball’s new food of choice to help control his struvite crystals.

I sent the emails on Friday, May 1st and a customer service rep from Nature’s Variety wrote back on Monday morning.  Here’s the email I received:

Dear Holly,

Thanks for emailing!

All the animals used in NV diets are raised and slaughtered according to government regulations of humane care and handling. The meat and organs in our raw do not contain any added antibiotics or growth hormones. The meat and organs are from animals inspected and deemed fit for human consumption. Moreover, the fruits and vegetables are the same fruits and vegetables sold in local grocery stores.

All poultry (organic chicken, regular chicken, organic turkey, and regular turkey) are raised in large, long barns with open access. They are free to roam about while still being protected from the elements. They are not in cages. The pigs are also raised in large houses with freedom to move about. They are not in cages. Beef, lamb, and deer (venison) are raised outside on large pastures. They are not confined to small corrals. The rabbits are housed in hutches because rabbits will fight and injure one another unless separated from one another.

All animals are raised on vegetarian diets. The organic chickens and turkeys are fed an organic vegetarian feed.

Our organic chicken diet is certified organic by a third party. It uses 100% organic ingredients.

Our manufacturers are considered proprietary information, we do not release specific information like this. We can tell you that all of our diets are manufactured here in the U.S. Our kibble in Texas, our canned in Kansas and our raw diet in Nebraska.

Sincerely,

Customer Service

THE JUDGE’S VERDICT

My first impression was that this was a mixed response of positives and negatives.  The organic ingredients were great, but I’m still a little unsure of the manufacturing process, which as an environmentalist, I believe is just as important as the ingredients.  As well, the issue of a green policy seemed to be skirted over and the response was more geared towards addressing animal cruelty.  Overall, this response left me with more questions.  I was rating responses in terms of pluses and minuses, but I need to make a new category for this response: Mixed Bag.

Mixed Bag

  • Meat used in Raw Diets product does not contain added antibiotics or growth hormones, but no mention of whether this holds true for Instinct canned food.  Looking at their website, Instinct does not tout “natural ingredients” like Raw Diets does.
  • Pigs and chickens are not confined to cages.  Cows and deer are raised outside in pastures.  Animals are “raised and slaughtered according to government regulations of humane care and handling”.  Well, I’ve seen Fast Food Nation and read John Robbins’ The Food Revolution.  Simply meeting government regulations doesn’t make me sleep soundly at night.
  • Manufacturing facilities are located in the U.S., but did not answer whether or not Menu Foods makes their products

Pluses

  • Human-grade ingredients
  • All animals are raised on vegetarian diets

Minuses

  • No mention of comapny’s green or environmental policies
  • “Our manufacturers are considered proprietary information, we do not release specific information like this.”  This makes me wonder if Menu Foods is one of their vendors.  My reasoning is that if a company had nothing to do with Menu Foods, they would say so.

I really had too many questions after receiving this email, so I decided to do a bit more digging.  I find the magic Google phrase to search for is the pet food manufacturer’s name PLUS the phrase “recall”.  This usually brings up any dirt, although you do need to take it with a grain of salt as not all information on the Internet is accurate or backed with facts.

I found some interesting comments to this 2007 post on the Gothamist where people claimed that Nature’s Variety was associated with Menu Foods, but that their products were not affected by the recall.  Nature’s Variety did tell me that their canned food was manufactured in Kansas.  Hmm, looking at the Menu Foods site, I found that they have a manufacturing facility in Emporia, Kansas.  I also know that they make a lot of the canned foods for many pet food brands, even the organic ones.

Another trick in the bag that I use to get to the bottom of things, is to trace the corporate lineage.  There are a lot of large companies portraying themselves as “ma pop” local businesses.  The smaller lines may have started out that way and then be bought out by a conglomerate.  One sign is that the website looks too slick.  Often, they’ll list the parent company in the small text at the bottom of the site.  In this case, I couldn’t find a parent company until I looked at where the email came from, which was miindustries.com.

There wasn’t much information on their website other than, “M.I. Industries offers a wide variety of protein based pet treats for the rapidly expanding natural market. We market our products under several of our own brands. M.I. Industries was established more than 25 years ago on a foundation of customer-driven quality, innovation, integrity and superior service. Today, these elements continue to define how we serve our customers.” Well, I know that natural pet food was definitely not considered an “industry” 25 years ago. Even natural people food was very grassroots back then.

CONCLUSION

For me, there were too many questions that went unanswered.  Instinct by Nature’s Variety is out of contention!

For more info on Nature’s Variety: http://www.naturesvariety.com/instinct_cat_can

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Green Little Cat is the only blog that's all about eco-friendly ideas for cats and cat lovers. This blog is a labor of love, created by Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys.