In 2007, veterinarians started to notice a surge in dogs and cats suffering kidney failure. If you’ve had to watch a pet go through this illness, you know it’s a terrible way to go. Kidney failure causes a domino effect of health issues in pets. Dogs or cats who are otherwise happy will suddenly lose their appetite. As the disease progresses they may be unable to control their urination or be tormented by vomiting or diarrhea. Ultimately they become lethargic and depressed as poison racks their bodies.
It’s tragic if a pet accidentally ingests something poisonous, and develops kidney disease. But it’s many times more heartbreaking when a pet owner buys what he or she thought was safe dog food from a reputable company, only to find out that the food contained poison.
And that’s exactly what happened that year. As early as December 2006, Canadian pet food company Menu Foods started receiving reports of sick pets. By March 2007, they realized something was terribly wrong; as many as 1 in 6 pets began to die after consuming their products containing wheat gluten. In the coming months, over 8,500 pet deaths were reported to the FDA, and many more deaths probably went unreported.
Veterinarians were stumped. Scientists tried to figure out what happened to cause this rash of kidney failure in animals. They found that these foods contained a high level of melamine in the wheat gluten and rice protein that was used for the food. And Menu Foods was just the tip of the iceberg.
Melamine is an industrial chemical used in manufacturing plastics or as fertilizer, but it doesn’t have any remotely legitimate use as a food ingredient. Because melamine is high in nitrogen, it does cause protein tests to be artificially high, so it’s probable that this was intentionally being added to manipulate testing, allowing these suppliers to cut corners by lessening their legitimate and more expensive protein sources (in fact, horrifically, this was being done to domestic milk and infant formula for human consumption in China during that time).
But melamine by itself isn’t necessarily a dangerous substance, so the mystery remained of why pets were dying. A few months later, the International Herald Tribune reported another practice that animal feed producers in China had of illicitly acquiring a chemical called cynauric acid. Adding this chemical to their food, it turns out, would also cause the protein levels of their food to appear higher in testing.
When melamine is combined with cynauric acid, that resulted in a deadly combination. The combination resulted in crystals forming which were “extremely insoluble”, clogged up the tubules within the animals’ urinary tracts, and ultimately blocked blood flow and caused the cells in the kidney to die, leading to organ failure.
In short, companies in China had no regard for basic decency nor the lives of the animals who ingested their ingredients. All that mattered to them was to be the lowest bidder in supplying North American pet food companies, even if it meant cheating and cutting corners. And to their shame, even the biggest names in pet food fell for the trap. They assumed that these companies in China had scruples. But they didn’t. 60 years of Communist rule removed morality and any respect for life—animal or human—from their society.
Tragically, even consumers who went out of their way to buy pet food that was “made in the USA” weren’t safe. That’s because Menu Foods produced its dog food out of plants in Kansas and New Jersey, and so they could say that their food was made in the USA, even though they had used tainted wheat gluten from China.
Once this was discovered it triggered a mass recall as pet food companies voluntarily recalled more than 150 brands of pet food, brands that included such well-known names as Hills, Purina, Blue Buffalo, Natural Balance, and many more. While their PR companies pitched this to the public as “an overabundance of caution”, the reality is that they were probably just doing major CYA; after all, if they voluntarily recalled their own pet food, they could avoid people scrutinizing their own sloppy sourcing practices.
Of course, the Chinese Communist Party denied any wrongdoing on their part while all this was going on. Even though reports of sick animals had started since February 2007, they refused to let the US Food and Drug Administration into the country to inspect facilities (does that sound familiar to anyone who remembers the first few months of 2020?). They claimed they had not exported any wheat gluten to the US, and basically lied. It wasn’t until months later, after American scientists had discovered the smoking gun that pointed to China, that they finally let inspectors in, after thousands of animals had died.
I wish I could say that this caused major reforms to how pet food ingredients are sourced. But as this veterinarian noted in 2017, in 10 years there have been no progress made to the FDA’s standards for pet food ingredients and labeling requirements, despite legislation requiring them to do so.
The big pet food brands scrambled to improve–their public relations. But very few stopped sourcing from China. Today, most major pet food manufacturers, including Natural Balance, Hills, Mars Petcare, and Purina still source from China or say that they “source globally” (which means they source from China).
As an example of how they tap dance around the question, Purina posted a page to their Web site talking about how “99% of their food is made in the USA” and how they “source most of our ingredients in the USA too”. But words like “most”, provide no details and no transparency. In fact, as of this writing the one link on that page that promises more detail goes to a broken page.
Why didn’t they change and resolve to change their sources back to countries other than China?
Very simply, like the rest of corporate America, executives at these companies willfully put blinders on. They buried their heads in the sand and hoped that companies in China would magically reform themselves. Or if that didn’t happen, they hoped that American consumers would just forget all about 2007.
American corporations aren’t the only ones who can play the public relations machine. The Chinese Communist Party now uses their official state propaganda to attack pet food manufacturers who are pledging not to source ingredients from China, calling them xenophobic and racist. And muckraking journalists in the West are aiding and abetting them. Ironically, smaller, independent pet food brands may be able to sustain this, but big corporations will always cave.
The most recent example was an attack in 2018 by China’s official Communist Party paper, the People’s Daily. They attacked a family-run pet food company after it had the temerity to advertise that its ingredients did not come from China and–even more “offensively”–called for China to free Tibet.
It’s a situation we see playing out in other industries. In my post about the best laptop not made in China, you can read about how the Communist Youth League in China terrorized Gigabyte Technologies for daring to market that their made-in-Taiwan laptop was of higher quality than cheap laptops in China. Gigabyte was shamed on social media into not just removing their marketing material, but to either give a groveling apology or face all of their products being wiped out from all of China’s e-commerce sites.
Over the years, the CCP propaganda machine has intimidated companies like Marriott and Mercedes Benz into offering groveling apologies for even just “liking” Tweets and Instagram posts that the CCP didn’t agree with. And of course, we all remember the embarrassing displays put on my LeBron James and John Cena, who will always be branded as sellouts.
This is how bullies work, and this is something that no consumer should stand for, especially given that China has never paid a price for the thousands of pets they killed in 2007, and many more that probably happened after that once China’s PR machine kicked in to obfuscate further abuses.
How do you fight it? Find pet food companies that source 0% of their supply chain from China. And let the big brands know that you will never forget 2007.
To put together this list I tried to find dog food companies that were transparent about their sourcing. The problem with most big dog food brands is that they seem to think that it’s better to speak in generalities than to give specifics. So you’ll see a lot of “made in the USA from globally sourced ingredients”. But remember, the debacle in 2007 was due to food that fit that exact description.
So I first looked for brands that explicitly and proactively stated that no ingredients come from China, or if they did, were transparent in explaining exactly why and to what extent. The brands I avoided? Those who use PR tricks and weasel words to obfuscate the extent to which they outsource to China.
Note that I steered clear of “raw” and freeze-dried raw diets; I have some training in pet nutrition, and most experts I know agree that with raw diets there’s a risk of salmonella, listeria, or E. coli, even if ingredients for raw diets are produced domestically. That said, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind the risks of raw food or know a trusted supplier, there are plenty of options for brands made and sourced in the USA (ironically, the very traits that make raw food risky are the very traits that weed out China as a potential supplier). Here’s an excellent site that lays out a lot of US-made options that include raw and freeze dried and keeps its list pretty up-to-date. For my list, I started by finding popular brands that at least once in its history had made an explicit promise of not sourcing any ingredients from China. I reached out to each to see what its stand is in 2021. Since this is probably one of their most common questions most of their customer service teams have ready-made responses, cleared by their legal teams. It’s this response that you need to read carefully. If they clearly state that still no ingredients are sourced from China, great.
If they’re specific about which ingredients come from China and why, that’s good. But if they beat around the bush and avoid specifics, they didn’t make the list.
Here are some examples. NUTRO had been on many “best not made in China” lists earlier in its history. But when I wrote to them, their reply was as follows:
Mars Petcare US carefully sources ingredients for the health and well-being of the pets we feed. We’re committed to sourcing ingredients from suppliers near our manufacturing facilities, located in the US and Canada, when possible. Our vitamins and minerals often come from China, as that is often one of the only locations to source these ingredients globally, similar to human foods.
Rest assured, we are confident in the ingredient integrity of our suppliers because they consistently demonstrate the ability to meet the rigorous standards of our own Supplier Quality Assurance program, regardless of where they are located. As a key part of this program, our suppliers undergo frequent quality audits and visits from our own associates.
Read between the lines here. They’re never specific with exactly what ingredients they source from China (they mention their “vitamins and mineral”, but note they never give specifics). Worse, their response is filled with words that are supposed to engender trust, like “carefully”, “committed”, “confident”, “rigorous”, and so on. But again, there’s nothing backed up with specifics.
They talk a lot of “quality assurance” but steer clear of acknowledging other concerns that real pet owners like you and I have. What repercussions does a big company like Mars Petcare outsourcing to China have on the overall supply chain? What are the environmental and human rights records of the suppliers they use? Are they really “committed to sourcing ingredients near the US and Canada”, or are they just saying that to get us to shut up? Without facts to back up their claims, they’re just weasel words.
Similarly, I reached out to Wellness, another brand that after 2007 was often cited as one of the brands that fastidiously avoided China. Here was their response.
Specifically for Chinese ingredients, we do source our Green Tea Extract, Mixed Tocopherols and may source some our vitamins and minerals from China. We feel that we have the appropriate quality programs in place at all our vendor locations and feel safe and secure with all the ingredients we source, whether they are sourced locally or globally.
They’re a bit better than Mars in that they provide some specifics, but you can also see them getting vague when they say things like they “may source some (of) our vitamins and minerals from China”. Let’s put it this way—if you read this in 2007, what would your reaction be?
Taste of the Wild is another brand that is often cited as a brand that used to do its best to avoid ingredients from China. But here’s the response I got from them.
There are ingredients that are critical to our formulations (i.e. folic acid and taurine) that can only be sourced out of China. Our choice is to either include these ingredients or manufacture our foods without them, which would not be in the best interest of your pet, in our view. Some pet food companies are making “China-Free” claims despite the facts I’ve outlined above. They accomplish this by utilizing a loophole in European law. European laws allow for ingredients purchased outside their continent, then reprocessed in Europe, to be labeled with European origin. We could likewise hide behind that loophole in the law, and tell you what you want to hear, but choose not to for obvious reasons. I’d rather you not feed our foods than to tell you they are China-free, when they are not.
I do appreciate their attempts to be transparent here, but again instead of specifics they speak in generalities (“there are ingredients that are critical to our formulations that can only be sourced out of China”) and try to deflect the blame by pointing other brands’ bad behavior to justify their own.
Do you see the problem here? Huge manufacturers like Diamond, Purina, and Mars are the very ones who establish supply chains and have huge influence over them—with their combined buying power they could push for entire new and diversified supply chains anywhere in the world.
Instead, they keep going back like hungry pigs to the never ending trough of China suppliers. When they’re confronted about it they throw their hands up and play the victim, claiming that they have no choice but to draw from the very supply chains that they themselves let (and encouraged) China dominate in the first place. You’d think that 2007 would have been a wake up call to all these brands to never again trust China. But you’d be wrong.
But happily I did find a few brands that are still making a real effort to avoid China. This takes immense courage on their parts, not because they are exposing themselves to the CCP attack machine, but also because those dozens and dozens of brands that did sell out to China will invariably out-compete them on price by using cheaper quality products in their food. But you do get what you pay for. These companies deserve our support and the support of anyone who loves their pets and understands that even if they need to pay a few more dollars, their return is much higher knowing their pet gets better quality food, that they are supporting workers and communities not in China, and that they are supporting principled companies who are not putting their pets at risk by dealing with Communist China.
Does Stella and Chewy source from China?“Our ingredients are sourced in the U.S. except for Lamb which is sourced from New Zealand.” After vitamin/mineral follow up, Evolve sent an attachment which provided full disclosure of all country of origin of ingredients including China, Japan, France, and Germany.
Is Stella and Chewy human grade?
Wholesome, nutritious, and 100% human-grade recipes cooked in small batches.
In 2017, Chewy was acquired by PetSmart for $3.35 billion, which was the largest ever acquisition of an e-commerce business at the time. … Chewy (company)
|Total assets||US$1.7 billion (2021)|
|Number of employees||18,500 (2021)|
Where is Stella and Chewy manufactured?
Stella & Chewy’s, LLC proudly manufactures all of our frozen and freeze-dried raw pet food products in Oak Creek, WI. We utilize state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and processes that assure high quality and nutritious foods for your pet.
Does Stella and Chewy source from China?
Stella & Chewy’s doesn’t source any ingredients from China.
Where does Stella and Chewy source their ingredients?
Who makes Stella and Chewys?
Do vets recommend Stella and Chewy?