ACANA represents a new class of foods that mirrors the high and various inclusions of fresh, whole meats that dogs and cats are naturally evolved to eat, while excluding inappropriate ingredients – like high-glycemic grains and vegetable proteins – that don’t belong in the natural diet.
Yet pet food marketers make all kinds of claims about their foods. Fresh, grain-free, natural, holistic – what does it all mean? We’ll sort through the jargon and help you discover the real truth about your pet’s food. Because, when it comes to the health of your cat or dog, authenticity matters!
The word “fresh” is often misused by pet food producers and marketers. Merriam-Webster defines fresh as “recently made or obtained; not tinned, frozen, or otherwise preserved”.
In other words, for an ingredient to be truly fresh, refrigeration is the only allowable means of preservation, just like the meat at your local butcher. That’s exactly how we use the word here at ACANA.
But all too often, “fresh” is used to describe ingredients that are anything but. Consider the claim of “fresh wild-caught salmon”. Salmon can not be caught wild year round, so they can not always be available fresh. The truth is, very few producers use ingredients that are authentically fresh.
If fact, what many pet foods call “fresh” are actually “pet-grade” meats. They are frozen into 25kg blocks – to make them easier to transport and store – and frozen and thawed a number of times. It’s usually the case that they’re many months old before becoming food for pets.
These days, it seems like every pet food claims to be “grain free”. Consumers often believe that grain-free foods are healthier for their pets.
Yet a grain-free is not necessarily healthier than a grain-based food – in fact quite the opposite can be true. Many “grain-free” foods simply replace grains with other carbohydrate ingredients – replacing rice with potato powder, for instance. Replacing grains with potato powder or peas doesn’t make the food any healthier for your pet. It’s just switching one source of carbohydrate for another.
A healthier diet requires increasing the amount of meat protein in the diet, and reducing the overall carbohydrate content of the food.
Many of today’s pet foods market their fruits and vegetable ingredients as “holistic” or “natural.”
While consumers assume these ingredients are whole and fresh, the truth is they are included in small quantities, in powdered form, and usually sourced offshore. The health benefits for your pet are negligible.
That’s why ACANA‘s fruits and vegetables are delivered whole and fresh, and in quantities clearly stated on the front of the package.
“Natural” is another widely misused and misunderstood word in the pet food industry.
Merriam-Webster defines “natural” as “existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind” and “having had a minimum of processing or preservative treatment.”
While many pet foods claim to be natural, few can bear the scrutiny of the true definition. Consumers often believe the word “natural” implies “healthy”. This is certainly not the case, as a package of “minimally processed” corn can carry an “all natural” claim, yet has no health benefits for your dog or cat.
Much like “natural,” the word “holistic” is widely misunderstood by pet lovers. According to Merriam-Webster, holistic is “characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”
“Holistic” should not be used to describe a dog or cat food that is high in carbohydrates and low in meat content and protein. Foods like these do not not reflect the foods that dogs and cats are anatomically evolved to eat.
While our fresh meats, poultry, and fish (and even our meal ingredients, such as chicken or turkey meal) are passed fit for human consumption before arriving in our kitchens. Few other pet food producers can legitimately make this claim.
Despite our lofty standards, we never claim our that our ingredients are “human-grade”. That’s because once ingredients leave the producer or processor and enter the pet food processor, they lose their “human-grade” classification. We encourage pet lovers to contact the producer of their food and ask whether they can actually verify their claim of “human grade”.
These days, it seems like every pet food bears a “hormone and antibiotic free” claim. The fact is that the majority of animals raised for human consumption in North America are fed hormone-enhanced food. Furthermore, as all animals have hormones, it’s hard to understand how any meat can be “hormone free”. We encourage pet lovers to contact the food producer and ask them to verify their claim.