Recently, Canadian Pet Connection released their Top 21 Canadian Dog Foods of 2021 rankings; an update to their wildly popular 2020 article that receives tens of thousands of monthly reads. This article showcases the best Canadian pet food manufacturers, and highlights the fascinating things they do to further innovation in their industry.
Over the last two decades, the pet food marketplace has grown dramatically, with dozens upon dozens of high quality pet food manufacturers battling to establish their brands as the best in North America.
The Canadian pet food marketplace is highly competitive, as consumer demand for healthier, better quality pet products continues to soar. Additionally, while researching pet food brands, consumers now emphasize the importance of complete transparency, from manufacturing processes, ingredient sourcing, quality control protocols, sustainability, environmental impact, and more.
This trend is not localized to Canada. The global pet marketplace is continually moving towards healthier pet products made by forthright manufacturers. After my many years in the pet industry, and evaluating pet foods from all over the world, one thing has become clear: Canadian pet food manufacturers are leading the industry in both quality and innovation.
What Goes Into A High Quality Pet Food Brand?
Pet food manufacturing has come a long way from the very first commercial pet product – a baked dog pellet made from wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot, and beef blood that came in a 50 lb. sack.
Nowadays, pet owners can choose from a wide variety of pet food options, from kibble to canned foods, frozen and dehydrated raw foods, and more. There are even specially formulated pet foods to help those suffering from allergies and sensitivities, digestive issues, weight problems, and even fussy appetites.
So what goes into making a high quality dog food in 2021?
Quality and Source of Ingredients
The ingredients used in top Canadian pet foods are locally sourced, prepared fresh, and meet the same quality standards for human consumption. They are often GMO free and use organic ingredients wherever possible.
Here are a few examples of what some of the country’s leading pet food manufacturers do to make their brand unique.
- Champion Pet Foods, parent company to the popular Acana and Orijen brands, only source ingredients located within 100 kilometres of their NorthStar Kitchen manufacturing facility in Alberta.
- Smack pet foods, located in Winnipeg, exclusively sources human-grade, organic super-foods. Their dehydrated raw foods are so nutrient-dense they don’t require any synthetic fortification.
- FirstMate Pet Foods, based in British Columbia, uses fresh-caught fish from their sister company, a sustainable fishing operation.
The list goes on, with dozens of Canadian brands finding innovative ways to offer the best quality pet foods to Canadian pet owners.
Manufacturing Practices and Transparency
Pet food recalls can be scary for pet owners. Foods are typically recalled for contamination of bacteria, such as e-coli, which gets out into the pet food chain because of a lack of thorough testing. Oftentimes, the same recall affects multiple brands because they’re all co-packaged at a third-party manufacturing facility. This is one of the key reasons why many top Canadian pet food brands place tremendous importance on their meticulous manufacturing practices.
Let’s take Horizon Pet Foods in Saskatchewan, for example. Horizon has built their own manufacturing facilities, and welcomes the public to tour them to further understand how their pet foods are made. Horizon emphasizes the importance of fastidious sourcing and testing of all ingredients used in their recipes. Additionally, Horizon grows their own GMO-free grains for their grain-inclusive formulas.
Another great example of exemplary manufacturing practices is Quebec-based CaniSource. All of CaniSource’s recipes are made from small handmade batches in their own professional kitchen-style facility, where every batch is rigorously tested for quality and safety. CaniSource uses only locally sourced, human-grade ingredients from HACCP-certified food plants.
Innovation and Sustainability
The Canadian pet food industry has been on the cutting edge of innovation for over a decade, and continues to improve year over year.
Wilder Harrier, a Quebec-based manufacturer, makes two of the most extraordinary dog foods in Canada – a highly sustainable formula made with black soldier flies, and a fish formula made with Asian carp, a highly invasive species that needs to be removed from our precious freshwater lakes. Moreover, Wilder Harrier adds fresh produce and fibre to their recipes using recycled organic materials from a local juicery. Wilder Harrier is the embodiment of innovation and sustainability in today’s Canadian pet food marketplace.
Ontario-based Carna4 has also found a notable and inventive way to offer pets better nutrition in a more convenient form. Carna4 makes what appears to be a traditional kibble, but uses a light dehydrating process so their recipes are akin to a dehydrated raw food. This process helps to lock in essential nutrients and vitamins, including those from their organic sprouted seed blend. Because their foods are so nutrient dense, Carna4 doesn’t need to add any synthetic nutrients or vitamins to their recipes.
This is just the tip of the Canadian pet food manufacturing iceberg. Every day, new and innovative brands are coming into the national marketplace, continually raising the bar for pet food manufacturing and sourcing. In fact, the demand for top-quality Canadian pet foods is so high, consumers in Asian marketplaces will eagerly pay up to five times the regular price for many Canadian made pet foods.
There are many things to be proud of in our great nation, and our pet food brands are no exception.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.