Champion Petfoods Takes Transparency Public
Champion Petfoods is opening up its manufacturing processes to the public by inviting two outside pet food experts and two everyday pet owners to review and report on the company’s behind-the-scenes operations.
The company unveiled the formation of its Transparency Council at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March. The council will be given access to each step of Champion’s manufacturing process and provide candid, periodic reports to the public on what its members have learned.
“We are witnessing increased consumer interest in pet food quality standards, ingredient sourcing, nutritional attributes and product safety,” said Julie S. Washington, chief marketing officer for Champion Petfoods in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “People no longer accept at face value the assertions and claims made by pet food producers about the integrity of the products they provide. Pet lovers place a greater premium on transparency and want to know more about how foods are made and from where ingredients are sourced—and our Transparency Council provides an avenue to do just that.”
Transparency Council members will attend on-site tours of Champion’s DogStar kitchen in Auburn, Ky., seeing from start to finish how products are made, learning from Champion managers about safety standards and procedures, and visiting regional ingredient suppliers.
Don King, vice president of marketing at Champion Petfoods, said that during these tours, Champion will take the time to explain the company’s “Biologically Appropriate” mission, which “mirrors the quality, freshness and variety of meats that dogs and cats are evolved to eat and nourishes them completely,” the history behind the philosophy and what it looks like in practice.
“We’ll take them to see our suppliers and give them a feel of what the protein from said supplier looks like when it comes into the building and the beginning of the process,” King said. “We’ll allow these folks to go all the way through from start to finish to see, essentially, the same tour that our employees and trusted and valued retail and distributor partners get to go on.”
As a part of this educational platform, each council member will write articles and social media posts, and participate in media interviews to convey their firsthand experiences.
“We’ve got these folks that are experts; we’re not giving them a script,” King said. “I don’t know what they are going to say. But at the same token, we believe in and are confident in our foods, what’s in the bag and the method by which we create the food that’s ultimately in the bag.”
Two pet care industry experts have been appointed to the council: Dr. Shawn Messonnier, a U.S. veterinary physician, expert and author of numerous books including the “Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats,” and Dr. Clayton Greenway, host of the veterinary call-in show “Animal House” on a popular Toronto talk radio station, Newstalk 1010.
Messonnier founded the Paws & Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas, in 1991. He is a contributor to pet media, including Animal Wellness.
Greenway practices at West Hill Animal Clinic in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, and is a lead veterinarian and development director for VetStrategy.
“Champion’s willingness to open the door and allow us to see what they do and how they do it is refreshing,” Messonnier said. “We look forward to being the public’s eyes and ears on how Champion delivers on its promises.”
Champion is also accepting applications from interested consumers to fill the remaining two council positions. Pet lovers are invited to submit essays on their views of the importance they place on transparency and why they would like to be part of Champion’s Transparency Council.
“We will select a few consumers who will serve as our non-expert voices who can also report on what they’ve seen and speak to their peers about what they’ve seen,” King said. “We’re not going to script them either. They will also be able to report about their experiences in our kitchen.”
“Pet Lover” application and submission guidelines and deadline information are available at championpetfoods.com/transparency. Selection of Pet Lover council members will be made by a team of Champion executives and announced on or about April 8.
King said the tours that Transparency Council members will take will be similar to those that the company’s distributor and retail partners are invited to attend.
“We benefit from [having distributors and retailers take the tours] because they can talk to their customers as they come in to their outlets about the experience,” King said. “But that’s still different from having some experts, normal people, influencers and pet enthusiasts who are interested in this to get a firsthand experience that they can talk about more broadly.
“We are not afraid to let people see who we are and what we do, and we believe [our kitchen] is incredibly impressive but also incredibly consistent,” King added. “We won’t do anything different at our kitchen to prepare for this. We’ll offer the same tour we always do. We’re proud of what we do and how we do it, and we want other people to see it and share it.”