Champion Transparency Council Files First Report
David Ruch (left), DogStar kitchen manager, presents the Champion Transparency Council with a package of Champion’s pet foods straight from DogStar Kitchen in Auburn, Ky.
Champion Petfoods recently received high marks from its newly formed Transparency Council, which filed its first report revealing behind-the-scenes observations at Champion’s DogStar Kitchen in Auburn, Ky.
The Edmonton, Alberta-based company launched the Transparency Council in March as a response to the growing desire among pet owners to understand the details about what’s inside the food they feed their dog or cat. Specifically, the council is tasked with verifying the promises Champion Petfoods makes about its “Biologically Appropriate” pet foods mission, and its long-standing history of sourcing food ingredients from regional farms, ranches and fish suppliers. The council then provides candid, periodic reports to the public on what its members have learned.
“People no longer accept claims and assertions made by pet food—or any food companies really—at face value,” said Don King, Champion’s vice president of marketing. “They want to see with their own eyes what goes on in the kitchen and how ingredients are sourced to make the determination on the quality of the food they want to provide.”
The council, which comprises two veterinarians and two everyday pet owners, was given access to DogStar Kitchen to observe how the company makes its Orijen and Acana dog and cat foods. The council members toured the kitchen, observing ingredient in-take, cooking, safety and quality management and final packaging.
“I came to Champion with high expectations prepared to ask the hard questions and to be the eyes and ears of the public,” said Andrea Coffman, council member and pet owner from Tulsa, Okla. “Having seen the operation from top to bottom, I can say Champion didn’t settle on their kitchen design, and they don’t settle on their ingredients, suppliers or process either.”
Every lot of pet food coming through the production line is “tested for safety, quality, nutritional balance and consistency,” Coffman added.
The council also visited a regional supplier of catfish and was given the opportunity to join the fishing boat crew to harvest catfish that will be used in Champion foods.
“We were there on the boat participating in the catch and observed how the crew carefully separated the best fish and threw the less desirable ones back in the lake,” said Shawn Messonnier, DVM, author and holistic veterinarian. “Formulating pet foods with larger amounts of fresh proteins like catfish and using the entire fish including muscle meat, organs and edible cartilage that dogs or cats would consume in the wild, helps Champion deliver on their nutrition claims without resorting to significant synthetic supplementation.”
Council member April Scott, a pet owner in Ontario, Canada, said she found the tour eye opening.
“Champion has put a lot of thought and consideration into their recipes and food manufacturing process,” Scott said. “They make sure the farm animals and fish are treated ethically and that’s important to me…They don’t accept ingredients from any random supplier. Each farm and fishery goes through an in-depth vetting process and must meet Champion’s strict standards and values.”
Champion began building its network of regional farm relationships 25 years ago when the company first pioneered “Biologically Appropriate” foods that require high levels of raw and fresh meat, fish and poultry.
“I have to say the most significant thing I experienced wasn’t about the food-making process,” said Clayton Greenway, DVM, council member and host of “Animal House” pet talk show on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010 radio station. “At one point, Chris Milam, head of ingredient innovation and supplier relationships, spoke about his main suppliers calling the owners by their first names. He had known them for decades. They weren’t just business partners, they were friends.”
The Champion Transparency Council is planning a second meeting in September. The agenda will cover more details about pet nutrition, product innovation and food safety procedures. The council members are each filing four reports in 2019 on what they have witnessed. The first reports are available online and the others will appear periodically during the balance of the calendar year.