♥ No recalls.
Acana is produced by Champion Petfoods, a Canadian company. The products, including dog and cat food and treats, are designed to be biologically appropriate for pets.
With roots going back to its founding in 1975 as Champion Feed Services Ltd., today’s Champion Petfoods is the pet food industry’s little engine that could. The company also makes Orijen.
Below, we share more information about the history of Acana pet food — including up-to-date recall information.
Acana Quick Facts
Brand line includes: Acana Grasslands, Acana Wild Atlantic, Acana Meadowland, Acana Paleo Formula, Acana Light & Fit Formula, Acana Feast Formula, Acana Red Meat Recipe With Wholesome Grains, Acana Free-Run Poultry Recipe With Wholesome Grains, Acana Free-Run Poultry Formula With Wholesome Grains, Acana Appalachian Ranch, Acana Kentucky Farmlands With Wholesome Grains, Acana American Waters With Wholesome Grains, Acana Turkey & Greens Formula Singles Limited Ingredient Diet, Acana Turkey & Pumpkin Recipe Singles Limited Ingredient Diet, Acana Duck & Pear Recipe Singles Limited Ingredient Diet, Acana Pork & Squash Recipe Singles Limited Ingredient Diet, Acana Puppy & Junior Formula, Acana Homestead Harvest, Acana Bountiful Catch, Acana Indoor Entrée
Where to buy: Latest deals on Acana dog or cat food
Company: Champion Petfoods LP
Headquarters: 301, 1103 95 Street SW, Edmonton, AB T6CX 0P8, Canada
Contact info: 1-877-939-0006, email, website
Reinhard Muhlenfeld, a German-born Canadian who was an engineer by trade, noticed in the early 1970s that animal feed was being imported into Canada from the United States.
With the thought that local is better, Muhlenfeld started Champion Feed Services Ltd. in a small factory in Barrhead, Alberta, in 1975.
He approached local farmers and businesspeople directly to find buyers for his products. The company came to be a “value-added agri-processing operation,” according to one newspaper account.
In 1985, as hog feed demand decreased, the company branched into pet foods, eventually producing brands like Brown Bag, Yukon Gold 30/20 Mushers Mix, Champs Choice Deluxe and Masterfeeds Sportsman.
The earliest mention we could find of the Acana brand was in 2001, which happens to be the year Champion Petfoods was spun off from the feed mill as an independent company.
Champion Petfoods Really Takes Off
In 2005, Champion Petfoods launched its Orijen brand.
In conjunction with the launch, Champion trademarked the expression “biologically appropriate,” which means the food matches the specific breed of animal.
Around the time of the Orijen launch, existing brand Acana was already being shipped from Canada to dozens of countries around the world. Even so, according to Champion Petfoods sales and marketing manager Peter Muhlenfeld in 2006, “we see Orijen as our future.”
From 2010 to 2017, Champion Petfoods saw unprecedented expansion. Starting the decade with 92 employees, the company grew to employ 550.
To facilitate its stellar growth, the company built a U.S. facility in Kentucky, then another in Parkland County, Alberta.
Committed to Locally and Sustainably Raised Ingredients
One distinctive feature of Champion is its commitment to using locally raised ingredients.
A company spokesperson says the pet food produced in Auburn, Kentucky, will taste different from the pet food made in Alberta. That’s because all ingredients are sourced locally. In researching the Kentucky location, the company made sure that all necessary ingredients could be grown or raised nearby.
The company has also committed itself to using only sustainably raised food. That means only free-range chickens, sustainably harvested fish, and sustainably raised cattle can be sold for Acana and other Champion brands. Champion is notable, too, for promoting bison agriculture.
Acana vs. Orijen: What’s the Difference?
So what’s the difference between Acana and Orijen? It has to do with the amount of meat ingredients — and the price.
According to a 2016 Facebook post by the company, “Orijen has 80–90% meat, while Acana foods have 50–75%.” Orijen also has more fresh meat than Acana. The company pointed out that “both are biologically appropriate foods, made with fresh regional ingredients.”
“Although slightly lower in protein then Orijen, Acana provides an unbeatable value and price point,” according to the post.
Continuing to Innovate
In early 2020, Acana debuted 4 new cat recipes: Acana Cat First Feast, Acana Cat Homestead Harvest, Acana Cat Boutiful Catch and Acana Cat Indoor Entrée. All of them featured at least 65% “small prey animal ingredients.”
In addition, the company has reformulated existing Acana Singles and Acana Regionals recipes over the past few years. Some of the changes involved adding more meat, reducing legumes and eliminating peas.
A few Acana recipes now feature “wholesome grains,” which are said to be “rich in fiber and highly nutritious, supporting optimum gut health.”
“The new recipes provide better quality options for a larger segment of the pet population,” said Rod Troni, chief marketing officer at Champion Petfoods.
Is Nestlé Buying Champion Petfoods?
No. Champion Petfoods has said this is merely a rumor.
The Wall Street Journal reported on July 2, 2018, that Nestlé Purina PetCare Company was trying to buy a majority stake in Champion. The price tag? More than $2 billion.
However, Champion disputed any such “speculation” about Nestlé’s acquisition of Champion.
“It is our policy to never comment on rumors or speculation in the market,” the company said in a Facebook post the day the Wall Street Journal article was published. “Rumors about Champion being sold have been circulating over the past few years and will continue for as long we deliver on our promise to make the world’s best pet food under our Acana and Orijen brands.”
It was kind of a denial, but more of a “we’re not going to comment.”
A few months later, in December 2018, the Financial Times reported that “early-stage talks” between Nestlé and Champion Petfoods had been “rekindled.” The talks remained tentative, though.
The Financial Times said, “The people familiar with the situation cautioned that there was no guarantee a deal could be reached. It is also not clear if Champion’s backers want to pursue a sale of the company, which continues to grow quickly.”
No other reporting has emerged on an acquisition deal, so it appears to have fallen apart. That’s great news for many fans of Acana and Orijen, who were up in arms about any deal that puts those brands under the Nestlé Purina corporate umbrella.
“The number of negative comments related to this takeover is simply overwhelming,” commented one person on LinkedIn. “Conscious consumers do not trust Purina and declare walking away from buying Champion’s products. Many are convinced Nestlé will destroy the quality of products for profit.”
Has Acana Ever Been Recalled?
No. There have never been any Acana pet food recalls, according to our research.
2019 Heart Disease Investigation
We do want to alert readers to the fact that, in late June 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified Acana as one of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs and cats. None of those 16 brands have been recalled as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation, though. Most, but not all, of the pet foods are “grain-free” and/or dry (kibble) dog food formulations.
The FDA says this is a “complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors,” and that it cannot even be certain that diet is a cause of the heart problems.
Champion Petfoods says, “We continue to test our food every day to ensure we are meeting all quality and safety standards and to deliver the best possible nutrition for pets.”
In March 2018, a class-action lawsuit (Weaver v. Champion Petfoods USA Inc. et al.) was filed against Champion Petfoods, accusing the company of “negligent, reckless” practices, false advertising, and “failing to disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins” in its Acana and Orijen dog foods.
In response, the company called the allegations “meritless and based on misinterpretation of the data.”
2011 Salmonella Test
In January 2011, routine testing by the FDA of a single sample of Acana Grasslands dog food came up positive for salmonella bacteria.
Or … maybe not. Champion Petfoods has described it this way: The FDA concluded only that the sample appeared to contain salmonella.
Because of the test result, the FDA issued a temporary import alert on Acana Grasslands in 2011. Import alerts are issued when “the agency has enough evidence to allow for [refusal] … of products that appear to be in violation of the FDA’s laws and regulations.”
Companies whose products have been refused “have the right to provide evidence to the FDA in an attempt to overcome the appearance of the violation,” the agency says.
That’s what Champion Petfoods did. The company was convinced of its innocence because it was testing all products for salmonella before they were ever shipped out. The FDA’s test result must have been a false positive.
In a long-since-deleted FAQ from 2011 (archived here), Champion said it fully “complied with all FDA requirements, sending additional samples of Acana Grasslands Dog to a third-party FDA-certified lab. Without exception the test results from each sample tested negative for salmonella.”
The import alert was lifted soon after that. No recall was issued.
Mad Cow Disease Scare
Years ago, in May 2003, Champion Petfoods faced an unprecedented crisis.
A rendered meat ingredient used in some of its lower-end brands was found to possibly contain the remains of a cow that had been infected with mad cow disease. None of Champion’s premium brands, such as Acana, had used such rendered ingredients — and Orijen hadn’t even been invented yet.
A report from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on May 27, 2003, found that a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a fatal brain-wasting disease, had been slaughtered in January 2003 and was then processed by a small rendering facility in northern Alberta, Canada.
Champion Petfoods may have then used the rendered material in 4 of its dog foods:
- Yukon Gold 30/20 Mushers Mix (Lot #32819)
- Champs Choice Deluxe (Lot #32884)
- Masterfeeds Sportsman (Lot #33105)
- Brown Bag (Lot #33112)
The affected dog food was produced between Feb. 4 and March 12, 2003, and was distributed in both Canada and the United States.
Dr. Brian Evans, chief veterinarian at the Canadian inspection agency, said “there’s no scientific evidence” that dogs can contract BSE.
However, “even though there is no known risk to dogs from eating this dog food, as a prudent measure … customers who may have purchased the suspect product [should return it] so that the dog food will not mistakenly be mixed into cattle or other feeds,” U.S. safety officials at the FDA reiterated in a May 30, 2003, advisory.
Canadian authorities did not require a dog food recall, but Champion said it would offer customers refunds if requested.
After the 2003 BSE scare, Champion announced it was eliminating rendered beef from all of its pet food products, including the lower-priced grocery store brands. That wasn’t enough — the company temporarily lost significant trust.
In the weeks after the crisis hit, Champion was losing around $200,000 per day in sales and was forced to lay off half of its 60-employee workforce. “It’s a brutal situation for us,” said Peter Muhlenfeld, who was then sales and marketing manager. “We couldn’t survive like this for long.”
Eventually, the company recovered and grew even stronger. Most pet parents at this point probably aren’t even aware that Champion Petfoods was ever caught up in a “mad cow” scare — and it bears repeating that Acana and Orijen were never affected by that madness.
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- “Champion Petfoods Ramps Up Innovation With Launch of New Orijen and Acana Recipes.” Business Wire. Feb. 26, 2020. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200226005538/en/Champion-Petfoods-Ramps-Innovation-Launch-New-ORIJEN.
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- Dummett, Ben, et al. “Nestlé in Talks to Buy Pet Food Maker for $2 Billion.” Wall Street Journal. July 2, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/nestle-in-talks-to-buy-pet-food-maker-for-2-billion-1530531553.
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- Atkins, Ralph, et al. “Nestlé Revives Talks for Canadian Pet Food Group Champion.” Financial Times. Dec. 21, 2018. https://www.ft.com/content/74f5f720-0510-11e9-99df-6183d3002ee1.
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- “Questions & Answers: FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Investigation Into a Possible Connection Between Diet and Canine Heart Disease.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). June 27, 2019. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/questions-answers-fda-center-veterinary-medicines-investigation-possible-connection-between-diet-and.
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