As promised, here is a review of my tour of the Natura manufacturing facility.
The Natura plant is located in Freemont, Nebraska. It’s where the dry kibble for all of their brands (Innova, California Natural, HealthWise, Karma, Evo) is produced. The treat biscuits (including Mother Nature) and canned foods are manufactured elsewhere.
The plant was built in 2003 with recent additions made. It was designed to be efficient and to limit the introduction of contaminants. We were told that all ingredients brought to the plant are tested for contaminants before being accepted. The design of the plant itself was meant to reduce the likelihood of infestation. The concrete structure also makes it easy to clean. Indeed, I didn’t see one speck of dust, even on the baseboards.
The manufacturing process is automated. According to the P&G executives, it takes fewer than 25 people per shift to keep the manufacturing process going. Ingredients are mixed, air pressure moves the product through the line, and product is tracked by computer to guarantee the first manufactured is the first out.
Ingredients are not human-grade. Below is a pic taken by P&G staff of the line where the carrots and apples are introduced. The chicken comes into the plant pre-processed in large containers with signs indicating it’s not human-grade. When asked why, we were told something to the effect that such labeling was required for pet food. Of course I didn’t learn until later about the class-action lawsuit (Ko v. Natura Pet Products, Inc. (No. 5:09-cv-02619)) settled by this company regarding advertising claims made about the quality of the food.
We also toured the company’s Health and Nutrition Center. That’s where they keep the dogs and cats that test their products. We were told the testing was non-invasive and was limited mostly to palatability (which food tasted better) and stool firmness. We were told there were currently 35 dogs and 24 cats on-site for testing with more dogs to come.
The cats were kept in two rooms. We were told the cats are caged when fed, and for longer when testing foods (to get those stool and urine samples), but the rest of the time they are in the rooms. There was not much room for exercise and certainly not enough to run in. There was a staffer in one of the rooms waving a toy around, but there did not appear to be much interest in the activity from either the cats or the staffer.
I can’t say much about the dogs because we weren’t allowed to see them. There were three dogs on the grassy area we saw with two staffers. We were told the dogs get exercise for up to an hour per day broken up into increments. The dogs are kept in kennels but are given recreational time in groups of up to six.
The animals used for testing were originally rescued animals but the company now buys animals from breeders. Once finished with the animals, they are adopted out.
So for those of you looking for pet food designed to provide balanced nutrition or to accomodate special dietary needs, like DeDe, this company has products you may find appealing.