Acana dog food is made by Champion Petfoods located in Alberta, Canada. The company was founded in 1975 and today they say their foods can be purchased in over 60 countries. They also make a sister brand to Acana called Orijen. Both brands are super premium pet foods sold in selected pet stores and from some online sources. Orijen, in particular, is one of the most expensive dog foods available today.
In 2012 Champion took on an investment partner - the Canadian firm Bedford Capital. "Bedford has skillfully facilitated the succession of our family business from one generation to the next. And, with Bedford's substantial resources, support and genuine enthusiasm for our products and people, we're now firmly positioned to continue our rapid growth within pet specialty markets-both here in Canada and abroad." Some people (dog food customers are a suspicious lot) had assumed this investment was some kind of purchase or buy-out, but the company is still privately held by the Muhlenfeld family. The company seems positioned to continue to expand in the pet food marketplace.
According to the company, both foods specialize in "biologically appropriate" diets made with fresh regional ingredients. Orijen has a higher meat protein content than Acana. Orijen dog food is made with 75 to 80 percent meat, while Acana dog food is made with 40 to 65 percent meat, depending on the specific formula. Orijen dog food formulas have between 38 and 42 percent protein, while Acana dog food formulas contain protein levels in the 27 to 34 percent range. There is also a difference between Orijen dog food and Acana dog food with regard to carbohydrate levels. Orijen dog food formulas range from 18 to 22 percent carbohydrate, while Acana dog food formulas are generally in the 28 to 30 percent carbohydrate range. With regard to the amount of fresh meat, Orijen dog food is made with up to 40 percent fresh meats, compared to Acana dog food, which generally has from 9 to 15 percent fresh meats. There is also a difference in fresh meat variety. Orijen dog food contains at least five fresh meats, whereas Acana dog food contains three fresh meat ingredients. Because of these small differences, Acana is priced slightly lower and is more affordable for some pet owners. But the quality of the ingredients is the same.
According to the company web site, Champion Petfoods has received awards as manufacturer of the year in their area and for leadership in Alberta. According to Champion, all of their foods are made in Alberta. They never outsource and they do not make foods for other companies.
Both Acana and Orijen are known for producing "Biologically Appropriate pet foods from Fresh Regional Ingredients." They operate on the principle that dogs should eat a diet that contains foods similar to what they would eat on a natural diet in the wild. The food contains lots of meat protein.
Acana produces three product lines:
All of Acana's foods are kibbles. Champion doesn't currently make canned food. They expect to make snacks and treats in the near future. They do make food for both dogs and cats.
Duck meal, deboned duck, steel-cut oats, peas, whole pears, whole potato, duck fat, duck liver, sun-cured alfalfa, oat flakes, algae meal (source of DHA, EPA), pea fiber, whole apples, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach, cranberries, blueberries, kelp, minerals, vitamins, chicory root, juniper berries, angelica root, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, lavender, Vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, selenium yeast, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
Note: Acana divides their ingredients and "supplements" on the web site into two sections. I don't know if you can get away with doing this in Canada, but this is not allowed in the U.S. All ingredients in the food, including "supplements" like vitamins and minerals, have to be listed together, in descending order of weight. I have combined them here but it's possible they could be slightly out of order because of the way Acana had them separated. It looks like they want the "botanicals" to go after the vitamins and minerals which indicates that they are present in minute quantities.
I've chosen Acana Duck & Bartlett Pear to review because it is described as a "true Limited Ingredient Formula." It's one of Acana's Singles, with a single source of protein - in this case duck. The food may have a single source of meat protein but it is far from being a limited ingredient formula. Anyone who has been through food trials with a dog who has allergies knows what limited ingredient diets really are. They typically have a single source of protein and a single carb source, and very little else. Limited ingredient diets are designed to cut out extraneous ingredients in order to reduce the chance a dog will have an allergic reaction to something. That way they can identify specific allergens if a dog has a reaction. This food has LOTS of extra ingredients, including botanicals and multiple carb sources, which could trigger an allergic reaction. The peas in the food, in the first five ingredients, are also a plant source of protein which some dogs have trouble digesting. If your dog has allergies or digestive issues, you shouldn't buy this food thinking that it will solve your dog's problems.
If we ignore the claim about being a limited ingredient food, however, and just look at this food as an ordinary dog food, we'll make more progress.
The first five ingredients show duck meal, deboned duck, steel-cut oats, peas, and whole pears. Duck meal is a good source of meat protein that is more concentrated than whole duck and has had the moisture removed. The deboned duck is duck meat but it does contain moisture. With the moisture removed, this ingredient would appear lower on the list. According to Acana, all of the duck in the food is "passed fit for human consumption." Steel-cut oats are being used here as carbs instead of the more typical grains like corn or wheat. Many dogs can eat oats who have problems with grains.
The fourth ingredient listed is peas which more and more dog food companies are using. Peas are often a substitute for grains. They provide fiber and protein. Some dogs have problems digesting them well. They are less expensive to use today than corn, which is also used as a source of protein in dog foods. And many consumers think that "peas" sound healthier than corn. They sound like a nice vegetable, right? And they don't have the bad associations that many people make today with corn in dog food. But they definitely have drawbacks, especially when they appear so prominently in the ingredient list. Pea fiber is also listed later in the list. To a certain extent the fiber in peas does help with good digestion. But they can cause digestive problems and diarrhea in some dogs. There is currently very little research on the use of peas and pea fiber in pet foods.
The fifth ingredient in this food is Bartlett pears. This seems like an odd ingredient, honestly. Pears are high in fiber and vitamin C. They are a natural source of choline which helps dogs absorb their food. They provide some omega-6 fatty acid and some natural vitamin K, but they are very ordinary in terms of the vitamins and minerals they provide.
The sixth ingredient is whole potatoes and these are sometimes used as a carb in limited ingredient diets but this food has several sources of carbs, such as the oats already mentioned. Duck fat is a good named source of fat, followed by duck liver which is a good source of organ meat that is rich in vitamins. A plethora of vegetable ingredients follows, most of which add carbs and fiber to the food and explain why this is not a limited ingredient dog food.
The food uses chelated minerals which means the minerals are bound to amino acids in the proteins so they can be absorbed better by your dog. Finally, the food contains a selection of botanicals or various herbs which are probably present in such small amounts that they don't do anything, but they're in the food. If your dog is allergic to any of these ingredients they might trigger a reaction.
The quality of the ingredients looks very good. Acana says they use duck that has been "passed for human consumption" and all of their ingredients are local to their area. They don't use ethoxyquin or other artificial preservatives. Champion's manufacturing standards are considered to be very high.
I think the way this food is being marketed is a little concerning. If it is being marketed as a "limited ingredient diet" with a single source of protein, then that's not accurate. The peas in this food are definitely a source of protein, even though they are a plant protein. And the food is not a limited ingredient food.
Acana generally promotes its foods as having three meat proteins and a higher protein percentage than most foods (though not as high as Orijen, or with as much meat protein as Orijen). This food essentially has one meat protein and one plant protein source, and a lower protein percentage - 25 percent - than most other Acana foods. It seems to me that they are using the "Single" marketing label as a way to sell food that is simply lower in quality and protein.
Calorie Content Metabolic Energy: 3582 kcal/kg (411 kcal per 8 ounce cup) 25% of energy from protein, 40% from fat and 35% from fruits, vegetables and steel-cut oats.
AAFCO Statement: ACANA Duck & Bartlett Pear is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.
Acana Duck & Bartlett Pear provides 25 percent crude protein (Minimum), which is well above the government's recommendations (18 percent for adult dogs). However, this is a rather low amount of protein for a food that is marketed as "super premium." Plus, we must consider that some portion of this protein is from the peas in the first five ingredients and not from meat protein. The 17 percent fat in Acana Duck & Bartlett Pear is well above the government's recommendations (9 to 15 percent for an adult dog), but good quality fat is good for your dog and this is duck fat which should be good for your dog.
Champion Petfoods has an excellent reputation. They have not been involved in any recalls that we could find. There are some posts online from people who believe the formulas for the foods have changed in the last couple of years but we can't verify this.
Champion did have an accident at their kitchen in Morinville, Alberta on September 8, 2012 and one of their ovens was damaged. This resulted in some of their food sizes not being available as usual but they have been working to repair the problem.
Acana Duck & Bartlett Pear seems like a good food is you are looking for a single source of meat protein with good quality ingredients. However, you should be aware that it also contains plant protein and that the overall protein percentage is only 25 percent. It is not a true limited ingredient food.
Acana Duck And Bartlett Pear dog food has received our 4 paw rating.