Kentucky Proud Connection

AUBURN, Ky. — What attracted a Canadian pet food company to build a Kentucky Proud pet food plant in a tiny Logan County town with a population of just over 1,000?

“After two years of searching, we determined that Kentucky was the perfect location to advance our biologically-appropriate and fresh regional ingredient mandate,” Frank Burdzy, president and chief executive officer of Champion Petfoods, wrote in an email.

Burdzy and other Champion officials welcomed Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, local leaders, and members of the community to a grand opening festival at the new 371,000-square-foot facility in May. Commissioner Quarles addressed the crowd and toured the plant.

“Champion Petfoods has a global reputation as a producer of healthy foods for the companion animals that are such an important part of our families,” Commissioner Quarles said. “We’re thrilled that Champion Petfoods has chosen to locate its first U.S. plant in Kentucky and has committed to using Kentucky-raised ingredients in its products.”

Burdzy called Auburn, Kentucky, “the perfect location” because of its proximity to Kentucky agriculture producers who provide the ingredients for its unique, locally-sourced dog and cat foods.

“We rely on regional farmers, fishermen, and ranchers for our ingredients, and the region’s people for their hard work, dedication, and focus,” Burdzy wrote, referring to the plant’s more than 147 employees. “We are very proud to invest in Kentucky’s people and agriculture.

“We continue to build relationships with farmers, ranchers, and fishermen close to home that we know and trust, which allows us to include only the best ingredients in our foods,” he added. “We are Kentucky Proud and take pride that many of our supply partners are as well.”

Burdzy said Champion buys ingredients from fellow Kentucky Proud member JSW Farm/The Chop Shop near Hazel Green as well as Bluegrass Bison near Shelbyville, Clark Farms near Lexington, and Ponderosa Farms near Murray.

“We use as much fresh and as much regional as possible in the cooking of our foods,” Burdzy wrote. “In fact, our fresh inclusions are unmatched by any other pet food maker.

“Our new ACANA and ORIJEN DogStar foods are truly Kentucky Proud … using meats, poultry, eggs, and fish that are sustainably ranched, farmed, or fished by local suppliers and delivered to our kitchens fresh each day from local Kentucky sources.”

Based in Morinville, Alberta, the 31-year-old company’s award-winning ACANA and ORIJEN brands are sold in more than 70 countries. The name ACANA stands for its roots in Alberta, Canada, while ORIJEN represents the origin of dogs and cats, and how they would feed in the wild.

Champion’s website claims that it has won more awards than any other pet food maker in the world, particularly for its ORIJEN variety.

ORIJEN won three consecutive Pet Food of the Year awards from 2009-12 from the Glycemic Research Institute of Washington, D.C. ORIJEN was named Pet Food of the Decade, 2000-2009, by Rate It All, America’s largest consumer review website. Of the 1,500 dog foods reviewed by Dog Food Analysis, ORIJEN received the highest five- and six-star rankings.

“ACANA and ORIJEN foods mimic the natural eating habits of your cat or dog with high fresh meat inclusions, an abundant variety of meats, and low inclusion of carbohydrates,” wrote Burdzy, who called both products “a new standard in pet food, designed to nourish your dog and cat … according to its natural evolution to a meat- and protein-rich diet.”

Burdzy wrote that Champion never outsources its pet food production, making everything in its own award-winning DogStar kitchens.

“Kentucky’s local food culture is a perfect fit for our DogStar kitchens, which are located in the center of a dynamic agricultural community, providing access to myriad specialty farmers with whom we partner for our supply of fresh, regional ingredients,” he wrote. “We provide pet lovers with food consisting of local ingredients that are sustainably raised and delivered to our door fresh, so they’re never frozen, always preservative free, and always bursting with goodness that nourishes completely, rather than relying on highly-processed commodity ingredients.”

Burdzy wrote that the kitchens make Champion quite different from many of “today’s multinational and marketing companies that sell – but don’t actually make – pet foods.”

“We equipped our DogStar kitchens with food-processing technologies that are unlike any other pet food maker anywhere, enabling the highest possible fresh meat inclusions from our selection of over 50 fresh and regional ingredients,” he wrote. “Our Kentucky kitchens will allow us to better supply and develop stronger relations with our pet specialty partners throughout the USA.”

For more information, about Champion Petfoods, go to