Two of the powerhouses of the premium pet food world. Acana and Orijen are both renowned for their highly nutritious recipes that contain high-quality ingredients fit for humans and dogs alike. But aren’t Acana and Orijen produced by the same manufacturer? What is the difference between the brands and which offers the best nutrition for your dog?
All will be revealed as we will go in-depth into all the matters of importance when choosing a dog food recipe. Our analysis will include a look into their product ranges, the nutrition they provide, the quality of their ingredients, and finally a look at their recall histories.
The Acana and Orijen pet food brands are produced by Champion Pet Foods. For this reason, they share many similarities but do have some notable differences. We will first analyze these similarities before we get to their major differences.
Acana vs. Orijen – What Is The Same?
Neither Acana or Orijen outsource any of the production of their products. This lack of outsourcing allows Acana and Orijen to ensure there is consistency in the quality of their formulas, as well as ensuring that high standards of safety and hygiene are enforced.
Also, both brands share many suppliers of ingredients such as fresh meat or fish. Many of these ingredients are sourced from local suppliers, and Orijen and Acana list many of these farms or other producers on their website and product packaging. Some examples of farms or producers will be discussed later on.
Another important fact to note is that the ingredients used in Acana and Orijen recipes are fit for human consumption. The fact that their Ingredients are fit for human consumption is not something that many pet food brands can proudly state. Ingredients, especially meat, that is fit for human consumption is of a much higher quality than those that aren’t fit for human consumption and as a consequence can provide a more reliable source of high-quality nutrition to your dog.
Both Acana and Orijen claim that they do not conduct any laboratory studies on animals. Instead, they only test pets which are brought in for taste, stool, urine, and blood analysis from ‘loving homes.’ A lack of animal testing is reassuring as we are all too aware that many dog food brands do test their products on animals in less than gentle ways. Animal testing is something that we are hopeful will decline and be stamped out altogether in the near future.
Lastly, both brands use the phrase ‘Biologically Appropriate’ heavily in their marketing and advertising material. What this means, in short, is that the ingredients and nutrition provided by their recipes closely mimic a dog’s natural diet and can, therefore, be quickly and efficiently digested. While this is without a doubt a marketing and promotional ploy, it does have some basis, as dogs will be able to digest certain ingredients easier as their digestive system is better suited to them.
Acana vs. Orijen – What Are The Differences?
Now we know some of the long lists of similarities between the brands, let’s break down the core differences.
The most prominent difference is that Orijen formulas contain significantly more meat and fish ingredients than Acana formulas. Orijen formulas tend to contain between 85% and 90% meat and fish ingredients while Acana formulas contain between 50% and 75% meat and fish ingredients.
This is a fundamental distinction as meat and fish ingredients should be at the very core of any dog food. The extremely high proportion of meat and fish ingredients used by Orijen formulas puts it far above the vast majority of dog food brands. While some would argue that dogs do not need this much meat or fish, especially the protein that it provides, this kind of diet closely mimics that of dogs ancestors.
Another core difference between the brands is that all of Orijen’s meat and fish ingredients are fresh, whereas only half of Acana’s meat and fish ingredients are fresh. While technically, non-fresh ingredients contain the same nutrition, we all too aware of the difference in quality and consistency of meat and fish ingredients that are frozen compared to fresh.
Many traditional and fast food restaurants pride themselves on using fresh ingredients, and it is one of their primary selling points. An example of this is Wendy’s only using fresh burgers. If we favor these in our diets then surely we should undoubtedly prefer them in our dog’s diets?
Lastly, Orijen formulas can contain a more extensive variety of meat and fish ingredients. This can be quantified as Orijen containing up to ten meat and fish ingredients, while Acana contains up to five. This difference could be both beneficial and adverse.
A dog may enjoy the variety of ingredients in the formula and could benefit from the broader range of micronutrients like minerals and vitamins that different meat and fish contain. However, a more extensive variety of ingredients can lead to more dogs having an adverse reaction, due to an allergy or intolerance of one of the ingredients.
Acana vs. Orijen – Product Range Comparison
Dry Dog Food
There are some significant differences in the ranges of products offered by Acana and Orijen despite them being sister brands. The core of all the product ranges produced by commercial brands is dry dog food. As you can imagine, both brands have a wide range of dry dog foods available.
Acana produces fifteen varieties of dry dog food, and Orijen produces eight.
It is also important to note that four of acana’s dry dog food recipes are Limited Ingredient formulas. Limited Ingredient formulas are designed for dogs with severe allergies or sensitivities and can aid the process of identifying allergies by only using a minimal number of ingredients.
Unfortunately, Orijen does produce any limited ingredient formulas. It’s not clear at this time why they have not chosen to take advantage of this market.
To learn more about Limited Ingredient formulas or feeding a dog with allergies check out our Best Hypoallergenic Dog Foods Guide.
Puppy and Senior Dog Food
One advantage of Orijen’s range is that they produce dry dog food designed specifically for puppies and senior dogs. Until recently Acana did not produce any dog food designed for puppies or senior dogs.
However, in April 2018, Acana launched its Puppy and Junior formula which marked their arrival into the puppy food market.
Orijen has two varieties of puppy food, one standard puppy food and one for large breed puppies. While puppies can often safely eat dog food designed for adult dogs, puppy food can provide more appropriate nutrition and a more manageable kibble size.
The nutrition that a puppy receives in the first year of their life is some of the most important. A great diet can avoid many health problems and promote healthy growth.
The same goes for senior dog food. Senior dogs require a different balance of nutrition, and so a formula specially designed for dogs of this life stage could be more appropriate. For example, some senior dogs are unable to digest their food as efficiently and so need a more concentrated source of some nutrients.
Both brands offer a range of dog treats. Acana offers four flavors of dog treats, and their flavors match the ingredients contained within their limited ingredient Singles range. Orijen, on the other hand, has a more extensive variety of dog treats available with nine different varieties in total.
The similarity between these ranges is that they are both freeze-dried dog treats. Freeze-dried dog treats have had their moisture removed but retain their nutrition and flavor allowing them to be perfect for rewarding your dog for good behavior.
Freeze Dried Dog Food
While Orijen may not offer Limited Ingredient formulas for dogs with sensitivities, it does provide a small range of freeze-dried dog foods. These are similar to the freeze-dried dog treats mentioned above but are designed to take up a more significant proportion of a dogs diet.
Freeze-dried dog foods are very costly, but they are whole meat and fish with the moisture removed, and so provide excellent nutrition. It is often wise to combine freeze-dried dog food with other fresh ingredients to provide balanced nutrition at a more affordable cost.
Acana vs. Orijen – Nutrition Comparison
While both brands seem reasonably similar and competitive at offering a wide range of dry dog food as well as limited ingredient or freeze-dried products, nutrition is where Orijen begins to take the lead due to the more significant proportion of meat and fish ingredients it contains. As you can see below Orijen provides excellent nutrition.
The basics of dog nutrition are a healthy balance of protein and fat, with, if possible, slightly more calories from fat than protein. A small proportion of carbohydrates is also acceptable as long as they are from a high-quality source.
As you can see above, Orijen’s protein and fat proportion is extremely high and makes up over 75% of the calories in their formulas. This is a very similar nutritional profile that dogs ancestors would have consumed. In particular, the protein proportion of Orijen is extremely high and probably the highest of any commercial dog food. This protein will provide the building blocks needed for timely growth, repair and maintenance of your dog’s cells.
While Acana’s nutrition is certainly not weak and far better than the majority of dog food brands, its protein proportion pales in comparison to Orijen, see below. Despite this, it provides very similar proportions of fat, which should be recognized as fat should be the core energy source for dogs.
The proportion of protein isn’t the only factor when judging nutrition. Less active dogs may need a smaller proportion of protein to match their needs, and so Acana may be more suitable for those dogs that live less active lifestyles. On the flip side, dogs who are attempting weight loss may want a dog food with a higher ratio of protein to fat to help them remain full while losing weight. This is why it is essential to pick the right dog food for your dog.
Before we continue, it is important to note that these proportions above are estimates and are calculated based on the guaranteed analysis of Acana and Orijen products. Guaranteed analysis’s list the minimum proportions of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Therefore it likely that these figures mildly underestimate protein and fat content, and slightly overestimate carbohydrate content. For the exact proportions, your best bet is to contact the manufacturer directly.
Carbohydrate Content Analysis
There is a noticeable difference in the proportion of carbohydrates between the two brands. This difference is due to Orijen formulas containing a much higher proportion of meat and fish ingredients. These provide additional protein and fat and reduce the need for large portions of fruits and vegetables which are the primary source of carbohydrates in dog food.
Sources of Carbohydrates
The carbohydrate providing ingredients of Acana and Orijen are very similar. This similarity is because they both use legumes almost exclusively. This use of legumes includes ingredients like Lentils, Peas, and Chickpeas. Legumes such as this are considered one of the better and more high-quality sources of carbohydrates due to the fact they have a low-glycemic index and contain dietary fiber to aid and regulate digestion.
When only whole legumes are used, and by-products such as Pea Protein or Pea Flour are absent, then they can be considered even more favorable. Many of Orijen and Acana’s competitors make use of these undesirable by-products, but both Orijen and Acana avoid them.
However, it is important to note that there is additional carbohydrate providing ingredients present, especially in Orijen’s product range. Small quantities of fruits like Apples, Pears and Berries and vegetables like Squash and Pumpkin are great examples. While these ingredients may be present in relatively small amounts, they can provide much-needed vitamins and minerals as well as additional dietary fiber to aid digestion.
Protein Content Analysis
As mentioned previously, Orijen’s protein content is unprecedented and is probably one of the highest if not the highest average protein proportion of any commercial dog food brand. The protein proportion of Orijen’s formulas is so high due to the substantial quantities of fresh meat and fish ingredients present in its formulas.
Acana and Orijen source their meat and fish ingredients from local suppliers. They don’t just provide the location or type of suppliers, but in some cases, they state the name and the owner of the farm itself. This level of accountability is second to none and is far superior to most sources for human consumption let alone dog food.
For example, the poultry used in Acana’s Meadowland Formula is sourced from Clark Farms in Lexington Kentucky. This level of detail shows that Acana is not ashamed or attempting to hide or deceive their consumers. Instead, they are proud of their suppliers and are happy to provide you with additional information to satisfy your curiosity.
Another example of the source of meat in an Orijen recipe is Blueville Bison in Shelbyville Kentucky, which if you hadn’t guessed provides the Bison ingredients to Orijen dog food formulas such as Tundra.
Fat Content Analysis
The fat content of these two brands is almost identical both in proportion and in quality. Animal and fish ingredients are the primary source of fat. These are a dog’s natural source to which they can easily digest. This proportion of fat can provide high a high volume of concentrated energy, perfect for a healthy and active dog.
The sources of this fat are identical to the protein sources, some of which we mentioned above.
Neither Acana or Orijen has any history of recalls in the United States or Canada. While this doesn’t help us identify a clear winner in our comparison, this is an excellent sign of high-quality and safe production techniques being used to produce their dog foods.
However, we should not gloss over the fact that Orijen was once recalled in Australia in quite a unique case. This recall was due to the way that their products were irradiated by Gamma radiation. This irradiation affected a number of cats. For more information about this recall check out our Orijen page.
In March 2018 a lawsuit was filed against Champion Pet Foods, the manufacturer of Acana and Orijen pet products. The lawsuit claims that Champion Pet Foods failed to disclose harmful levels of heavy metals and toxins such as Arsenic and Lead in their products. Champion Pet Foods quickly responded claiming the lawsuit was meritless and had misrepresented the data. It is essential to understand this is merely an accusation at this stage and until any conclusive judgment or evidence is made public, we will not advise against any of Champion Pet Foods products.
It is crucial that you keep a regular track of any future recalls that might effect Acana, Orijen or any other dog food brand. This vigilence is the only practical way to prevent harm from coming to your dog.
In conclusion, Orijen is without a doubt the more nutritious dog food brand of the two sisters. However, this nutrition comes at a price and quite a significant one at that. Orijen dog food tends to be very pricey and may be the most expensive commercial dog food brand sold at most independent pet food stores.
So whether the larger range of high-quality ingredients and superior nutrition is worth the price tag is a decision only you can make.
Acana, on the other hand, offers solid nutrition at a much more affordable price for the majority of consumers. However, it is important to note that affordable is only used here in comparison to Orijen as Acana is still significantly more expensive than most dog food brands. Consumers on a tight budget may not be able to afford either brand.
Acana’s range of limited ingredient formulas may also give it an edge in that niche as all of Orijen’s dry food recipes have a huge ingredient list which is not appropriate for dogs with severe allergies or intolerances.
At Pet Food Reviewer, we have individually reviewed all of both Acana and Orijen’s US product ranges. Our careful analysis of their recipes puts us in a powerful position to present to you their best products. If you want to read our reviews of all their products and not just these recommendations, see the link to the brand pages at the very bottom of this page.
While every single one of Orijen’s formulas is considered high-quality not only by us but the vast majority of the dog food world, which formula of theirs is the best, however, is a hot topic of debate. Every dog is unique, and so it is hard to pinpoint the best recipe definitively, but we do have one in mind.
Six fish is our favorite dry food recipe produced by Orijen and for a good reason. While all of Orijen’s dry food formulas provide fantastic nutrition from a truly massive range of ingredients, Six fish has one unique selling point. The level of the Omega Fatty Acids, in particular, the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, is incredible and one of the highest of any commercial dog food sold today. This is thanks to the broad range of whole oily fish utilized in this recipe as oily fish is the best source of this crucial fatty acid.
Our recommendations section would not be complete without Orijen’s Puppy Large formula. Large or giant breed puppies need a particular diet with effective calorie control and the right balance of minerals. Failure to follow this can lead to painful and often permanent conditions and diseases such as Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. Therefore Orijen’s choice to provide an extremely high-quality formula specifically designed for large and giant breed puppies is a huge relief and a blessing.
The formula is very similar to the Original Adult formula. This could make the transition from puppy food to adult food smooth and carefree. Its core ingredients include a range of poultry and fish ingredients such as Chicken, Turkey, and Flounder. However, it’s important to remember that Orijen’s formulas all contain at least ten meat or fish ingredients alongside an enormous range of fruits and vegetables. Examples include Lentils, Beans, Pumpkin, and Apples.
Given that Orijen produces a vast range of freeze-dried dog treats, we thought it worthwhile to mention them. Due to the high-quality meat ingredients in these treats, they will be incredibly appealing to your dog and perfect as a tasty reward for good behavior or to be used as part of training.
Of all the varieties of freeze-dried treats, we thought that the Tundra recipe might be more appealing than others due to the large selection of less common red meat ingredients it uses. This includes Venison, Goat, Wild Boar, and Char. These meat ingredients contain a plentiful supply of animal fat which is what will make them particularly tasty.
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Acana’s Heritage range is has been recently revamped adding a number of new formulas. Heritage – Red Meat, however, isn’t one of these new formulas although it has seen a slight formula change alongside a name change. It used to be known by Heritage Meats which gave it the unfortunate name of Acana Heritage – Heritage Meats.
As the name would strongly suggest, the formula includes a number of traditional red meat ingredients such as Beef, Pork, and Lamb. These are all superb ingredients and provide a significant proportion of animal protein and fat. This formula also includes some vegetable ingredients such as Lentils, Peas, Chickpeas, and Beans.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, Orijen does not produce any formulas for dogs with severe allergies or insensitivities, but Acana does with its Singles range. Our favorite of his range is the Wild Mackerel formula.
Unsurprisingly, Mackerel is the core ingredient and provides the bulk of the protein and fat. In particular, it contains a satisfactory proportion of the Omega Fatty Acids which are sure to help dogs whose allergies are affecting the health of their skin and coat. A modest range of legumes, which is slightly smaller than the norm, are also present to provide a satisfactory proportion of carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
As we included one of Orijen’s treats in this recommendations section, we felt obliged to add an Acana recipe too as they are also fantastic. These treats are bundled into the Singles range and match up with the corresponding kibble formula to allow you to select a dry food formula and a treat that is suitable for your dog’s intolerance or allergy.
Pork & Squash is one of the best of the treat range and provides a healthy balance between protein and fat. Many dog treats are very excessive with their fat proportion which can cause the treats to be healthy in excess. The treats also include a portion of Pork Liver which can provide a range of minerals and vitamins not commonly found in traditional meat cuts. Finally, the Squash can provide a tiny portion of carbohydrates and some dietary fiber.