If you live near a Trader Joe's, you're in luck: Reviews say this quirky grocery store sells its own brand of canned cat food with surprisingly high-quality ingredients -- at a surprisingly low price.
No byproducts, and nothing artificial. Unlike most supermarket brands, Trader Joe's cat food contains no byproducts, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or genetically modified ingredients. Trader Joe's also contains chelated minerals, which are easier for cats to absorb. In some ways, though, it can't match the priciest premium brands. The fourth and fifth ingredients in Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner are "ocean fish" and "animal liver," and the eighth is "fish protein concentrate" -- vaguer descriptions than what you'll see in the ingredients lists of premium foods. Unlike the highest-rated cat foods, Trader Joe's contains grain (not the best for cats, which are strict carnivores) and carrageenan (a seaweed-based thickener that has been linked to intestinal problems in some animal studies). Still, a lot of cat foods do -- even some premium cat foods that cost considerably more.
Going above and beyond. We found plenty of reviews by cat owners who say they trust Trader Joe's, which behaved so responsibly during the deadly pet food recalls of 2007. Trader Joe's pet foods were made in the Menu Foods factory that added contaminated Chinese ingredients to nearly 100 brands of pet food, sickening and killing many pets. Trader Joe's food wasn't among the foods that were contaminated -- but Trader Joe's pulled all of its food off store shelves anyway, until it could run its own tests to make sure it was safe. Pet owners were impressed. "THIS is how to handle a pet food recall," a Dogster.com blogger wrote. A search of the Food and Drug Administration's online recall database (which goes back to 2007) shows no recalls for Trader Joe's pet food.
Close-to-premium quality -- at a less-than-premium price. Trader Joe's cat food costs a bit less than Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula (Est. $1.09 per 6 ounce can), the cheapest premium pet food that experts recommend. Granted, Natural Balance uses more whole, specific foods in its formula (chicken liver and salmon, instead of Trader Joe's "animal liver" and "fish protein concentrate") -- but label-scrutinizing cat owners say Trader Joe's is a far better choice than similarly priced supermarket cat foods, which are full of byproducts and cheap fillers.
Trader Joe's cat food reviews
Veterinarian Lisa Pierson recommends Trader Joe's as a high-quality commercial canned cat food. This page links to a chart showing the nutrition profiles (how much protein, fat, carbohydrate, etc.) of Trader Joe's and many other cat foods.
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, November 2014
Cat owners here discuss the pros and cons of Trader Joe's cat food. Some say they could do without the brewers rice and oat bran as fillers, but most agree that it's not a bad food overall, especially considering the price.
Review: Ever Tried Trader Joe's Wet Food?, Contributors to CatForum.com, October 2008
We found a handful of reviews here, spread among three Trader Joe's varieties, Turkey & Giblets, Tuna for Cats and Chicken, Turkey and Rice. Most reviewers seem pleased. One reviewer down rates the Chicken, Turkey and Rice version over its odor and some of its lower-quality ingredients, but admits that the cats "happily devoured this."
Review: Trader Joe's, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of July 2016
Trader Joe's doesn't list any information about its cat food on its website, but a cat owner here helpfully posts the ingredients and nutritional breakdown for Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner, which, at the time of this update, remain current.
Review: Which Food Is Best?, Contributors to Catster.com, June 2011
This blogger posts Trader Joe's press release from the 2007 pet food recall, in which it announced that it would pull all Menu Foods-manufactured foods from its store shelves -- even if they hadn't tested positive for contaminants -- until Trader Joe's could test them and be sure that they were safe. Pet owners on various Internet forums were impressed with the company's ethics.
Review: THIS Is How to Handle a Pet Food Recall -- Trader Joe's, "Joy", March 23, 2007
Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey & Rice Dinner can be purchased through some Marketplace sellers at Amazon.com, though at prices notably above what it sells for in Trader Joe's stores. The pricing is the prime source of complaints here; those who address the food say it's pretty good -- just buy it directly from Trader Joe's.
Review: Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey & Rice Dinner 6 Cans, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of July 2016