The Devil’s in the Details: What Sets BioStar Apart
The raising, care, training, and campaigning of horses requires close attention to details. Whether you keep your horses in your own backyard, or at a boarding or training barn, there are a lot of details in the management of horses, young or old.
There are also a lot of details to consider when riding, like strides in a gymnastic, riding a correct 20 meter circle, our balance, use of aids, reward and correction.
At BioStar, formulating and field-testing a supplement is also all about the details.
How a New Product Begins
Every BioStar supplement starts with a need, be it a specific issue, or overall support. Sometimes riders ask us, “Can you make XYZ for my horse?” and we will give it a shot.
Our own story began this way. I needed to increase circulation in the feet of my Grand Prix horse…. and soon Furnace EQ was born.
When the need is identified, such as a supplement for allergies, then the research begins.
Before beginning, it’s important that we know standard veterinary protocol for the many varying health issues in horses. We won’t create formulas that are going to interfere with veterinary medications or protocol. BioStar supplements are an integrative tool in the “toolbox of health.”
An Eye to the East
Eastern Medicine provides a holistic paradigm that addresses the whole body and approaches symptoms as part of the overall system. Applying the Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine principles helps to shape the formula, provides insight into specific plants, fungi and foods that can synergistically correct imbalances.
Science and Research
Every ingredient BioStar incorporates into a formula is backed by published studies and research. Many of the unique patented ingredients we use are further supported by clinical trials. Our attention does not end when a product is released; we continue to track the science as more studies become available.
Sourcing our Ingredients
Sourcing ingredients is one of the most challenging parts of creating a BioStar supplement.
BioStar has very clear requirements on raw materials. The list is a mile long and includes:
- It cannot be made from or sourced from petrochemicals and their by-products
- It must be traceable from farm to table
- It cannot be sourced from GMOs or Bioengineered (BE) foods*
- Fruit powders cannot be sourced using drum drying methods that include maltodextrin
- Certified organic preferred
- Ingredients must be derived from plant, fungi or whole food
- Certificate of Analysis (COA) must include heavy metals testing and be below standard threshold
- It must meet environmental sustainability standards including Fair trade.
- It must have rigorous scientific studies and certification including: clinical trials (applicable to patented ingredients), National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS, US Food & Drug Administration), Non GMO Project Verified (where applicable).
*Bioengineered Food (BE food) is the federal government’s new term for GMOs. Under the Bioengineered Food labeling law, certain BE foods containing detectable modified genetic material must disclose the presence of BE ingredients. Exemptions: animal feed, pet care, and personal care products. The law goes into effect January 1, 2022.
Patented ingredients are very expensive, they can be two to three times the cost of generic ingredients. These ingredients cost more for good reason: the research, clinical trials, and increased bioavailability, thus effectiveness, mean its performance is backed by science and confirmed through testing.
After all, what’s the point of using an ingredient with low bioavailability? We aren’t going to use an ingredient just to put it on a label. It has to actually work. We often cut our profit margins to accommodate superior ingredients into a formula, because superior ingredients simply work better.
Country of Origin Matters
BioStar remains the only equine and canine supplement company that lists the country of origin of every ingredient on our product pages. We have done this since our inception. And yet, no other company has followed our lead.
To me, full disclosure can’t be full disclosure without Country of Origin. Consumers have the right to know where ingredients come from that they are using for their horses and dogs. In a global economy, ‘Made in the USA’ is important, but it is only half the story. Made in the USA does not mean the ingredients came from the USA.
There’s a lot of innovation happening in the EU when it comes to nutraceuticals and patented extracts. One of the advantages of European sourced patented extracts and patented plant-sourced nutraceuticals is the amount of published research, studies, and clinicals that are required for acceptance by the EFSA. Patented extracts and nutraceuticals must provide fact-based evidence of efficacy and prove the avenues of bioavailability.
BioStar also sources many of our certified organic plants and foods from European countries.
A Few Words on China
The US is the biggest importer of China’s nutraceutical and vitamin ingredients. As of 2018, US companies spent $360 million dollars importing China’s vitamins and nutraceuticals.
Although many consumers are wary of imports from China, the Chinese are experts in some notable areas: medicinal mushrooms and fermented foods.
The Chinese have been growing medicinal mushrooms for thousands of years. They grow mushrooms on wood logs (not oats or rice as is done in the US) outside under special tents that allow for light and air. This results in higher therapeutic levels of beta glucan, triterpenoid and ergosterol content and less starch. For the easy keeper horses and dogs, less starch is ideal.
Chinese have been using fermentation for as long as 9,000 years, as verified by chemical analysis from Neolithic pottery jars. While we may think of fermentation in relation to Louis Pasteur and penicillin, the Chinese and Japanese cultures are the true gurus of fermentation. The popular drink Kombucha originated in Manchuria around 220 BC.
Innovative small companies in Europe have teamed up with fermentation companies in China to make fermented ingredients such as fermented ginger, turmeric, ginseng, and astragalus. These are very exciting ingredients for health and well being.
The amount of each ingredient in a formula matters a great deal. In many cases a patented nutraceutical requires a smaller dosage than its generic counterpart because of its increased bioavailability.
For example, Quercetin in its generic form has a recommended human dose of 500 – 1000 mg per day. The patented quercetin phytosome (Quercefit), however, has a human dose of 200 mg. (When comparing human dosage to horse dosage, the amount needed for efficacy can be two to seven times that of the human dose, depending on the ingredient.)
In the case of quercetin, there are equine supplements on the market that provide
200 – 500 mg of generic quercetin. This makes the label look good because it has quercetin listed, and it saves the company money because it’s generic. But, the low amount of less bioavailable quercetin is not going to benefit the horse.
How an Ingredient is Grown and Processed
There are methods of growing, harvesting, and collecting that are just not acceptable to us. One of the reasons we find so many ingredients in Europe and Canada is because the use of glyphosate and specific chemical fertilizers just aren’t as prevalent there as in the US.
The process of turning a whole food or plant into an extract may entail production steps that involve certain solvents that we cannot accept.
When we purchase an ingredient, we need to know everything about how it was grown, harvested, processed, and stored. We will reject any questionable practices.
From Farm to Feed Bucket
Ten years ago, BioStar went through the Non GMO Project Verification and Certification process. In order to be certified, we had to show traceability from farm to our facility and products for EVERY SINGLE ingredient.
• Where the food was grown
• Who the farmers were
• How the foods or plants were grown, harvested, processed
• How the food was handled from farm to distributor or manufacturer
• How it was stored
• How contamination with genetically modified materials was prevented
• How many lots were tested
• What the test results were
• What the chain of custody was
• What, if any, additives were used in the extraction, refinement, or production process (The Non GMO Project is incredibly strict on use of additives.)
All of this had to be documented and verified in order to pass certification, which we did.
These are just a few of the details involved with Certification of Farm to Feed Bucket that BioStar adheres to today.
New BioStar formulas get tested in the field before they are ever brought to market. Sometimes we begin with one single ingredient, testing it on horses for palatability, dosage, and possible adverse effects. It can take months of field testing on a variety of horses before we decide if the product or ingredient should be created for sale. We take the input from the testing group very seriously. If we are not getting the results we hoped for, we either adjust the formula ingredients and amounts and re-test, or shelve the product entirely.
Every new product is sent out for independent lab testing to ensure potency, quality, and the nutritional components before release.
Making Our Own Supplements
Biostar is one of only a few equine supplement companies that make our own products. We do not use private-label or third-party supplement manufacturers. This gives us total control of ingredients, and our own unique processes with whole food. This includes powders, pastes, and dehydrated bars.
We still cut our own carrots and sprout our own seeds. Every step in the process of physically making a supplement has its own rigorous standards from start to finish.
The paperwork alone would qualify for an FEI Steward’s job. 😉
We Are Sticklers
Horse people are fussy; they have to be. And so is BioStar. We are fastidious about ingredients, processing and making supplements. We are meticulous about details and testing, and we are persnickety about raw materials, science, and sourcing. We seek out the most advanced ingredients, test them, and ensure a chain of traceability from farm to feed bucket.
We are sticklers for the details … because we are horse people.
See our website for more on Our Ingredients
Or read more on our Blog: Assessing the Quality of Food Ingredients