How to Know if Your Pet’s Diet is Organic or Natural or Neither

August 25, 2016

There is a lot of talk about choosing “organic” or “natural” pet foods, but there’s also a lot of confusion about what makes a food organic or natural. First of all, organic is not the same thing as natural and it’s important to know the difference.  Organic refers to how an ingredient is grown or raised, or what happens to it during that growing/raising process.  Natural is determined by what occurs to the ingredient or product after it leaves its place of origin. While products labeled as “natural” usually contain healthier ingredients, there are no regulations governing it. Just because a pet food package claims the product is all natural, that doesn’t make it so.

Natural pet food most likely won’t contain chemicals or artificial anything. There will be no growth hormones or additives that aren’t considered natural. But that doesn’t mean the product is free from genetically modified organisms. Remember that if it was sprayed in the fields while growing with a pesticide containing GMO, that won’t stop it from being labeled “natural.” AAFCO, the pet food governing organization, says “natural is about not using chemicals or chemical processes to create food. For example, if a preservative is used in a pet food, it must be a natural preservative, such as tocopherals, which are really Vitamin E.  AAFCO uses the USDA organic certification standards for ingredients, their handling, manufacturing and labeling but it doesn’t have the authority to regulate or test the products for compliance. The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) regulations cover ingredient sourcing, ingredient handling, manufacturing, labeling and certification of products wanting to use the term “organic” in labeling.

Organic products must go through a more rigorous set of standards in order to obtain that label. No synthetic fertilizers or GMO’s can be used during the growing process. Less than 5% of hormones and pesticides are allowed. If a product claims to be “made with organic ingredients,” that means only 70% of the food is truly organic.  If the claim is 100% organic, that means that all of the food should be pure and organic. Know that organic ingredients and products derive from plant, animal or mined sources.

This Bulldog Eats Organic Food.

Maggie In Her Favorite Hat

According to “Dogs Naturally Magazine,” pets will benefit from an organic diet in numerous ways. The pet should experience a reduction in weight, digestive issues, fewer respiratory problems,  It should experience a stronger immunity to disease and live a longer life.

Not all organic foods are equal. Cereal grains may be organic but in any form, they are still fillers and not the basic meat, vegetables, fruits and vitamins that pets need. As Anthony Bennie, co-founder of, wrote in a Linkedin article, “Ingredients may claim to be ‘natural’ or even be ‘Certified Organic, but if they serve no defined purpose they too are fillers. It’s far better to have a high meat conventional diet than a cereal-filled ‘organic’ diet!”

If you cannot afford the proper organic diet or for any reason do not choose that route for your pet, you can still improve his or her diet by adding small organic items to the animal’s daily diet. Something as simple as adding a raw, organic egg to your pet’s regular food each day adds nutrients. Be sure to read those labels and avoid the GMO ingredients like corn or soy.








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Anthony Bennie August 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for mentioning my article, Carol! While I support the CONCEPT of organic nutrition for dogs, I have seen too many instances where someone chooses an organic dry pet food or dog “cookie” loaded with wheat or other carbohydrates instead of a more species appropriate meat-based option for food or snacks. Organic grains are relatively inexpensive, on average about 30% more than conventional; organically certified meats can be 50% to 100% more expensive than conventional. This is why organic dry dog foods and treats tend to be carb heavy. Further complicating the equation is the fact that any DRY food or treat, whether kibbled, dehydrated, or freeze dried, would need a tremendous amount of organic meat to actually feed as a meat-based diet should. Why? To be offered as a dry option, 70% of this meat (by weight) would be cooked away in the kibble process, and as much as 90% of the organic meat (by weight) will be lost in freeze drying. Hence, I have yet to see an organic certified kibble that I would feed to my own dogs as a standalone diet without adding additional muscle or organ meat. As I have said in the past, I still say that unless one is feeding just as high meat content organically as you would conventionally, your dog or cat is better off with a high meat conventional diet than an organic food that provides more calories from carbs than animal-based proteins.
Keep up the good work of speaking out about animal nutrition! We can never have enough intelligent voices out here.
Respectfully yours, Anthony Bennie, Clear Conscience Pet


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