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Natural Organic Dog Food

Organic Dog Food Worth The Money?
Natural organic dog food are the hottest trend in pet food, but what exactly does it mean for dog food to be “natural” or “organic”?

What can you expect in terms of nutrition and ingredients when you purchase organic dog food? And, most importantly, are organic dog foods worth the higher price? Names That Mean Death

Those are some of the questions I will explore in this article.

On this page you will find information on:

Table of Content
What Is Natural Organic Dog Food?
Certified Organic Standards
Are Certified Natural Organic Dog Foods More Nutritious?
Certified Organic Dog Foods
Should You Buy a Natural Organic Dog Food?

What Is Natural Organic Dog Food?
Let’s take these terms one at a time. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) defines “natural” as follows:

A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification,

extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation,

but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically

synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids

that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”
The AAFCO Guidelines for Natural Claims go on to state that a dog food may only be labeled

“natural” if “all of the ingredients and components of ingredients meet the definition above”.

Further AAFCO state: “the use of the term ‘natural’ is false and misleading

if any chemically synthesized ingredients are present in the product.” Of course, virtually all

“complete and balanced” dog foods contain chemically synthesized vitamins and minerals.

So AAFCO guidelines allow dog foods to be labeled “natural”

To meet this requirement, a disclaimer such as “Natural with added vitamins, minerals, and other trace nutrients” should be juxtaposed with the term “natural” on product labeling.

In other words, natural dog foods do not contain chemically synthesized ingredients such as artificial colors,

flavors, preservatives, or other artificial additives with the exception of vitamin and mineral supplements.

And since artificial ingredients are allowed “in amounts as

might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices,”

trace amounts of artificial preservatives or other additives may well be present.

Okay, but what about the “organic” in natural organic dog food?

While all organic ingredients are natural, most natural ingredients aren’t organic. At least not by the official USDA definition of the word. This is where things get tricky.

Currently, there is no organic certification program for pet foods in the US,

so organic dog food is required to be certified under human food regulations.

Human foods labeled as “organic” are strictly

regulated and must comply with the production and handling requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).

More on that in a minute.

Some dog food manufacturers have had their foods certified as organic by the official, USDA-accredited certifying agencies, and these organic dog foods meet the same high standards as any organic human food.

However, there are also dog foods and treats including the word organic in the product name (and occasionally even the company name) although none or only a few of their ingredients are actually organic.

This is a violation of USDA rules, but because the USDA has no authority to regulate pet food names and product claims (and the agencies that do have the authority haven’t bothered to define the term

“organic” for pet foods), they get away with it as long as they don’t claim to be “certified organic.”

In order to make sure that the natural organic dog food you’re considering is really organic, look for the green and white or black and white USDA Organic seal (for foods containing at least 95% organic ingredients)

and the name of the organic certifying agency (e.g., Oregon Tilth, OIA, QAI, OCIA, CCOF) on the package.

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Certified Organic Standards
irradiation, or artificial additives.

Organic meats used in natural organic dog food, must come from animals with access to the outdoors, raised on organic feed, and not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.

Organic claims are independently verified by USDA-accredited organic certifying agencies with periodic on-site inspections, audits of the production process, and examination of the detailed paper trail that must exist for each and every ingredient.

The labeling requirements for USDA certified organic foods are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in the food:

100% Certified Organic Ingredients – Foods containing 100% organic ingredients can be labeled “100% Organic”

and display the USDA Certified Organic seal on the front of the package.

Organic ingredients must be identified as such in the ingredient list, and the name of the certifying agency must be displayed on the information panel.

Because complete and balanced dog foods contain synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements that obviously aren’t organic,

you won’t find any complete dog foods with the “100% Organic” label. There are, however, dog treats with this designation.
95% to 99% Certified Organic Ingredients – Foods containing 95-99% organic ingredients can be labeled

“Organic” and display the USDA Certified Organic seal on the front of the package.

The 1-5% non-organic ingredients must consist of NOP-approved nonagricultural substances or agricultural products not available in organic form.

Dog foods that are entirely organic except for their vitamin and mineral supplements fall into this category.
70% to 94% Certified Organic Ingredients –

Foods containing 70-94% organic ingredients can be labeled

“Made with Organic Ingredients

” and list up to three such ingredients on the front of the package, but they may not display the USDA Certified Organic seal.

They can, however, display the seal(s) of the agent(s) certifying their ingredients as organic.

Most “organic” kibbles fall into this category because they contain non-organic chicken, lamb, and/or salmon meal in addition to organic fresh chicken meat and organic grains, vegetables, seeds, and oils.

Less than 70% Certified Organic Ingredients –

Foods containing 1-69% organic ingredients can identify these ingredients as organic on the information panel, but they may not use the word “organic” anywhere on the front of the package.

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Are Certified Natural Organic Dog Foods More Nutritious?
No studies have been done regarding natural organic dog food, only organic human foods.

Some studies, such as the 5-year Quality Low Input Food (QLIF) study commissioned by the EU in 2004,

have found that certified organic crops and livestock products are more nutritious than conventionally produced foods.

Other studies have found no significant differences.

Where differences were found, vegetables and fruits had higher concentrations of phytonutrients and antioxidants,

while meats, eggs, and dairy products proved higher in omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

On the other hand, after commissioning a 12-month review of existing research, the UK’s Food Standards Agency concluded that

“there is no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health in relation to nutrient content.”

At this point, the question of whether organic foods are more nutritious remains controversial.

Far less controversial is the fact that organic foods have substantially lower levels of pesticide residue, nitrates, heavy metals, and other chemicals and contaminants.

Organic meats and eggs are less likely to be contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli.

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Certified Organic Dog Foods
Because organic meats are very expensive, certified organic dry dog foods are grain and vegetable based.

Currently there are no high protein certified organic kibbles.

Moreover, most natural organic dog foods cut costs by adding non-organic chicken, lamb, and/or salmon meal to their otherwise organic ingredients.

Frequently the first ingredient will be organic chicken, followed by a non-organic meat in meal form. Since fresh chicken meat is 70% water, the final product will contain more non-organic than organic meat. I

n some cases, none of the meat sources are organic.

Always read the ingredient label closely when shopping for natural organic dog foods.

I am aware of only two dry dog foods that are entirely organic (not counting the vitamin and mineral supplements, of course): Wenaewe Organic, which uses organic beef as its meat source,

and Natura’s Karma Organic, which uses organic chicken.

These foods contain only 20% protein

Even organic kibbles that use non-organic meat meals to boost their protein levels typically contain just 20-25% protein, which pales in comparison to the 40% found in non-organic,

grain-free, human-grade kibbles such as Orijen.

Among certified-organic canned foods, however, there are a number of excellent choices (none of which I can buy in Sweden!).

Newman’s Own Organics, for instance, makes three organic beef formulas that are 100% certified organic beef with no other ingredients except vitamin and mineral supplements to make them a complete diet.

Natural Planet Organics’ Turkey Dinner and Chicken Dinner formulas are also meat-based and entirely organic except for the supplements.

These two recipes combine organic chicken or turkey muscle meats and livers with a dash of organic flaxseed and sunflower oils.

Finally, Party Animal makes a number of grain-free organic canned foods that combine organic meats with organic eggs, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil.

All three of these brands provide superb protein-rich canine nutrition.

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Should You Buy a Natural Organic Dog Food?
At this point, you may be tempted to conclude

that natural organic dog foods, at least the kibbles, aren’t worth buying.

Sure, these foods contain fewer potentially harmful chemicals and contaminants. But the ingredients may not be more nutrient-rich than conventionally produced non natural organic dog foods.

And certified organic dry dog food is too low in proteins and too high in carbohydrates to provide optimal canine nutrition.

There is, however, one other consideration that applies specifically to natural organic pet foods: Traditionally, the pet food industry has been based on using the waste products from human food processing,

including ingredients rejected for human consumption. Moldy grains, rancid fats, meats and byproducts from diseased animals–all of this can legally be used in pet foods.

However, “human-grade” is a word without legal meaning.

or that their fish meal comes from a supplier who doesn’t use synthetic preservatives, but no one checks up on these claims.

You either believe them or you don’t.

With certified organic dog foods, however, everything is independently verified.

It’s the only way–besides making your own dog food–to be certain that the food you’re feeding your dog really consists of top-notch human-grade ingredients and drug-free meats.

That’s why I hesitate to discount natural organic dog foods. My suggestion would be to try several of the excellent meat-based canned foods.

If you prefer dry food, I recommend adding some of the all-meat organic wet foods to your dog’s kibble in order to increase the protein levels.

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