- What is natural pet food?
Previously undefined in most US federal and state control jurisdictions and absent from the marketplace, the concept of “natural” pet food has recently, been increasingly deployed by marketers on pet food product labels. The reason for this seems to be because of the term’s descriptively positive appeal, and the varying misconceptions such a claim has in the realm of pet food labeling. Given this background, just what then are “natural pet foods” and how are they different from organic pet foods? We at Cornucopia Pet Foods set out to find out and below is what we discovered…
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), who are state and federal agencies tasked with the responsibility of regulating the sale and distribution of animal feeds (including pet food) and drug remedies, when it comes to natural feed, this is feeding with an 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. Concisely put, therefore, most natural pet food ingredients are derived from “plant, animal or mined sources” for it to be deemed natural.
On the other hand, feed cannot be considered “natural”, if it has been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process, contains additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur in good manufacturing practices. When we at Cornucopia Pet Foods closely analyzed this, we realized that, based on this part of the definition, a feed ingredient can be subject to several commonly-used processes during the manufacturing process and still be deemed natural. In essence, that is to say natural pet food can still undergo some unnatural processes and still be considered “natural”!
States that have adopted the AAFCO’s Model Bill and Model Regulations, pet food labelers/guarantors must, therefore, adhere to this definition to display the term.
Interestingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to define “natural” as it relates to pet food labeling. However, it requires the federal obligation that labeling must not be false or misleading.
- What is organic pet food?
For you to best understand what organic pet food is, we at Cornucopia thought it prudent that you first understand what the term “organic” entails. When used in the context of consumables, the word “organic” largely describes “food ingredients, for human consumption or feed for food-producing animals”-and most recently, pets. It includes meat, produce, and multi-ingredient processed foods, that are grown, raised or produced according to a specific set of guidelines defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Guidelines outlined by the USDA first center around organic plants. For food to be considered organic, its plant ingredients must not have been grown using (i) certain prohibited synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. (ii) genetically modified seeds (iii) GMO contamination on the farm where they were grown.
Secondly, guidelines outlined by the USDA concerning organic foods have to do with organic meat-producing animals. In this category, for food to be considered organic, its meat-producing animal ingredient must have been (i) raised/reared in living conditions that accommodate its natural behaviors (ii) fed organic feed (iii) reared using antibiotics or hormones (iv) processed before packaging in a certified facility to avoid contact with any prohibited substances.
Lastly, guidelines outlined by the USDA concerning organic foods have to do with organic multi-ingredient processed foods. With regards to multi-ingredient processed foods, for food to be considered organic, it must not contain (i) artificial flavors, (ii) colors, or (iii) preservatives. Although up to 30% of approved non-agricultural may be included.
However, doing so will naturally lower the percentage of what’s “organic” about organic food. Take the case of organic pet food for dogs, for instance. After which, when you look at the labeling of the organic pet food we have at Cornucopia, you will see diverse labels on our bags and cans of dog and cat organic pet food as they relate to organic ingredients. We have three main categories that you are most likely to see.
100% Organic Ingredients Multi-ingredient organic pet food such as dogs’ is regarded as 100% organic if it comprises 100% USDA certified organic ingredients- such as that created by our licensed and still practicing veterinarian of over 50years. The label must include the name of the organic certifying agent (e.g., “certified organic by…”) as ours. In the ingredient list, you will see the term “organic” in front of each organic ingredient or an asterisk following any such ingredient.
Similarly, pet food with all-natural ingredients in it complies with the feed term and so can also claim to have 100% natural ingredients.
95% Organic Ingredients Most organic pet food for dogs generally includes this percentage of organic food. In this class, at least 95% of the ingredients must be certified organic. No more than 5% of the ingredients may be nonorganic ingredients found on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Such organic pet foods must also include the name of the organic certifier on the label, and the USDA certified organic seal.
70% Organic Ingredients Organic pet food that simply states, “made with organic…” usually must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. In such instances, the overall product cannot be labeled as organic, and you will find it does not bear USDA certification. This is usually so because at most three ingredients or ingredient categories in the ingredient list can be labeled as organic. The rest will be non-agricultural ingredients found on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. . At Cornucopia, our certified organic pet foods do not fall into this category. The lowest organic content our pet foods have is 90 percent.
- What is the best option? (Organic, of course)
Since a feed or feed ingredient can contain trace amounts of chemically synthetic compounds and still be considered natural, we at Cornucopia Pet Foods think it a no-brainer what the best option is, do you?
When it comes to pet food, “natural” is an extremely broad term. By comparison, “organic” specifically applies to the production and handling requirements for exact organic ingredients requirements and their nationally allowed and prohibited list. When it comes to organic pet food, there are no gray areas. The same cannot be said of natural pet foods!
From what we have discovered, natural may apply to only one natural ingredient used to manufacture a product for it to be identified as natural. The mere fact that feed, particularly our beloved pets’ pet food, can just contain one synthetic ingredient and still qualify as “natural” is to us at Cornucopia Pet Foods disturbing, to say the least.
What’s even more worrying is the fact that a pet food manufacturer can simply make the disclaimer “Natural with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients” and still call our pooch’s food a natural product is mind-boggling and most worrying.
Given the reasons above, we at Cornucopia highly recommend organic pet foods over natural ones.