Written on 12/10/2013 by Brandy Arnold
Before recommending and encouraging readers to feed organic dog food to their pets, it’s important to understand what exactly IS organic dog food. While it should be held to strict manufacturing guidelines, dog food is highly under-regulated. Anyone can basically put anything into a bag, label it “Healthy Dog Food” and rake in the profits with no regulation by the USDA.
Scary, isn’t it?
As a pet owner, it’s important to know what your dog is eating, to give him the healthiest foods available, to do your homework! Since dog food is generally not regulated, manufacturers can label their food with terms like “healthy,” “holistic,” “complete nutrition,” with no substance to back it up – with one exception: Organic food.
In fact, the ONLY dog foods regulated by the USDA are those manufactured in certified organic facilities.
Just because a brand has the word “organic” or “holistic” in their name or on the label doesn’t always mean what it seems. Very few are truly organic, from certified organic facilities. As you can imagine, the misuse of the term “organic” is very common in the pet food industry. Many manufacturers make claims regarding the organic nature of their foods, but without the USDA Certified Organic seal, these companies are not subject to the same regulation, verification, and legal enforcement as certified manufacturers.
The USDA explains,
If a manufacturer wants to claim a product is “100% Organic”, it must contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt. As far as dry dog food is concerned, this is currently not possible, since as per AAFCO regulations vitamin and mineral supplements must be added, which can not be organically produced.
If a manufacturer wants to claim a product is “Organic”, it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, not counting added water or salt, and must identify the organic ingredients as “organic” in the ingredient list when other organic labeling is shown. To identify an ingredient as organically produced in the ingredient list, the word, “organic” in conjunction with the name of the ingredient may be used, or an asterisk or other reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement.
Only products that fall into these two groups may display the “USDA Organic” seal, either in color or black and white.
If a manufacturer wants to claim a product is “Made With Organic Ingredients” or a similar statement, it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, not counting added water or salt, and must identify the organic ingredients as “organic” in the ingredient list when other organic labeling is shown. To identify an ingredient as organically produced in the ingredient list, the word, “organic” in conjunction with the name of the ingredient may be used, or an asterisk or other reference mark which is defined below the ingredient statement. The product may display the seal(s) of the agent(s) certifying the included organic ingredients, but not the “USDA Organic” seal.
If a manufacturer wants to advertise the fact that product has some organic ingredients, it can include less than 70% total and they must be identified as “organic” in the ingredient list. The product may not display the seal(s) of the agent(s) certifying the included organic ingredients nor the “USDA Organic” seal.
We’re not claiming that unless a dog food has the USDA Certified Organic seal that it’s not good food. There are plenty of dog food manufacturers that make top quality, nutritious foods with your dog’s best interest in mind. You just might have to do a little homework to find them.
A downside to truly organic dog food is that because organic meats are quite expensive, these foods usually have a lower meat content than other, non-organic foods. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you prefer a higher volume of meat in your pet’s food, or a lower volume of meat that is USDA regulated, free of hormones and antibiotics, and human-grade.
The only way to truly guarantee your dog is getting the very best ingredients possible is to look for the Certified Organic seal. Otherwise, choose food from a manufacturer you trust, that has your pet’s health at the heart of their mission statement. Don’t take fancy labels and colorful marketing terms as proof for what’s actually inside the bag.
Do you feed your dog organic food? If so, make sure the package has the USDA Seal and read the ingredients list, or you might be paying more for food that isn’t truly organic!