Are You Being Fooled by “Natural” Pet Food?

More and more of us are beginning to demand our pet food be more healthy and natural.  Pet owners are looking for foods that are less processed and closer to nature than the scientifically formulated foods with synthetic ingredients.

Have you seen your pet food claim to be “natural” on its label?  Well this is a marketing buzzword that may not be what you think it means.   Most of us think of natural as meaning “not caused or made by humankind.” But the organization that defines terms allowed on labels has a different definition.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines natural to be: (as cited in Dr. Becker’s Article “Can You Decipher This Pet Food Insider Double Talk?”)

“A feed or feed 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 in good manufacturing practices.”

AAFCO also offers a breakdown of the definition:

  • There is no requirement or statement that natural feeds or ingredients are safer than those produced by a chemically synthetic process.
  • Natural is a liberal term that includes more ingredients than it excludes — most pet food ingredients are derived from “plant, animal or mined sources.”
  • A feed ingredient can be subject to a number of commonly used processes during the manufacturing process and still be deemed natural.
  • A feed or feed ingredient can contain trace amounts of chemically synthetic compounds and still be considered natural.

This is not what I was thinking when I read ‘natural.”  How can they say that “rendering” or “subject to a chemically synthetic process” allows a food to be natural.  And to further say the natural feeds are not necessarily safer than those produced by a chemically synthetic process?  If that was the case almost any product can be deemed “natural” and there would be no point in labeling anything “natural!”  

According to Dr. Becker’s article another important fact to keep in mind is the sourcing of the ingredients in your pet’s food.  Not all foods are created equal. Although it’s difficult, try to find more “organic” or “non-gmo” foods. Pay attention to foods grown or made in China or other less regulated countries (even our country is poor at pet food regulation, but not this bad).  Try to feed as much fresh foods or foods that mimic a pet’s ancestral diet.


Read the full article here.

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