Unquestionably, USDA certified organic pet foods are healthier than pet foods made from conventionally produced ingredients. Unlike cheaper conventional pet foods, USDA certified organic pet foods contain no residues from pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or chemicals accumulated during manufacturing that may include a number of the toxic chemicals that are associated with conventional pet food processing.
Organic pet foods contain more nutrients–such as vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals–than non-organic pet food. This is especially important, considering the depletion of nutrients that comes with heavy processing and the consequent need to supplement pet foods with mostly synthetic, low-grade nutrients in order to provide some level of nutrition to dogs, cats, or other pets. So, USDA certified organic pet foods are a great way to provide your animal friend with safe, nutrient-rich food staples. But beware: currently in the USA, only organic certification is regulated by law and any claim of organic status other than that of ‘(USDA) certified organic’ is not substantiated by an unbiased third party.
Organic dog foods are great if done right. The best organic dog food is, of course, prepared fresh at home. However, this may be challenging, given the time constraints of the modern world. Although USDA certified organic dog foods are a great choice, there are big differences in quality among the many available choices. Most of these differences stem from the quality of the ingredients used. Although no low-grade ingredients, such as byproducts or other indefinable ingredients, can be included in USDA certified organic dog foods, a number of important nutritional distinctions arise from manufacturers’ choices of ingredients. Some of these distinctions are highlighted below.
Organic dog food should not contain grains or flours as first, or primary, ingredients. Dogs did not evolve to eat grains, whether raw or cooked. Although cooking will render grains digestible by the dog’s gastrointestinal tract, cooking also destroys many constituent nutrients; often, the only thing left are empty calories with little or no substantive nutritional value.
The first ingredient in organic dog food should always be a clearly defined source of animal protein. Don’t choose dog foods that contain ingredients listed as ‘chicken meals’ or ‘animal protein,’ as these cannot be reliably traced to their origin. Absent any known origin, it’s easy for manufacturers to use low quality sources of animal protein. Moreover–and tragically, as recent history has taught us–if any contamination or tainting of unsourcable ingredients occurs, it becomes difficult to mount a quick and effective pet food recall to save animal lives if one can’t trace the ingredient in question to its source. In the case of USDA certified organic dog foods, one needn’t worry because the USDA organic standards prohibit the use of obscure and unsourceable low quality ingredients.
Any choice of organic dog food should contain some fruits and/or vegetables. However, plant matter should never make up more than 50% of the total contents of a given dog food product. The percentage of plant matter in a given dog food should be more in the range of 30-40% of the contents by weight. And it goes without saying that these ingredients should be organic as well, both to avoid contamination with toxins and increase the nutritional value and health benefits of any given USDA certified organic dog food.
The great thing about feeding your animal with whole food-based USDA certified organic products is that you shouldn’t have to worry about routinely supplementing whole foods with isolated nutrients because organic foods are generally much more nutrient-dense than conventional–or non-organic–pet foods. In the case of a truly organic diet, you can supplement with nutrients simply on the basis of your own animal’s particular individual needs, and only when necessary. Such occasional supplementation makes it possible for you to choose high-quality supplements for your dog instead of the typically low-grade vitamin-and-mineral mixes added by conventional pet food manufacturers to enable them legally to call their foods ‘balanced’ or ‘complete.’
Although choosing USDA certified organic pet foods over conventional varieties is just a first step toward better health and well being for your animal, it’s a very important first step. So, be good to your animal; take that first step today!
What Every Pet Parent Should Know About Organic Dog Food What it Is, What it Isn’t, and Why It’s Such a Good Choice
The extensive pet food recalls in 2007 caused a tremendous amount of fear and turmoil for pet parents. One piece of good news actually did surface after such a devastating event, but few people know about it. What is it, you ask?
Although a small handful of the tainted pet food products were labeled as “natural,” none of them were organic. It’s no wonder then that sales of organic pet food continue to increase.
According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA) – a “membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America” – organic pet food sales increased 63% from 2003 to 2004. Yet another 46% increase occurred in 2005, with organic pet food being the second fastest growing non-food category (surpassed only by organic flowers at 50%). The OTA predicts that such an upward trend for organic pet food sales will continue straight through 2010. The Facts about Organic Dog Food
As dog parents, what can we actually expect to find in our furry friend’s organic food supply? Can we assume that it’s completely free of toxic pesticides and insecticides, chemical preservative and additives, and artificial flavors and colors? Are the meat sources that were used hormone and antibiotic-free and were they too fed pesticide-free grains? Were the fruits and vegetables that were used also organically grown?
As surprised as you might be to learn this, it’s actually legal for manufacturers to label their products as “organic,” even though there are no organic ingredients within it. How is that possible, you wonder?
Without going into to much detail, suffice it to say that, even though the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed back in 1990, no provisions were made that specifically pertained to pet food. Twelve years later, when the “organic seal administering” National Organic Program’s (NOP) regulations and standards went into effect, organic pet food again was not addressed.
As the popularity of organic pet food continued to increase, it became apparent that such a lack in definition, production standards, and package labeling had to be addressed to reduce the rampant confusion. To address such concerns and issues, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) created a separate Organic Pet Food Task Force (PFTF) in 2005.
The 12-member PFTF panel, made up of nutrition experts, organic and “traditional” pet food suppliers, representatives from state and federal regulatory agencies, and various other professionals, has now made its recommendations pertaining to the manufacture and labeling of organic pet food. The NOSP is reviewing such proposals and it’s hoped that the new standards will finally become effective sometime in 2008.
The PFTF’s recommendations focus on several main amendment areas:
* Organic pet food composition requirements will be similar to those in existence for livestock feed, except the addition of “mammalian and poultry slaughter by-products” (e.g. blood, organs) will be allowed, as will the use of a “made with organic…” label * Organic pet food labeling categories will be similar to those associated with manufactured human food (i.e. a minimum of 70% organic agricultural ingredients to be allowed to use a “made with organic” label, a minimum of 95% organic agricultural ingredients to be allowed to use an “organic” label, and all organic ingredients and additives to be allowed to use a “100% organic” label), except the addition of artificial/synthetic nutritional ingredients (e.g. Vitamin E) will be allowed to aid in the creation of an adequate and balanced product * Within the non-organic percentage of the 70% and 95% products, non-organic meat and meat by-products will be allowed, however “organic and non-organic sources of the same ingredient” cannot be used in the same product
Until such proposals are actually accepted and instituted, if you really want “the skinny” about them, you can check out this white paper for specific details. Refer to Pet Food Task Force for reports and associated public comments. Your Organic Dog Food Choices
Even though the legal definitions and related issues surrounding the manufacture and labeling of organic dog food have yet to be completely worked out, the products that are currently out there are considered to be of extremely high quality – well worth trying even before the specific regulations are finally implemented. Simply do your homework and compare lists of ingredients, just as you would for “traditional” dog foods. Some foods might contain only one or two organic items, while others are made entirely of organic ingredients.
Commercially made organic food for your canine companion is currently available in a variety of forms. Hard and soft organic foods exist, as do grain-free and vegetarian ones. Raw organic diets are also possible.
If you’re one of the many pet owners that are now understandably leery of all manufactured foods after the recall of 2007, you might want to consider home cooking for your dog. This will obviously allow you to have the greatest amount of control over the exact organic composition of their food. Not as time consuming as many pet parents often assume, there are numerous sources of information to make the process easier – canine cookbooks and online discussion groups to name just a few.
Regardless of what organic diet you choose for your beloved dog, before you make any changes, check with their veterinarian or other holistic health care practitioners about what organic foods might be best for your pooch. Your dog might have specific health issues that need to be addressed with proper nutrition and/or additional supplementation. Why Go Organic?
There’s no denying that the current cost of feeding an organic canine diet is more than a “non-organic” one. However, it’s important to note that dog owners who do feed their canine companions organic meals often report significant improved health and greatly reduced medical bills that result from such a diet. Whether that’s due to the organic food’s “less toxic” nature or its’ reported immune-enhancing capabilities is probably a mute point – what’s good is good!
You’ll also likely end up feeding less organic food to your furry friend as there are often so few fillers contained in it and because nutritional needs are often met with less volume. In the long run, your dog will probably be fitter and fuller from eating organic food.
Regardless if your canine companion is currently healthy or dealing with various medical issues, organic dog food truly might be the best medicine for him/her to live a long and happy life. As caring and concerned dog owners, such an end result is often good medicine for us as well.
Talk about Organic Pet Food in OCA’s Web forum