Most likely you have heard of the term "natural" recently when referring to either pet or human food--but do you actually know what it means? Does natural pet food and organic pet food even mean the same thing? The answer to these questions and more are just ahead.
What is natural pet food?
According to the Pet Food Committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), natural is defined as “A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”
The AAFCO also provides suggested guidelines for pet food manufacturers to follow when referring to a natural product. These guidelines state that the term natural should only be applied when all of the ingredients and components meet the complete definition provided by the AAFCO. For example, the term “natural” does not apply if there are any chemically synthesized ingredients present in the pet food. This includes propylene glycol and butylated hydroxyanisole found in some pet foods. Under certain circumstances synthetic vitamins or mineral additives may be added to a natural product with the exception of being used as a dietary supplement.
What is the difference between natural vs. organic food?
The terms natural and organic are often used interchangeably. However, there are many recognizable differences between natural and organic pet foods. Organic pet food must abide by stricter guidelines than natural pet food. Unlike natural food, organic food is regulated by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) to guarantee there is no use of artificial ingredients. Moreover, organic pet foods are prohibited from using most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, sewage sludge fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, irradiation, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients during production. Unlike organic pet food, natural pet food production does not have legal or federal supervision. Pet food should be grown in its own environment to qualify as natural, but there is no guarantee that the product is completely natural.
How do I know if the pet food is natural?
The best advice is to use your own discretion when searching for a natural pet food. If you see the term “natural” on a pet food label it merely means the food was minimally processed and grown in a natural environment. The food may still contain grains, glutens, and soy.
If you liked this article, you may also like: What is Organic Pet Food?