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Posted on 05-04-2016

           I sometimes drive myself nuts trying to explain to people that “natural and holistic” pet food is not necessarily any better that any other pet food. We see the claim “natural” on so many food labels, both human and pet, and we respond “Oh, that’s much healthier!” But is it really? What does it actually mean anyway?

            Natural food makes us think of fresh salad, fruit, and vegetables, coming straight from the earth to our plates. Clearly, fresh vegetables are much more natural than tuna helper. But here is the rub. “Natural” means nothing. This is because the claim that a product is “natural” is a claim that is not regulated by the USDA. Anyone can place the word “natural” on a product. Anyone. It is just marketing hype.

            I have seen the word “natural’ on many products, including hair dye, make-up, and bug killer. The claim of “natural” is usually followed by a list of ingredients NOT included (for example: dyes). But that doesn’t mean that the actual included ingredients are always “good” for you. “Natural” in no way implies a product is “healthier” for you.

            The USDA has specific requirements for meat, poultry, and egg products that are labeled as natural. These labeled products must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to the processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations regarding the labeling of natural products that do not contain meat or eggs.

The FDA states that it is difficult to define a food product that is “natural” since the food has probably been processed and is no longer the “product” of the earth. The FDA has not developed a definition for the term “natural” or its derivatives. And they do not object to the use of the term if the product doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. This says to me that the FDA is pretty much staying out of the conversation.

Here’s a funny thought, there are all kinds of “natural” items produced from the Earth. Things like spider venom, fungi, arsenic, E. coli, etc. I wonder if we should include these in the so-called definition of “natural”…

In my opinion, the quality of pet food marketed as “natural” is probably fine, but there is some doubt as to whether or not it is “better” or “healthier”. Anyone can say their food product is natural, even if it is processed, hydrolyzed, and stamped into fish shapes. I am more concerned about the quality and quantity of the ingredients in the pet food that you select. Read the ingredient list carefully. Make a selection based on specifics and not on the hype. As always, talk to your veterinarian about the pet food label if you have questions or concerns.

Until next time…Thanks for Caring!!



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