According to the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), pet food must meet the same regulations as human food in order to be considered “organic”. By definition, “organic food” includes food such as produce, processed food, or food-producing animals (meat), that are grown, raised, and produced according to a specific set of guidelines by the USDA. These federal guidelines include the following:
In order for multi-ingredient pet food to be considered 100% organic, the product must be composed of 100% USDA certified organic ingredients. The label must include the name of the organic certifying agent (e.g., “certified organic by…”) and bear the USDA certified organic seal.
Alternatively, there are other organic pet food options in which the labeling certifies the pet food is 95% or 70% organic for example. The percentage of the food that is ‘organic’ is clearly printed on the label. If the pet food label reads, “made with organic ingredients”, then at least 70% of the listed ingredients must be organic.
Other pet food labels may read, “made with natural ingredients”. However, the word, “natural” does not have the same meaning as the word “organic” and this can sometimes cause consumer confusion.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), defines “natural” 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 subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”
For pet owners who want to reduce their pet’s exposure to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, food that is certified organic is a great option but is it healthier? Of course, avoiding chemicals, pesticides, and other unnatural substances is important for your pet’s health since such exposure has been linked to cancer in both humans and animals. However, certain vitamins and minerals that can be added to traditional pet food, might actually be lacking in your pet’s organic food. Since most vitamins are considered synthetic, these types of additives might not be allowed in organic foods according to the USDA. Therefore, if you choose to feed your pet an exclusively organic diet, it may be a good practice to supplement your pet’s diet with additional vitamins and minerals.