Dear Davi, 

Pet food labels are so confusing! With terms like “natural,” “beef flavoring,” and “grain-free,” how do I know if I’m being duped?



Hi Charlie,

The struggle is real. Not all words stamped on bags and cans have regulated definitions, so it’s easy to be fooled by gimmicks. I’ve fetched a list of terms and what they actually mean when used for dog and cat food. Some might surprise you.

Natural: Some say it means whole, like whole grains, or whole chickens. Others think it means food that’s unprocessed. The term is basically about not using chemicals to create food. We can thank our lucky dogstars that the AAFCO has adopted “nothing artificial” as its standard for natural pet food. That said – take a closer look at your label. Are chemicals, like propylene glycol, on it? It’s not natural. Have artificial flavors or colors been added? It’s not natural. Choose a diet with a single meat source and a few simple ingredients. Chances are, it’s natural.

Organic: Like human food, dog food can be labeled organic if a certain percentage of the ingredients are grown without pesticides or fertilizers. Simple math: “100 percent organic” means all ingredients should be organic, while “made with organic ingredients” means 70 percent of the food is organic. Even though organic food might be safer, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier than other high-quality foods on the shelf.

Holistic: A Sage Balochi once howled, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Sounds wise, but what does that have to do with holistic dog food? Though the term has never been defined legally and is often used loosely, holistic food begs to meet the needs of the whole animal. From what I’ve learned, most holistic dog foods usually replace by-products and fillers with fruits and vegetables, which are healthier and taste great.

Grain-Free: Grain-free has become wildly popular for dogs panting to mimic their ancestral diet. And it’s easy to see why. These recipes have more meat protein and animal fats. But is grain-free good for you? It is good if you have allergies or grain intolerance. You might also want to switch if you’re active and need a high protein diet. Do not assume grain-free is carb-free. Many recipes replace grains with other carbs, like potatoes, and this could make you fat. I’ve also learned some grain-free diets can lead to kidney failure and digestive issues, so if you’re a senior dog or have health problems, stick to a diet lower in protein and higher in fiber.

A good rule of paw – read the labels to find a
food that provides complete, balanced nutrition and always consult your veterinarian before making any major changes to your diet.

About EU Jacksonville

october, 2021