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The Truth About Holistic & Organic Dog Food

The Truth About Holistic & Organic Dog Food

Nowadays various terms are used to entice consumers to purchase dog food products.  Magic words like “natural,” “organic,” “fresh,” “healthy,” “premium,” “wholesome,” and “holistic.”  These words show up on most dog food labels.  Do they really mean what they imply?  So many manufacturers have been dishonest with regard to disclosing the true quality of their product ingredients. In this article, I am referring to products that are made for dogs.  The terms named above are used as manipulative marketing strategies.  What consumers are unaware of is that dog food is lacking regulation.


A little bit about pet food industry regulation:
Pet food label guidelines are specified by a non-governmental agency called the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).  “AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way. AAFCO establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods, and it is the pet food company’s responsibility to formulate their products according to the appropriate AAFCO standard.”  The AAFCO has no authority to enforce compliance to their guidelines. That responsibility is designated to state regulatory agencies.


Does “human grade” pet food exist?
The answer is NO.  According to  AAFCO, “A claim that something is ‘human-grade’ or ‘human-quality’ implies that the article being referred to is ‘edible’ for people in legally defined terms. The terms ‘human grade’ or ‘human quality’ have no legal definitions. When one or more human edible ingredients are mixed with one or more non-human edible ingredients, the edible ingredients become non-human edible.” “For a product to be human edible, all ingredients in the product must be human edible and the product must be manufactured, packed and held in accordance with federal regulations in 21 CFR 110, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food. If these conditions exist, then human-grade claims may be made. If these conditions do not exist, then making an unqualified claim about ingredients being human grade misbrands the product.”


What about dog food that has come from a USDA inspected factory?
A dog food company can state that their meat or poultry comes from a USDA inspected factory. That sounds safe, right?  Well, as USDA inspectors examine products, the meat in the facility that is found to be diseased and unfit for human consumption are destined to a rendering plant to be processed for use in dog food. To read about how dog food is made and what rendering plants are all about, read my article, What’s REALLY in Dog Food?


What about “organic” dog food?
How can someone tell whether or not a dog food product is really organic? Right off the bat, it is likely that you will never really know. This is because salt and water are excluded from the organic requirement guidelines. In other words, if a product contains salt or water which has been  tainted with radioactive material or any other non-organic matter, the manufacturer is still permitted to use the “USDA 100% Organic” seal even despite the fact that the item is not completely organic.

USDA-Organic-Green SealThe seal to the left that states “organic” means that 90% – 99% of the product is organic. It is determined by weight. It is eligible to have the USDA Organic seal.
If a product is less than 70% organic, the manufacturer is permitted to state that it is made with organic ingredients and must identify each the specific ingredients that are organic on the label either with a symbol like an asterisk or by using the word “organic” followed by the names of the ingredients.

Those ingredients that are stated to be organic on the label is required to be overseen by a certifying agent and the label must identify which certifying agent approved those ingredients to meet the organic standard.

Consumers are constantly manipulated. This is especially true when it comes to the pet food industry because it lags far behind consumer goods when it comes to legislation.  When it comes to our pets, we seek information from advertisements and pet store employees.

Personally, when I see those “magic words” I become angered as consumers are being lied to at the cost of the health of their dogs.  All in all, it is disappointing to know that (natural, nutritious, holistic…) mean absolutely nothing.  Furthermore, it is a disgrace that there is no legislation to oversee nor enforce the unfair practices of manipulating consumers using blatant deception.


“The Business of Pet Food.” The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) > Labeling & Labeling Requirements. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2014. <>.

Pelletier, Steve. “Dog Food Ingredients A to Z: USDA and other Label Nuances.” SlimDoggy. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2014. <>. is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) veterinary treatment. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet is taking, including herbal remedies and supplements. Please do plenty of research so that you may equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to be an effective advocate for your dog’s well-being.



  1. Chinmoy Paul

    I would agree with Alton Brown that dog food doesn’t need to exist at all. just give your dog meats and berries to eat. cats are the same, where they just need to feed on many kinds of meats.

    1. Janie

      Hi Paul-

      Thanks for visiting and writing your comment. MOST commercial “dog food” is simply overcooked food in which the nutrients are removed then replaced with synthetic additives. Basically, these dogs are eating food that is somewhat similar to the nutritional value of cardboard with vitamins and added. The tricky thing with diet is that dogs need their food to be proportioned. They require a certain amount of organ meat and muscle meat in their food and veggies can be thrown in too. If the ratios are off, it defeats the whole purpose. That’s why I buy their food pre-made so that their diet is proportioned correctly. You can observe this when you see a long list of 5 or more vitamins/minerals added. If the food actually had adequate nutrients, flavoring and synthetic nutrients wouldn’t be piled in.

      Again, thanks for visiting my website!

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