Organic foods are largely valued for their safety and more nutrient-rich profile since the ingredients contained in these products are generally derived from farms or other sources that do not use artificially synthesized materials. Unfortunately, picking the right one for your mutt may be especially challenging since some manufacturers have a knack for putting the “organic” and “all-natural” wordings in their labels. It is thus, crucial to be very cautious as the organic dog food you may choose is nothing more than a blend of organic and chemical-laden ingredients. To get you started, we’ve researched some of the best organic dog food products available in the market today.
Organic Dog Food Buying Guide
Buying an organic dog food should not really be difficult. Oftentimes, the things that you observe when choosing a dog food works, too, with organic products. Here are some essential tips.
- Always look for certification from well-recognized organizations such as the USDA if you want a really good organic dog food. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous organizations that can easily claim their products are USDA-certified to be organic; so be careful.
- Choose canine food items that have a good mix of mostly proteins and fats. Science has shown that, while dogs will still require carbohydrates in their diet mostly as fuel for their activities, dogs don’t need too much carbs. The reason why more and more dog foods today have plenty of carbs is that it is generally cheaper to fill products with dietary fibers rather than good quality meats.
- Choose an organic dog food that specifies the sources of its ingredients. If it only says wholesome whole grain, you know that ‘wholesome’ can mean a lot of things to different people. If the product says their proteins come from meat sources, is it chicken, beef, venison, or even elk? Manufacturers of organic canine food products should disclose all of their ingredients.
- Just because a product has been labeled as “all-natural” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s organic. Natural ingredients may still undergo some form of chemical manipulation in the final manufacturing process. Organic means the ingredient has been grown, cultivated, or raised in an environment where no artificial substances have been used in their growing.
- Always check if your dog has food allergies. You will also need to differentiate the symptoms to identify if it is a true allergy or just food intolerance. If your dog is allergic to chicken, then you must try to feed it with a non-chicken meal, perhaps turkey, beef, or even lamb. Since allergies are almost always associated with a high protein diet, you may need a vegan diet for your pooch.
What Exactly Is Organic Dog Food?
Organic dog foods contain ingredients that have been raised, grown, or cultivated in ways that do not use artificial or synthetic methods. For example, if an organic dog food contains chicken, it is important that it is free-ranged. They are given feeds but more on the natural food such as grains. The chicken should also not be treated with any form of medication such as vaccines or even antibiotics.
The same is true with vegetables that are put into organic canine food products. These must not have been grown using fertilizers or treated with chemicals such as pesticides. For fertilizers, natural cow manure can be used as well as natural compost. For pesticides, natural predators can be introduced into the farm to help kill the pests. These are just examples, of course.
Why Organic Dog Food is a Great Option
It really is easy to see why giving your pet organic food is a great option. It doesn’t have to be that organic dog food is better than other types of dog food. However, because of its relatively safer profile, it offers peace of mind to pet owners who may be wary of the ingredients they are giving their pets. Here are some other reasons why organic dog food is a great option.
- Fewer issues in the digestive system – This is because organic foods do not contain contaminants which might irritate the gastric lining or even substances that may be allergenic to mutts. Additionally, since the protein sources of these foods are primarily from high quality and safe plants and animals, they are better digested by your pooch.
- May help reduce allergy symptoms – Again, the trick is in the absence of contaminants or artificial ingredients in organic food materials. Identifying potential allergens can be intimidating if you don’t know what chemicals have been used in growing the ingredients of the food product.
- Improves the immune system – Because the protein source of these food items are inherently not tainted with chemicals, they are able to boost your dog’s immune system, enabling them to ward of infections.
Who Should Buy Organic Dog Food?
Just as there are an increasing number of individuals and entire families substituting their ordinary food with organic food products, the question as to who should buy organic dog food naturally follows. A family that has already embarked on a journey of healthier living, free from the harsh effects of chemicals and other substances that may be present in non-organically grown food ingredients, will naturally want to serve their dogs something organic, too. Aside from these individuals, who should buy organic dog food?
Pet parent who have dogs that have issues in their digestive system should buy organic dog food. Because these kinds of doggie diets do not contain harsh substance that may irritate the lining of the stomach or even the small intestines, then organic dog foods are definitely exceptional choices.
The same is true for pet owners who have canines that have problems with food allergies. Many of the chemicals that find their way into commercially-grown produce can carry allergenic particles that can initiate an inflammatory and allergic reaction in susceptible dogs. While an elimination diet can help zero-in on the potential allergen, giving your dog organic foods should help address the risk of not meeting your dog’s nutrient requirements because of the elimination diet.
For pet parents who may have dogs that have compromised immune system functioning, organic dog foods should be considered. While all dog foods will contain proteins, many of these will be laced with other chemicals that can somehow reduce the overall quality of proteins and amino acids. This can have an impact in the synthesis of immune system cells, a great majority of which rely on a good supply of high quality proteins and amino acids.
Lastly, if you believe that your dog deserves only the best and most natural food Mother Nature could possibly give without the artificial chemicals and substances that are the product of man’s ingenuity, then you really should buy organic dog foods.
Factors to Consider When Buying Organic Dog Food
Picking high-quality dog food can be tricky enough. Choosing an organic dog food can be double the challenge. Nevertheless, there are some factors that you can consider to help you zero-in on the right organic dog food to buy.
- Age and life stage of your dog
The very first consideration is your dog’s age and life stage. It is critical to understand that regardless of the type of dog food whether it is organic or not, your dog should get the right kind of diet that is specific for its age, its developmental stage, and its breed. Always choose organic dog food brands that are specific for a certain breed or are specific for a certain life stage such as puppies, adults, seniors, pregnant, and lactating dogs. Each of these will have different nutrient requirements. Just because a dog food is organic doesn’t mean that it should already disregard the nutrient idiosyncrasies of individual dogs.
- Organic vs natural on the label
Make sure you understand the difference between ‘organic’ and ‘natural’. Organic ingredients are those that are produced without the addition of artificial chemicals, substances, or anything that can be considered as the result of modern science and technology. Natural ingredients, on the other hand, simply mean these are not synthetic. As such, you may see ‘real chicken meal’ in the product label which means that the manufacturer included the various meat sections of chicken into their formulation.
It doesn’t contain any artificial chicken ingredient. Compare this to an ‘organic chicken’ which simply means the chicken that were used in the formulation of the dog food were grown the natural way – free-ranged and allowed to feed on organic food. So you can have a natural ingredient but not organic. However, an organic product is always natural.
- Organic protein sources
We mentioned above about differentiating organic from natural. When it comes to proteins, we already know that animal proteins are the best when it comes to dog food. As such, the animals that are the sources of protein for the dog food must be farmed or grown using the traditional method of growing them. For instance, if you have salmon, organic salmon will be one that was caught in the wild and in certain areas of the world alone. These areas should be free from pollution and other manmade factors. Cultured or farm-raised salmon hardly qualify as organic because of the extensive use of growth enhancers, hormones, antibiotics, and other substances that authentic wild salmon don’t actually need. The same is true for other protein sources like chicken, lamb, beef, and pork, just to name a few. These must have been grown in such a way that they relied solely on natural processes.
- Other organic ingredients
The way we check the organic nature of the protein sources of a particular dog should also be extended well into the other ingredients used in the product. If you can read everything has ‘organic’ like organic carrots, organic potatoes, and so on and so forth, then you’ll feel much safer about the dog food you’re giving to your pet.
- Natural preservatives
It is inadvertent that dog foods are formulated with preservatives, otherwise they will spoil easily. But the more important thing here is to look for natural preservatives such as ascorbic acid or Vitamin C and tocopherols or substances that mimic the activities of Vitamin E. Another natural preservative that is commonly found in dog foods is rosemary extract. The problem with using natural preservatives is that they do have shorter shelf lives compared to their artificial counterparts.
Steer clear of anything artificial such as ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxytoluene, and butylated hydroxyanisole, as well as other commonly used artificial preservatives that are now being banned in many products. Ethoxyquin has been identified as a major culprit in the incidence of pet allergies, skin problems, behavioral problems, major organ failure, and even cancer. BHA and BHT are also considered as carcinogenic. While there are some quarters who defend the use of such ingredients, there is compelling evidence not to give them to your dog because of their ill effects.
Q: What makes a dog food ‘organic’?
A: There’s an increasing awareness on the relevance of giving organic foods to dogs in the same way as humans are now going mostly organic in their food choices. But what really makes a dog food ‘organic’?
Organic dog foods, whether dry, wet, or home-cooked, utilizes ingredients that are sourced from places that exercise organic growing or farming methods. It has something to do with the way the ingredients are grown and processed.
For instance, organic chicken is best described as free-ranged while organic cattle are those that are grass-fed. What this simply means is that both chicken and cattle are allowed to grow naturally without the use of anything manmade. Unfortunately, this somehow creates confusion as most folks always equate organic food with natural food and vice versa. We’ll deal more about their subtle differences later.
Organically-grown ingredients are those that do not employ anything that can somehow alter the natural process of the organism’s development. Organic chicken are not fed commercially-available chicken feeds as well as given antibiotics, growth enhancers, fatteners, and finishers. In short, man should never interfere with how nature wants these organisms to grow and mature.
The same is true with organically-grown vegetables, fruits, and other farm produce like potatoes and rice. Insecticides and pesticides are a big no-no when it comes to organic farming. Instead, these plants are allowed to thrive in the most natural way. Of course, they will still need fertilizers. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, animal manure and even compost are used. Biological insecticides and pesticides are also introduced in farms to get rid of pests. For example, spiders can be introduced into the ecosystem to trap and kill insects that may feed on plants.
Given that organic methods imply that the organism was allowed to grow and flourish naturally without the use of pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, growth boosters, fatteners, and the like, organic foods are, thus proven to contain higher-quality nutrients.
According to the USDA, an organic food should not have been grown, raised, cultivated, and processed with toxic pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, artificial flavors and colors, artificial preservatives, petroleum-based fertilizers, products of cloning, irradiated products, and synthetic hormones.
That being said, any dog food that contains ingredients grown and processed organically has the right to be called an organic dog food.
Do take note that there are conventions when it comes to ‘organic’ labels in dog food. If it says ‘made with organic ingredients’, then you should expect that no less than 70% of the ingredients used in the formulation is organic. If the label reads ‘organic’, then it should contain at least 95% organic ingredients. If the dog food label reads ‘100% organic’, then you should expect that all ingredients in the formulation are organic.
Q: What is the difference between ‘organic’ and ‘natural’?
A: We said that organic foods are those that are allowed to grow naturally and processed without the addition of any artificial, synthetic, or man-made chemicals. So does this mean ‘organic’ is the same as ‘natural’?
Sadly, it really is not as simple as that. Remember what we said about ‘organic’ labeling processed? Well, the word ‘natural’ as used in dog food labeling actually refers to the very nature of the ingredients and really has nothing to do with the way in which the ingredient was grown.
Let us put it this way, as long as the ingredient is not man-made, then it is considered as ‘natural’. This is where the issue is raised.
Chicken is considered natural since man cannot produce it. It must hatch from eggs and grow into juveniles before becoming fully-grown chickens. If organic methods are not used in the raising of these chickens, then it cannot be considered as ‘organic’. However, they can still be considered as ‘natural’.
To give you a better understanding of what ‘natural’ means especially in dog foods, according to the AAFCO, natural dog foods are those that contain ingredients derived only from animal, plant, or mined sources regardless of whether they are in their unprocessed state or have already been subjected to a variety of manufacturing processes. As long as these said ingredients are not subjected or produced by synthetic processes or added with synthetic substances, then they can be classified as natural ingredients.
It is actually very confusing since both organic and natural ingredients are defined on the premise of not using anything synthetic. The major difference is in the methods upon which organic ingredients have to be grown, cultivated, or raised. These should be grown with biological, cultural, and mechanical practices fully integrated into the farming or growing process. Additionally, the USDA requires that producers of organic ingredients adhere to a set of principles that foster the efficient cycling of resources, the conservation of biodiversity, and the promotion of ecological balance.
In other words, an organic dog food is always a natural dog food. However, dog food with all-natural ingredients does not always classify it as organic dog food.
Q: Is it the ‘greater nutritional value’ or the ‘lack of pesticides’ that makes organic food better?
A: Without a doubt it is the greater nutritional value of organic food that makes it way better than conventional, ‘all-natural’ food.
A variety of studies show that organically-grown produce contain higher quality, if not higher concentrations, of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids.
Technically, it has something to do with the lack of pesticides, too. These chemicals somehow affect the way plant foods create the nutrients that are naturally found in them. Pesticides can interact with the various molecules that make up the foundation for the synthesis of such nutrients. There are still nutrients, of course. Unfortunately, many of these have slightly different chemical structures that may have an impact in the nutrient value of the plant organism.
The same can be said of livestock such as cattle and chicken that is fed with commercial feeds or given antibiotics, growth boosters, and fatteners. These chemicals also interfere with the molecular structure of nutrients that are supposed to be synthesized naturally by chicken or cattle. The changes that occur at the molecular level can be easily translated into lower-quality nutrients or even substantially lower concentrations of the same nutrients.
A very simple middle school science project actually provided the impetus for the use of organic ingredients in many food applications. Fruit flies were placed on two sets of foods: one was organic while the other was typical food. After a few weeks, fruit flies on the organic group were healthier and bigger than those in the other group. This simple experiment showed that organisms that fed on organic ingredients were more likely to be healthier than those that feed on ordinary food. While it makes no sense comparing ourselves or even our dogs to fruit flies, the implications are way too great to overlook.
Our Favorite Pick
In this list of the best organic dog food we were able to identify two items that gained our nod as two of the best.
In the dry kibbles category, we had to pick between TruDog and The Honest Kitchen. Both provided exceptional value although the latter provided more flavor options that included chicken, turkey, and beef. However, it boiled down to their nutrient composition with TruDog’s protein and fat composition simply besting The Honest Kitchen. TruDog has 41% and 26% of protein and fat, respectively as against The Honest Kitchen’s 24.5% and 15.3%. We believe this matters as both come with high quality organic ingredients.
As for the wet or canned dog food category, it was a close call between Newman’s Own and Evangers with the latter besting the former because of its 100% organic ingredients. Newman’s Own only has 70% organic ingredients so this might be an issue.
Overall, whether you choose a dry kibble or a canned dog food, organic foods can provide your pooch with a host of benefits. Although more expensive, you can rest assured that your pooch will live a healthier life.
- Natural, Human Grade, Organic Dog Food: Really?, The Bark
- What is a Natural Pet Food, Really?, PetMD
- What is the Difference between “All Natural” and “Organic” Dog Food?, VittlesVault
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