If you truly want what’s best for your dog, you’ll take the time to select a high-quality, nutritious diet. Your dog requires many of the same nutrients you do in order to thrive, but in different amounts – understanding your dog’s nutritional needs is the key to ensuring that they are met in the healthiest way possible. Unfortunately, not all dog foods are created equal so you have to do a bit of digging to find the products that are worthy of consideration.
Not only are there dozens of popular pet food manufacturers out there with hundreds, even thousands, of different recipes – there are also many different types of pet food. For dog owners who want to provide their canine companions with the best of the best, organic dog food is an option to consider. What you need to keep in mind, however, is that pet food is more loosely regulated than people food so you can’t always trust the marketing claims manufacturers print on their packaging. Keep reading to learn more about organic dog food and to receive our top picks for organic dog food brands.
What Does “Organic” Really Mean?
When you pick up a package of food at your local grocery store, you’ll find several things on the label. In addition to the product name and the manufacturer, the label should also include nutrition facts and a list of ingredients. Something else you might look for are dietary claims such as “natural” or “organic”. While definitions for some dietary claims are fuzzy, the USDA has set forth specific requirements that a human food product must meet in order to carry the “organic” label as well as the certified organic seal. These federal requirements include things like pest and weed control practices, soil quality, animal raising practices, and the use of additives.
In order for a product to carry the USDA certified organic seal, all plant ingredients must be grown in soil that hasn’t been treated with prohibited substances for at least 3 years prior to harvest – prohibited substances include pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. For meat products to be labeled organic, they must be raised on 100% organic feed and raised in conditions that accommodate for natural behaviors – they must also be free from hormones and antibiotics. Multi-ingredient foods must meet these same standards for individual ingredients and should also be free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Organic foods are allowed to contain some non-organic staples like baking soda or enzymes while still carrying the organic seal.
Depending how closely a food product adheres to the requirements listed above, the package will carry one of the following labels:
- 100% Organic – Made with 100% organic ingredients.
- Organic – Made with at least 95% organic ingredients.
- Made with Organic Ingredients – Made with at least 70% organic ingredients (and adhering to additional restrictions on the remaining 30%).
In addition to using one of the claims listed above, food manufacturers are allowed to use the USDA certified organic seal on their packaging if they meets federal regulations for organic ingredients and have an organic-certified manufacturing operation that is inspected annually.
What is Organic Dog Food?
When it comes to dog food, there are many similarities from one brand to another. What really sets one recipe apart from another, however, is the quality of the ingredients. Many pet food manufacturers load up their products with low-quality fillers like corn, wheat, and soy ingredients because they are cheap – the ultimate goal is to sell their product for as much as they can while keeping their own costs low. As a dog owner, this means that you need to be cognizant of the shortcuts pet food manufacturers sometimes take so you can weed out the good products from the bad.
One of the quickest ways to narrow down your options if you’re looking for a high-quality dog food is to choose a product made with all natural ingredients. You still need to keep an eye out for fillers, plant proteins, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives, but a natural dog food is a good place to start. If you want to step things up even more, reach for an organic dog food. Organic dog food is just like any other dog food except that the ingredients are subjected to more rigorous standards. Though the USDA has yet to define the word “organic” as it applies to pet food, pet foods made with ingredients that meet the human standard for organic are allowed to carry the seal.
The Top 4 Brands of Organic Food
If you want to give your dog the best of the best, organic dog food may be the way to go. You still need to pay attention to the ingredients list if your dog has any food allergies or sensitivities, but you can rest assured that any organic pet food product will be made with ingredients that meet the USDA requirements for organic foods. To help you get started in your search for the right organic food for your dog, here are our top four picks:
Castor and Pollux Organix – The Castor and Pollux company was founded more than twenty years ago by a husband and wife pair who sought to take advantage of the increasing availability of natural and organic ingredients by using them to create a line of healthy, natural pet foods. In 2003, this company released their Organix line of pet foods which was the first and most complete line of organic pet food products on the market – they later launched a grain-free version of the brand in 2011. Castor and Pollux remains a leader in organic and natural pet food to this day and they are still strongly committed to their organic and natural philosophy for pet nutrition. The Organix line currently includes eight dry food recipes as well as thirteen canned food options. In addition to their Organix line of products they now offer the Organix with Raw Bites product line which features their organic kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites of protein-rich, USDA-inspected chicken.
Petcurean Gather – Petcurean is a Canada-based pet food manufacturer that was founded with the goal of producing premium-quality, nutrient-rich pet foods to help pets and their parents enjoy long, happy lives together. This company is independently owned and operated which means that they have a great deal of control over the quality of their ingredients as well as their manufacturing processes. Petcurean offers five different brands of dog food including Gather, their new line of pet foods made with certified and organic ingredients. In creating the Gather brand, Petcurean sought to develop a new kind of pet food – one made with certified and organic ingredients that was blended and balanced to provide pets with premium-quality, natural nutrition. In addition to using certified and organic ingredients, Gather also follows a commitment to sustainability. Simply put, their products are made with whole food from the earth and ocean with nothing added that isn’t needed.
Newman’s Own Organic – The Newman’s Own company was founded in 1982 as a food and beverage company run by the Newman’s Own Foundation. Though this company is primarily known for their human food products, they also offer a limited selection of pet food products. According to the website, Newman’s Own pet foods are made with a unique blend of proteins, whole grains, vitamins, and minerals. For dog food, Newman’s Own offers two dry dog food formulas and fourteen canned food formulas. The two dry dog food recipes are made with several organic ingredients, though not enough to carry the certified organic seal. Of their canned food options, seven recipes currently carry the USDA certified organic seal. The remaining products are also made with some organic ingredients.
The Honest Kitchen – This brand is not strictly organic but they do use a number of organic ingredients in their formulas. What really sets The Honest Kitchen apart from the competition is the fact that they use human-grade ingredients in all of their recipes. The term human-grade means that the ingredients are deemed fit for human consumption by the USDA. In order to use the term human-grade on their packaging, however, a pet food manufacturer must not only use human-grade ingredients but also manufacture their products in a human food facility – The Honest Kitchen meets both of those requirements. This brand offers a selection of freeze-dried foods for dogs, both original and grain-free recipes. Because these products are dried and not cooked, the raw ingredients retain more of their original nutritional value. The Honest Kitchen states that their recipes help to support improved energy levels, regular digestion, healthy skin and coat, reduced risk for allergies, and healthy bodyweight maintenance.
Remember, just because a product label carries words like “natural” or “holistic” doesn’t mean that you can make any assumptions – you still need to do your due diligence and review the product information to determine its quality. If you want to take a shortcut, choose one of the top-rated organic dog food brands we’ve reviewed above.