What is the Difference Between All-Natural and Organic Dog Food? - Vittles Vault

What is the difference between "All natural" and "organic" dog food? {Part 1 of 4}

It is important to remember that dog food and human food are not held to the same quality and manufacturing standards.

Although, one thing dog food and human food do have in common is the fact that the term “All Natural” really doesn’t mean anything. We live in a world where many people are becoming more health conscious, and that also translates to what they want to feed their pets. 

We rely on labels and terms like "All Natural" to help guide our decisions so we can provide our pets with the healthiest food available. When those labels are misleading, it makes our jobs as conscientious pet parents that much harder.


All Natural vs. Organic Dog Food

We all know that dog food can get pretty expensive. No one wants to waste their hard earned money on dog food that they think is good for their dog, when in reality, it isn’t.

All natural dog food label
dog food label organic

Do you know the difference between All Natural and Organic?

What You Need to Know:

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate dog food like they regulate human food. The ingredients in pet food; meat, poultry and grains are already considered "safe," and so they do not require pre-market, governmental approval from the FDA.

The FDA’s responsibilities regarding pet food include:

  • Infrequent inspections of manufacturing facilities
  • Investigations based on a consumer or veterinary complaint
  • Oversee pet food additives or processing aids
  • Cooperate with AAFCO requirements

AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, is a private corporation, not a government regulatory agency. It is a voluntary organization made up of local, state and federal agencies that claims its function is to “protect the consumer.” The board members mainly include representatives from major feed manufactures and ingredient suppliers.

AAFCO’s purpose is to protect consumers through labeling requirements, ingredient requirements and nutritional requirements. However, AAFCO has no enforcement authority. Further, AAFCO doesn’t perform any analytical testing of the foods, but the regulations are adopted by most states in the U.S.

All natural foods and organic foods can be substantially different when it comes to the ingredients.

When you see “All Natural” written on a bag of dog food, it essentially means nothing. Presently, AAFCO’s definition of natural is:

A feed or feed ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject 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 in good manufacturing practices.

AAFCO Definition

Yikes! There’s really nothing at all natural about foods that are labeled “all-natural”. It’s scary to think that you can buy something labeled “All-Natural” and think you’re buying a high-quality product, when in reality there’s not much of a difference between regular processed food and all-natural.

Is Organic Dog Food Any Better?

AAFCO’s definition of organic is in line with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP defines organic products as:

Produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used.

AAFCO Definition

Just like the process that human food goes through to be certified organic, pet food must adhere to the same process. For a product to be sold or labeled as organic, it must be produced on certified organic farms and handled only through certified organic handling operations. Organic certified farms and their products are inspected regularly to assure good quality, organic product standards. 

Some of the Best Organic and Non-Organic Dog Food Brands:

  • Castor & Pollux Organix
    Castor & Pollux Organic dog food is certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program. The ingredients are nutrient-rich and free of nasty chemicals. This food includes a wide variety of organic meets, like chicken, as well as many fruits and vegetables.
  • TruDog
    TruDog freeze-dried dog food is made from free-range, grass-fed USDA certified meat. There are no fillers, artificial preservatives, and no rendered or meal products. Just some good, wholesome ingredients for our beloved pups!
  • Natural Planet
    Natural Planet dog food is made with wholesome ingredients, and some of their foods have exotic meats. ​Their formulas include varieties like rabbit and salmon, and kangaroo and venison.
  • Orijen
    Orijen is a well-respected and often recommended brand of pet food that uses premium ingredients in their food. The first 15 ingredients of their Original Dry Dog Food are high quality protein sources. Can't beat that!

    I was curious as to why Orijen would use such high quality ingredients but not choose to use organic products. I decided to send a chat over to their customer service team to ask them!

    Their response is below:
Screenshot of chat with Orijen dog food customer service

After having this quick conversation with Carrie at Orijen, I realized that they are still using high quality ingredients, but their main focus is not on whether they're organic. They do still use some organic ingredients when available, but they're being mixed with some that are not organic.  Fortunately, their meat is free of antibiotics or hormones. That’s important!

  • Acana
    Acana is another great brand of dog food that is not organic. However, they still use high quality ingredients.

    For example, their Heritage Meats Formula includes 60% meat and 40% vegetables. This formula is also infused with freeze-dried liver and tripe. It is grain-free and includes no fillers like potato, tapioca, glutens or plant protein concentrates.

All in all, the lesson to take from this is – Don’t be fooled by a misleading label that says “All-Natural”.

If you want to get a healthier kibble for your dog, then go with organic, or at least one that has high quality ingredients. When checking out a new brand of dog food, turn that bag over and look at the ingredients! Make sure it includes high quality meat, veggies and no fillers!

Always remember, all-natural is not an indicator of quality!

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About the Author

Kassi Calton, a Marketing Specialist at GAMMA2, is a lover of all things pets, food, DIY and travel.

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