When it comes to buying consumable goods for ourselves, our kids, and our pets, more and more people are making the switch to organic products. But what does the word “organic” mean? And specifically what does it mean for a product to have the word “organic” on it. Personally I try to use organic products whenever possible, but I have to remind myself now and again to stop and actually study the label before just throwing something in the cart just because I see the word organic somewhere on the packaging – because, believe it or not, so-called “organic” items are not always the healthiest option.
The term “organic” simply means farming without the use of synthetic chemicals. Prior to WWII, the term wasn’t even used because chemical-free farming was the norm. According to the Organic Consumer’s Association, after the Second World War there was a movement towards “factory farming” which in turn called for the widespread use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and mass-rearing. In the midst of this agricultural industrial revolution, some pioneers of the organic movement called for a return to the responsible farming. This counter movement re-defined the term “organic” to include adopting techniques that maintain soil fertility and utilize renewable resources that do not grossly pollute the environment, in addition to the absence of pesticides.
Today the use of the term “organic” is well regulated in the human food chain and food producers must meet certain criteria for it to be used on packaging. However, just because a package says “organic” does not mean that the entire product is organic. To say that a product is “made with organic ingredients” means that it only needs to contain at least 70% organic ingredients. If the product contains 95% organic ingredients, it can say “organic” on the packaging. And to say “100% organic ingredients”, each ingredient listed must be completely organic.
Organic pet food and organic dog treats have not received the same level of attention or regulation as the human food industry. Not long ago a manufacturer could call a pet food organic even if it only contained trace amounts of organic ingredients. More recently the guidelines for organic human food discussed above were applied to organic pet food. However, there is still little oversight or regulation. More stringent regulations for organic pet food are under development, but until then, there are pet foods out there claiming to be “organic” without any real federal standards being applied. For example, just because a pet food ingredient is organic, is it also human-quality? Or could it be a by-product of an organic ingredient made for the human food chain and sold of to the pet food industry at a discount?
Keep in mind also that just because a product is organic, does not necessarily make it healthy. Walk into your local health food store and you’ll see that virtually everything is available in an organic version these days. They make organic hot dogs, cookies, soda pop, and ice cream. But is it healthier for me to buy a loaf of organic white bread than it is to buy a non-organic loaf of 12-grain? Should let my kids drink organic chocolate milk instead of non-organic carrot juice? Should I buy my dog an organic processed pellet or canned food instead of a non-organic fresh, raw dog food? The bottom line is that organic or not, junk food is still junk food.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make that decision based on what your dogs thrive on and what you are comfortable feeding them. The same can be said about the meat and vegetables that you combine with our mixes. Certainly it is much more expensive to use only organic meat to mix with our food. But you should also keep in mind that the human-quality meat found in most grocery stores is far superior in quality to anything you’d find in a traditional commercial pet food. In our opinion, there is a far greater gap between human-grade food and feed-grade food than there is between organic food and human-grade dog food. So in the end, before you decide whether to feed organic or not, the first priority should be to make sure that you’re feeding a fresh, unprocessed food made of human-quality ingredients.