5 Widely Used Terms in Dog Food And What They Actually Mean

In the pursuit of boosting sales and making their products look superior, many pet food companies label their products with labels like “ultra-premium” “complete and balanced” and other labels, but is there any meaning behind them? and are they regulated?

Here’s 5 heavily used terms and the actual meaning behind them.

1- Complete and balanced

If you find this label on a dog food product, it means you can safely feed your dog the product as his sole diet.

The product should be nutritionally balanced, treats and snacks are not intended to be the sole diet of a dog, thus, it often not labeled as “Complete and balanced”.

Since pets in different life stages have different nutritional requirements, AAFCO established 2 nutrient profiles, one is “Growth and Reproduction” meant for pets that are growing, pregnant, or nursing, and the other one is for “Adult Maintenance”.

In order for companies to label their products as “Complete and balanced”, it must either meet one of the pet food nutrients profiles established by the AAFCO or pass a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures.

2- Natural

Because it sounds so positive, there are so many misconceptions about this term.

According to the AAFCO, a natural feed or feed ingredient is derived from plants, animals, or mined sources, unprocessed or processed by physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, however, it can’t be produced or subjected to a chemically synthetic process or contains any additives that are subjected to a chemically synthetic process.

There’s no requirement that natural pet feeds should be safer or better than those produced by a chemically synthetic process, in fact, most pet feed ingredients are derived from plants, animals, or mined sources, also, a feed may be subjected to many manufacturing processes and still be considered “natural”.

The term “natural” may apply to a specific ingredient, for example, the term “natural beef flavor” means only the flavoring meet the requirements to be “natural”.

If a product is natural but contains synthetic vitamin, mineral, and trace nutrients, they’re obliged to display a disclaimer “Natural with added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients”.

Trace nutrients: nutrients required in smaller quantities like sulfur, iron, chlorine, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, and selenium.

3- Organic

The term “Organic” is subject to the National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s worth noting that organic pet feeds must meet the same regulations as organic human food products.

According to the National Organic Program (NOP), organic products must not use Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering, for more information, visit the USDA National Organic Program website.

The national organic program regulates all organic crops, livestock, and agricultural products to meet the USDA’s organic standards. Certified organic products that are made with 95% organic ingredients will display a USDA Organic Seal similar to this:

Four Color Organic Seal

Keep in mind that the USDA does not consider organic products to be safer, healthier, or more nutritious than conventionally-produced foods, the role of the NOP is to simply verify that products are organic and to make sure people are getting what they paid for.

4- Human-grade

The term “human-grade” has no definition in any animal feed regulations, what does have a definition is the term “edible”, to find “edible” pet food is extremely rare since they will cost a lot.

In order for any product to be “edible”, it must be fit for human consumption, and all of the ingredients must be human edible, processed and manufactured in accordance with federal regulations, to assure safety for consumption by humans.

If these requirements are met in a pet food, human-grade claim can be made, if not, the term “human-grade” have no actual meaning.

Human-grade has no impact on food quality and safety, pet food is unlikely to be nutritious for a human and vice-versa, and either way, it still has to meet pet feed nutritional requirements.

5- Premium/super premium/ultra premium

These products are not required to contain any different ingredients nor they’re required to contain any higher quality ingredients, they’re not held to any other high nutritional standards.

What labels do you think should make this list?

I’d love to know what unusual labels do you normally see on pet food? and what label do you think should make this list?

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