Mommy guilt isn’t limited to children. Fido is family, too—so when you’re choosing what your tail-wagging baby will eat, it can feel pretty awful lugging home a big bag of kibble you know isn’t the best. Sadly, healthy, organic food options, for both people and pets, bump up numbers on the grocery bill, making it more likely you’ll buy generic than GMO free.
But many pet owners are shuffling budgets to make room for better-quality pet foods, with sales of organic varieties increasing in the U.S., despite the down economy. According to the Organic Trade Association, Americans doled out $84 million for organic pet food in 2009, a tenfold increase in the amount they spent in 2002.
Knowing organic foods are better for their own health, and for the environment, people are looking for the same safe, chemical-free options for their pets. A quick glance at any commercial pet food label is reason enough for many to make the switch. While manufacturers claim quality and wholesomeness, most pet foods are loaded with questionable ingredients, from animal by-products and cheap fillers to artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
Luckily, increased demand for natural and organic pet foods has led to better availability—and better prices. But before you grab any bag with “green” or “healthy” on the label, know that not all natural pet foods are created equal. Here are some things to look for when making your purchase:
USDA Organic seal
Just as with human food, pet food must meet strict standards set by U.S. Department of Agriculture to carry the official USDA Organic seal. To be labeled “Organic,” a product must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Those with 70 to 94 percent organic ingredients can state “Made with Organic Ingredients” on the label.
According to the Pet Food Committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the term “natural” is acceptable on a pet food label as long as none of the ingredients are synthetic, or chemically made. All content must be derived from plant, animal or mined sources, with the exception of added vitamins or minerals (if the product is not intended for use as supplement).
Whether pet food is organic, natural or conventional, it’s usually processed, which means important nutrients may have been stripped during production. Look for products labeled “complete” or “balanced,” to be sure they have the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your pet needs for best health.
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By: +Rebecca Chopin writer for Vitacost.com