What is the difference between natural and organic cat food?

Posted on: February 04, 2014

Natural vs. Organic Cat Food

Keeping your cat healthy and happy requires a diet that meets her nutritional needs based on her life stage. It stands to reason that good food is made from good ingredients that are combined to create a complete and balanced food. When selecting a diet for your cat, you may choose to buy foods that are labeled as natural or organic.

The difference between natural and organic may seem subtle, but is worth noting.

Natural Cat Foods

To state that a pet food is natural means that a cat food manufacturer must adhere to certain guidelines when selecting ingredients for that product.                                  

  • AAFCO defines natural as a feed or 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 unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.
  • In other words, a natural product cannot contain any chemically synthetic or synthetically produced ingredients.     
  • AAFCO does recognize, however, that low levels of some synthetic micro ingredients/nutrients (such as some vitamins/minerals) are required by pets, so it allows for these to be formulated in natural pet foods.
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet defined “natural.”

Organic Cat Foods

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program defines and regulates the term “organic” for human food and pet food “Organic” refers to the way a crop or animal is grown or raised and handled. Organic crops must be grown on land free from pesticides for three years. Organic livestock is fed organic feed, is not given antibiotics or hormones, and has access to the outdoors.

Not all foods labeled organic contain only organic ingredients.

There are four levels of organic foods:

  • 100% organic

  • Organic (95%)

  • Made with organic (70% to 95%)
  • Less than 70% organic

Look for the USDA organic seal as proof of a certified organic pet food. Pet foods with that seal must contain 95% to 100% organic ingredients.

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