Understanding Pet Food Labels – Natural, Organic, Holistic, Human Grade, Clinically Proven

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Image by Kathleen Riley-Daniels

There are so many things to consider when look at a bag of pet food — today we are looking at the terms natural, organic, holistic, human grade and clinically proven. 

  • “Natural” is a legal definition in the pet food world and requires a pet food to consist of only natural ingredients without chemical alterations. Like most rules, there are exceptions and in the “natural” category the exceptions are for vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients.
  • “Organic” has been legally defined for human foods by the USDA. Right now, pet food companies can use the term “organic” if they follow the same rules as applied to human foods. The terms natural and organic are not interchangeable.
  • “Holistic” has no legal definition and is unregulated in the pet food industry. Any pet food could use the term “holistic” in marketing their product. Think of this as a marketing term and not a pet food term.
  • “Human grade” is not an allowed term on a pet food label, unless the food is made in a plant approved for manufacturing human food. Because of this, there are very few pet foods that are labeled “human grade.” However, this regulation doesn’t apply to advertising and websites, so some pet food companies will tout “human grade” ingredients in their products. This is partially why reading pet food labels can be so challenging.
  • Clinically Proven The term “clinically proven” on a package or pet food label means the claim must be supported by two clinical studies.

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