As more and more people become hyper-aware of the negative effects things like artificial colorants, preservatives, and pesticides have on our bodies and the planet, many are switching to more natural and organic foods. If you’ve made that switch, you might be wondering if an organic dog food would be better for your four-legged friend as well.
Organic foods are free of synthetic hormones and chemicals that have been linked to cancer, disease, and behavioral issues. Feeding your dog an organic diet can help them avoid some of these issues.
In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of organic foods, discuss how to spot a true and quality organic diet and look at some of the best organic dog foods on the market today.
What Does Organic Mean?
Do you have trouble keeping all the terminology of green living straight? Organic, all natural, no artificial ingredients, free range… There’s a lot of clever marketing terms out there, but what do they actually mean?
FDA rules say any food, be it dog or human, can bear the term “all-natural” so long as it does not contain any colorants, artificial flavors, or certain synthetic substances, according to Nutrition.org. But this language is not strictly regulated, and in many instances is used as a cheap ploy to entice unsuspecting consumers.
For pet food specifically, it’s important to note that “all-natural” foods are allowed to contain synthetic vitamins and minerals, and many of them do. While these are used to keep your dog’s diet well balanced, these synthetic nutrients are not as bioavailable to your pup as those from real whole-food sources.
“Organic” labeling, on the other hand, is strictly regulated by the USDA.
If you buy a dog food just labeled “natural,” you can be relatively sure there are no dangerous chemical additives in the food. Which is a good start since dogs are even more sensitive to these ingredients than their human counterparts.
Dog foods labeled as “organic” have ingredients that are grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or genetic modification. Organic meat must be fed organic feed and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics.
While no long term studies have been produced showing a clear difference in dogs raised on organic food rather than traditional feed, logic tells you that less processed, chemical-free dog food is going to have a more positive impact on your pet than the alternative. And, one thing we do know for sure is farming without pesticides and chemicals is better for our planet.
Organics Are Not All Equal
You might expect that a USDA certified organic dog food would be made with 100% organic ingredients. You’ll be disappointed to find out that little green label only guarantees 95% organic ingredients are used.
Worse still, clever wording allows producers to market dog food as organic when it’s not even 95% organic. According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, a dog food claiming to have a single organic ingredient like a food made “with organic beef” can legally include as little as 3% organic beef in the recipe.
Foods have to contain at least 70% organic ingredients in order to use the term organic in the title and main marketing message, but they can still sneak the word in where appropriate on the ingredients list.
If you are serious about providing your pup with a truly organic diet, look for food that is certified organic by the USDA. If it also says “100% organic ingredients,” even better!
But, it’s important to remember that the term organic is not representative of the healthfulness of any food. Human treats like ice cream and potato chips can be organic, but that does not make them good for you.
The same is true of pet food. A food can be 100% organic, but if it is made with organic corn and soy meal, it would be a worse choice than a non-organic food that had some actual meat in it.
What Are the Benefits of Feeding Organic Dog Food?
As we mentioned above, there are no long-term studies on the effects of organic dog foods versus more traditional diets as a whole. But we do know from other studies that certain common chemical ingredients in dog foods have negative effects on our canine companions.
Both the preservatives BHA and BHT have been linked to cancer in lab animals and are thought to have similar effects on dogs and humans, according to Whole Dog Journal. Natural and organic dog foods don’t contain these preservatives and must rely on safer, natural preservatives to avoid spoilage.
Synthetic colorants are another area where traditional dog food may be having a negative effect on your dog.
In 1906, the government first started regulating the use of colorants in food. At the time there were 80 chemical color compounds used in food processing.
A century later, only seven of those chemicals are still considered safe to use. And some of those banned were only done so in the last couple of decades.
Those colorants that are no longer used were made illegal because they were found to have harmful effects like making children ill and causing cancer. Some of the same concerns still exist today with the current legal colorants.
Rather than rolling the dice with your dog’s health, choose a natural or organic diet that does not contain synthetic colors. Odds are good your dog won’t even notice his food went from red and yellow to brown.
How to Choose an Organic Dog Food
If you’re determined to start feeding your dog a quality, natural food, there are some things to look for.
Remember, the most important aspect of your pet’s food is that it has quality meat ingredients and is high in protein and low in carbs. Always check the ingredients label to assure the first couple of ingredients (at least) are quality named meats and that the food does not contain any cheap fillers like corn or soy.
Diet’s certified organic by the USDA will contain the highest levels of organic ingredients. Finding a quality food with this mark is the easiest way to feel confident that your getting a diet free from preservatives and chemicals, but it will come with a higher price tag.
To save a little money, you can look for a food that contains only organic meat ingredients. The front of the bag should say something like “100% organic chicken.”
But remember to also check the ingredients list. Ideally, any meat item listed would have the word organic before it.
If organic of any kind is outside your budget, consider looking for an all-natural food instead.
The best dog foods are made largely (if not completely) from whole food ingredients with high nutrient values that require no added synthetic vitamins or minerals. You’ll see ingredients like “blueberries,” “flaxseed,” and “spinach” on the list instead of “vitamin A” and “iron.”
If you’re less concerned with synthetic nutrients and are ok with a food that is just free from harmful chemicals and colorants, look for a food marketed as all-natural and an ingredient label that contains only words you recognize.
Reviews of The Best Organic Dog Foods
#1. Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Small Breed Recipe Recipe Dry Dog Food
If you’re a tiny dog owner you’re in luck because the first food on our list is made specifically for small breeds. Castor & Pollux is one of the best natural dog food brands out there and their Organix line, and their small breed formula, in particular, is made from quality ingredients and carries the USDA organic seal.
One of the toughest things to find in the dog food market is a diet that includes both organic meats and organic vegetables. This diet boasts organic chicken and chicken meal, and organic plant-sourced ingredients like alfalfa, peas, and sweet potato.
And because this food is USDA certified organic, you know that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. The few ingredients in this recipe that aren’t are salt, salmon oil, and a short list of vitamins and minerals.
The Organix line also carries food for large breeds, all life stages, and puppies. Each recipe contains quality meat ingredients without added hormones or antibiotics and produce that was grown in an earth-friendly way.
This food contains a higher than average protein amount and a calorie density made for the fast metabolism of the typical small dog.
As one of the few certified organic dog foods on the market, you can bet this line of food comes with a hefty price tag. But if you are serious about keeping your dog free from synthetic chemicals and hormone-heavy meat, this food is absolutely worth it.
#2. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Stella’s Super Dinner
Our second choice on this list of the best natural dog foods was made for dogs of all sizes and ages. Stella & Chewy’s freeze dried diets combine organic produce with quality meats prepared as nutrient-dense freeze-dried patties.
This diet is available in 11 fantastic flavors like rabbit, venison, duck, and turkey to keep your dog interested and happy. All flavor varieties contain at least 90% meat ingredients with most recipes containing 95%.
While the meat in these diets is not organic, most of the plant-sourced ingredients are. Your dog will enjoy pesticide-free produce like spinach, broccoli, beets, and cranberries.
Surprised to see so many super-foods packed into a dog food? That’s because these diets rely heavily on whole-food sourced nutrients rather than synthetic vitamins and minerals.
You will still find a few listed nutrients like taurine, vitamin A, and iron, but many of those necessary micronutrients are also available in whole-food forms that your dog can more easily utilize.
This all-natural food is freeze-dried, which means it is more nutrient dense than highly processed kibble, another big win for your dog’s health.
All this quality will cost you, though. You can expect to pay about as much of some of the certified organic diets.
#3. ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Original, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free
Our third choice doesn’t contain any organic ingredients, but what it lacks there is made up for by the fact that it contains no added synthetic ingredients. Orijen is known for being an all-natural kibble packed with meat, but their use of nutrient-dense whole-foods takes them to a whole new level of natural.
Orijen’s original recipe dry food contains an impressive 15 animal-sourced ingredients as the first ingredients listed. Your dog will enjoy quality, protein-packed meats like chicken, turkey, flounder, and herring.
But what makes this one of the best all-natural dog foods is the use of superfoods to bring in the nutrients that most dog foods use synthetic vitamins and minerals for. Ingredients like kelp, kale, mustard greens, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, and juniper berries are things you aren’t likely to see in many other dry dog foods.
There are a few named minerals, but they are almost impossible to find and likely from a natural source as Orijen claims they don’t use any synthetic additives in their recipes.
If you’re looking for an all-natural diet that mirrors the types of food your dog would be ingesting in the wild, this food is as close as you will get in kibble form. And that makes this food one of the best holistic dog foods you’ll find.
This food is cheaper than our first two choices but remains high on the price spectrum.
#4. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Dog Food Recipe
Another great natural dog food on the market is Ziwi Peak’s air-dried food. This recipe is packed with meat and protein and crafted with natural ingredients and added vitamins and minerals.
This diet comes in six great flavors including lamb/tripe, venison, and beef. All flavors contain 96% animal-sourced ingredients and a host of healthy produce.
While this food does contain synthetic vitamins and minerals, it also includes superfoods like kelp and parsley for an added nutrient boost. Most importantly, this food is air dried, a process that retains more nutrients than the pressure and heat processing used for most kibble.
Compared to most dry diets, this food also contains fewer ingredients which is great for dogs that suffer from food intolerances or have sensitive systems. And, with each flavor containing different proteins, you can even find one that will work if your dog suffers from animal protein allergies.
These diets are also more easily digested that many commercial feeds, which not only means less mess in the yard but also less food going into the bowl at mealtime. And that is important for a food that also sits at the higher end of the price spectrum.
#5. Taste of the Wild Grain Free Premium High Protein Dry Dog Food Pacific Stream Adult – Smoked Salmon
If you’re looking for an all-natural food that won’t break the budget, then our final choice is for you. Taste of the Wild is known for their quality diets at an affordable price, and their Pacific Stream flavor is one of the best.
This recipe contains quality, sustainably caught proteins like salmon and ocean fish meal. It also contains some great antioxidant-rich produce like blueberries and raspberries.
This diet has a slightly higher than average protein content and a average to low-calorie density, making it an especially great choice for less active dogs and those prone to weight gain.
Unlike some of our more expensive picks, this food does not contain any organic ingredients and does include synthetic vitamins and minerals. However, there are no colorants, preservatives, or other harmful chemicals added.
And, like many of our choices, this food is made in the USA with quality global ingredients.
Of course, the best feature of this food is the price tag. A bag of this will cost you half as much as our first choice food, making it easier to feed your dog a quality, all-natural diet for the long haul.
What Is the Best Natural Dog Food?
After conducting a number of natural dog food reviews, we selected Castor & Pollux’s Organix small breed food as our number one pick for best organic dog food. This is one of the few foods on the market that is certified organic by the USDA and contains both organic meat and plant ingredients.
The Organix line of food all contain quality ingredients that are free from hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, and artificial colors. While our top pick was specially crafted for dogs under 20 pounds, Castor & Pollux offer a variety of great diets for breeds of all shapes and sizes.
If you’re looking for an all-natural diet but can’t afford the expense of a certified organic food, we’ve included plenty of great natural options on our list as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many brands market their dog foods by twisting the meaning of words to help them sound more appealing. While a food that claims to be “organic” or has a certain “organic meat,” must contain some organic ingredients, the word “organics” doesn’t actually mean anything in terms of what is in the food.
Check the ingredient list itself. If the food contains any organic ingredients, the word “organic” will be listed before them in the list.
Raising livestock and plants in an organic way is more expensive than traditional farming because fewer animals can be raised in the same space and the feed and fertilizers are more expensive. These costs are transferred to the total price of the dog food, which many owners are not willing to pay.
Luckily, organic foods are more in demand today than they have been in the past and this means more companies are likely to start manufacturing them. And, fingers crossed, as this method of farming becomes more profitable, costs will also go down.
Summed Up: The Best Organic Dog Foods
|Castor & Pollux Organix Small Breed||Stella & Chewy Freeze-Dried Dinners||Orijen Original Dry Food||Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Food||Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream|
|Organic and Natural Features||Certified USDA organic formula||All-natural with organic produce||All-natural without synthetic vitamins and minerals||Natural meats and produce, nutrient dense, air dried||Natural, sustainably harvested, affordable|