07th Jul 2011

Not All ‘Whole Foods for Pets’ are Really Whole!

Whole Beef
I can’t believe it, but yet again we were way ahead of the curve when we came up with our tag line, “Whole Foods for the Whole Animal.”

I must admit that it wasn’t very hard to come up with this tag line, given that our pet foods contain nothing but food, i.e., no fragments, such as refined grains, or synthetics like the typical vitamin/mineral premixes found in many other brands of pet food.

Over the past six years, the competition has been concentrating on adjusting their public relation materials, i.e., ads and website ‘information,’ to fit continuously morphing sales-promoting trends like the all too common (and loose) use of the terms, ‘natural,’ ‘holistic,’ ‘raw,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘green.’ *

Now, the competition has hit upon the trendy search engine key phrase, ‘whole food for pets’ and has adopted the ‘whole food’ claim to market their own pet foods, even though many of these products are the furthest thing from ‘whole’ you could imagine.
Personally, I think it’s more than a bit disconcerting to see a ‘whole food’ claim used for any pet food product that lists among its ingredients refined ingredients or isolated, synthetic nutrients such as genetically engineered vitamins.

For example, look out for an ‘organic grain’ claim applied to [non-certified organic] dog foods which now are highly ranked in a ‘whole food for pets’ internet search. If you add the terms ‘organic,’ ‘raw,’ or even ‘human-grade,’ you would almost certainly come across some listings of products for which none of these claims are true.

Dried Beef

In addition to the dishonest embedding of search terms that have little or nothing to do with some pet food products being marketed on the internet, another troubling trend among pet food manufacturers is the prevalent use of grains in the formulation of pet foods. Putting aside the fact that dogs didn’t evolve to eat grains, the term, ‘grains,’ as employed by some manufacturers probably refers to refined flour, an ingredient that isn’t particularly healthy for either humans or their dogs.

Why might a company describe their refined flour ingredient as ‘grains?’ My experience, both as a researcher who follows trends in animal nutrition and a pet food manufacturer who uses organic whole grain flours for pet rodent foods, tells me that this is a simple case of looking after the ‘bottom line.’ Whole grain flours are much more expensive than their refined grain (or ‘white’) versions. And, of course, USDA certified organic grains are even more expensive than their conventional (i.e., non-organic) whole grain versions.

I would simply shrug off these new exploitative—and less than truthful—trends IF these pet food claims were harmless and didn’t have the potential to hurt pets and the guardians who love them. The sad truth is that such deceptions undermine the organic, green, and whole food movements because of their intent to blur the line between the truth and fake, sales-driven claims. Moreover, they make it impossible for many consumers to find and purchase what they’re actually looking for to support the health of their pets.**

It’s unfortunate that such patently false claims can be made with near-total impunity. The only salient consequences seem to be increased sales for the purveyors of these claims and poor nutrition and overall bad health for the pets that are fed falsely represented food products.

Yet again, it seems that it’s up to consumers to educate themselves properly. All available information about a given product should be checked carefully, and information provided by pet food manufacturers should be considered as dubious if there isn’t an independent, unbiased third-party backing it up (and, of course, the positions taken by retailers can’t necessarily be taken at face value because they obviously want to sell the products they carry). I know that the sentiment I express here isn’t one the pet food industry as a whole appreciates. What can I say? Somebody needs to give pet guardians the ‘heads-up.’ So…well…I volunteer!

I’m compelled to repeat an old line of mine: “The most regulated pet foods are certified organic.” Our USDA-accredited organic certifier has access to every single ingredient we buy and every processing step to which we expose all of our ingredients.
Organic certification of pet foods is done voluntarily to the benefit of the consumer, as it assures them that an unbiased third party has verified the claims that the manufacturer makes about their products.

———–
* Don’t forget that only certified organic pet food claims are regulated, none of the other widely used claims (e.g., natural, green, holistic and even non-certified organic ones) are, which allows for and explains their wide-spread abuse.

** Don’t forget that refined grains have been implicated in a number of common chronic pathologies, including obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer. Other non-whole ingredients, such as isolated, synthetic or GMO vitamins and minerals, can accumulate in the body to disease-causing proportions, cause allergies and likely other, as yet unidentified, problems in pets.

It’s certainly true that some pets (particularly older ones) require supplemental nutrients. But nowadays, there are many food-based alternatives available, though these might not be marketed specifically for pets. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian before you choose a natural nutrient over the synthetic supplements your pet may have been taking.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Holistic Pet Food, Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

06th Jul 2011

Summer, Heat, Overheating, and Heat Stroke in Pets

Overheating and Heat Stroke

….can kill a dog (and other animals) in a matter of minutes.

A dog’s normal temperature is 100.5-102.5F. When the temperature rises to 105 or 106F, the dog is at risk for developing heat exhaustion. At 107F, the dog is highly susceptible to heat stroke.

The inside of a car can reach 160F within minutes, even if the windows are open.
Dogs can get overheated when exercising on hot, humid days; they can overheat even when they are well hydrated. Keep your dogs safe - Keep them cool

Unlike humans, who can sweat, dogs depend on panting to cool down. They breathe in through their nose and out through the mouth. This way, the air is pushed over the mucous membranes of the trachea, throat and tongue, which facilitates cooling by evaporating fluid. Additionally, dogs’ blood vessels open in the surface of the skin which also dissipates heat.
If these cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed, the dog is in danger of overheating and heat stroke.

Heat-related illnesses affect the following dogs most:
Puppies, old, or ill dogs. Overweight dogs. Overexerted dogs. Flat faced animals such as pugs.

How to recognize overheating:
Overheated dogs often appear sluggish, disoriented, or unresponsive. They may drool excessively, have difficulty breathing, panting may be excessive and gums, tongue and eye lids and membranes may be very red. The dog may collapse, vomit, have bloody diarrhea, suffer from seizures or fall into a coma. If you suspect that your pet suffers from heat stroke, contact your veterinarian immediately and cool your pet with drinking water if she’s alert enough to drink, spray or bathe her with cool water or place wet towels on her.

How to avoid overheating:
Keep your pet away from heat; never leave her in the car or outdoors if the weather is hot and no cool shady areas are available.
Don’t go for extended walks on streets which can heat up fast in hot weather.
Don’t over-exercise your pet in hot weather.
Keep your pet well hydrated; always keep fresh clean water available.
Give her a proper summer haircut (not too short to prevent sunburn). Grooming helps to remove loose hair which can trap heat.
We provide our pets shallow containers with fresh water in which they can step and play with safely. Our birds, rats, and dogs really enjoy this simple comfort.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Home Remedies & News Bits Comments Comments Off

24th Jun 2011

Is Your Dog or Cat Food Really Raw?

Not all raw pet foods are created raw.

Some dehydrated pet foods contain cooked meats, eggs, and fish but are marketed as ‘raw.’

It is unbelievable to me that such deceptive marketing is allowed. But then, one of these ‘dehydrated raw’ pet food manufacturers also markets their conventional (non-organic) pet foods very successfully as organic although their products aren’t organic at all.

It is sad but true that customers have to do a lot of leg work (or, nowadays, reading work) to find out the truth. Honesty isn’t everybody’s strength even if a suggestive name would leave you with this impression.

What makes it harder to find out the truth about one particular raw pet food scam is that a prominent raw feeder group (based in San Francisco) is selling such ‘dehydrated raw’ pet foods knowing that the company uses cooked animal-derived ingredients. Other retailers may either simply not know this little secret, or, for the sake of sales, they decide just as the raw feeder group, to keep these products on the shelf without explaining to customers that the main ingredients aren’t raw but cooked.

As always, buyer beware. Not every marketing claim can be believed, and in the case of the largely unregulated pet food industry, such intentional deceptions are more frequent than one would expect from the beautiful ads companies share with the world.

This is a good time to remind everybody that organic certification is the best assurance that marketing claims are really true. So far, certified organic pet foods are the most regulated ones,* which means that an unbiased party can verify a company’s claims. Until other regulations catch up with deceptive marketing, your best bet is to choose USDA organic pet foods to get what you are paying for

* Certified organic pet food companies are also expected at least once a year, while even human food processing plants are often inspected less than once in a decade (!)

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Raw Pet Food, Regulations Comments Comments Off

20th Jun 2011

Clean Without Chemicals – Keep Your Pets Safe

Did you know…

“Everyday household cleaners can poison, harm, or kill a pet. Imagine your pets are like children and they can get into anything.” – Pet.tips.net

“Phenol – a chemical often found in floor cleaners is toxic. It is rapidly absorbed by the skin, and can cause damaging effects on the central nervous system, heart, blood vessels, lungs, and kidneys.” – National Institutes of Health

“A recent study done by the Environmental Working Group found that dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemical tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people.” – Environmental Working Group

Most products out there just mask odors- they don’t get rid of the odor – and there are so many ‘natural’ claims that are nowhere near close to being completely natural.

In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “toxic chemicals found in common household cleaners, often dispersed in fumes, are three times more likely to cause cancer than other air pollutants.”

Protect yourself and your furry loved ones!

Aussan Natural is a new all-natural line of safe cleaning and odor eliminating products made completely from plant-based materials. I had the pleasure to try some of Aussan’s cleaning products and was really very happy with each of them (they also have a pleasant natural smell which is very different from the ‘chemical’ smells of the usual cleaners). Here are the products I tried out:

Floor Cleaner Concentrate
This is a great product to clean floors! It worked very well on our hardwood floors and did also a great job to spot clean ‘accidents’ below our birds’ day hangout.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Botanically Sourced Glycerin, Citric Fruit Extract, Potash, Sodium Gluconate, Lemongrass Oil, Plant Bioflavonoids, Octanoic Acid, Lactic Acid

All-Purpose Cleaner
This cleaner safely and effectively cleans just about anything from any hard, washable surface. For tougher spots, allow product to stand for a few minutes before wiping. It really does a wonderful job, even on mirrors which were ‘streak-free’ after one application and without struggle!
Ingredients: Purified Water, Botanically Sourced Glycerin, Citric Fruit Extract, Potash, Sodium Gluconate, Lemongrass Oil, Plant Bioflavonoids, Octanoic Acid, Lactic Acid

All-Purpose Pet Cleaner
I applied this cleaner in our pets’ dining and playing areas and simply and simply wiped them clean. For a few tougher stains I waited for a few minutes before wiping. This effective product has a very faint, pleasant smell, which is great for both me and our pets.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Botanically Sourced Glycerin, Citric Fruit Extract, Potash, Sodium Gluconate, Lemongrass Oil, Plant Bioflavonoids, Octanoic Acid, Lactic Acid

Small Pet Odor Eliminator
After removing pets and bedding from their cage and other living areas, I generously sprayed all surfaces. I wiped the surfaces clean and allowed the cage sides to air dry. I used this product on our birds’, dogs’ and rats’ sleeping areas. I was pleasantly surprised to see how effectively this product removed otherwise hard to remove spots on our birds’ cages. The solution has a somewhat stronger smell than the other Aussan cleaners I tried, but the smell is also pleasant and quickly disseminates.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Eucalyptus Oil – Steam Distilled, Vanilla Bean Oil, Peppermint Oil, Botanically Sourced Glycerin, Plant Bioflavonoids, Octanoic Acid, Lactic Acid

Aussan Natural products are third party verified all-natural, non-toxic products which are indeed among the safest possible alternatives to toxic chemical cleaning products. I am grateful I had the opportunity to try these safe and effective products!

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Home Remedies & News Bits Comments Comments Off

30th May 2011

Car Safety for Your Pet

Nothing looks more wonderful than having your sit right on your lap or bounce around on the back or passenger’s seat where she can stick her head out of the window to enjoy the summer breeze and the myriad of interesting smells.

But is it safe?

No. And here’s just a few reasons why:
1. The pet can fall out of the window. I have seen this happen once and I consider it a miracle that the animal didn’t get hit by another car and was able to get up.

2. The dog’s eyes can get hurt. Have you ever blinked when you were outside because something got into your eye that irritated it? Now imagine how many particles can hit eyes when moving on a street. The higher the speed, the greater the risk of injuries. The cornea gets easier hurt than you may think and it really, really hurts if the injury is deep enough.

3. The cold air your pet breathes in can damage her respiratory system.

4. The pet can get thrown around, against or even out of the window when you have to break.

5. She may fall or climb on the floor where she may get stepped on, hurt by anything falling on them, or even wedged under the pedals while you are driving.

5. When she’s climbing all over the driver she may be the reason for an accident when she distracts you or impairs your driving.

6. An activated airbag can injure or even kill your pet.

7. Even moving cars can get too hot for your pet. Use the A/C or crack open a window or two.

What can you do?
You can use a crate. It is always a good idea to get your pet accustomed to a crate for emergency cases, trips to the vet, travel etc. A crate should be a safe place and nothing to be afraid of. Trainers can suggest simple ways to help you make your pets feel at home in their crates.

You can use other safety features, such as safety pet travel seats, dog car seat belts, or screen dividers that prevent your pet from entering the driver’s area.

If you are traveling with a pet and another responsible human, the passenger can hold the animal on his lap if this can be done safely.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

30th Apr 2011

Vitamin A Toxicity and Liver Treats for Pets

You probably come across warnings that liver consumption may cause vitamin A toxicity. You may wonder if this is true and how safe our Liver-Hides treats are.

According to veterinarians and researchers, vitamin A toxicity really seems to occur only if one oversupplements with cod liver oil or vitamin A products (don’t forget that commercial ‘balanced’ or ‘complete’ pet foods can contain supplemental vitamin A. However, according to the manufacturers of these vitamin premixes, at least some of these vitamins degrade after 3-6 months).

It is interesting that most research cautioning about vitamin A toxicity talks about problems arising from overfeeding with ‘beef liver’ or cod liver oil and doesn’t mention livers of other livestock species (the fish oil is certainly a more concentrated form than the whole fish liver).

Dr. Messonier states that the maximum amount of vitamin A was 750,000 IU/kg food, but cats eating diets up to 2,000,000 IU/kg food for 3 to 4 years have not shown vitamin A toxicity. He goes on to say that “there have been rare reports of cats eating fresh beef liver on a daily basis who have been diagnosed with vitamin A toxicity.”

He recommends not to supplement with extra vitamin A and if in doubt have the vitamin A blood level determined (20 to 80 micro gram/dl is the normal range).

Most importantly, he then states, and here he truly speaks from my heart: “Vitamin A toxicity will not occur when using whole food sources rather than synthetic forms of vitamin A.” This does really not come as a surprise if one considers that isolated (i.e., mostly synthetic and mostly genetically engineered) supplements often have different effects than their natural counterparts do; many of these isolated/synthetic forms are ineffective while some may actually cause health problems.

Our dehydrated treats contain about 96,000 IU/50g (one bag or 1,919,000 IU/kg or 19,200 ug retinol/50g bag) and 23,500 IU/50g (one bag or 471,000 IU/kg or 4,700 ug retinol/50g bag) for the Turkey Liver-Hides and Chicken Liver-Hides, respectively.
Dehydration concentrates vitamin A just as much as it concentrates other nutrients.

And still, according to the research Dr. Messonnier summarizes, a cat could eat a kilogram (haha) of our treats for years without showing resulting in vitamin A toxicity. I think, however, that a cat eating a kilogram of liver would still get sick eventually because she doesn’t get sufficient amounts of other nutrients. And what house cat eats one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of food (and then just liver) a day?

Here are data of a few older studies (which, in my view, were often more thorough than many of today’s studies):

- Cats require 1,600-2,000 IU/day Vitamin A (more is needed during pregnancy, nursing, and growth).

- Prolonged, excessive intake of vitamin A does causes a disease which is associated with the near-exclusive feeding of raw liver and milk (these animals were pets of a slaughterhouse owner).

- The same disease symptoms can be duplicated by large supplements of vitamin A in a lean beef and milk diet. The levels of vitamin A supplied by liver, which induced skeletal lesions, ranged from 17-35ug (ug = microgram) retinol/g body weight; while 15 ug/g body weight added to the meat diet over 41 weeks had no effect. 30 ug retinol/g body weight produced lethargy after 10 weeks and spondylosis after 24 weeks.

According to these older studies, a 6kg (13.2lbs) cat could eat 90,000 ug (450,000 IU) per day in addition to a meat diet for over 41 months without ill effect. This means for our Liver-Hides treats that you could feed a 6 kg heavy cat meat and milk, and supplement with more than 4 and a half bags of Turkey Liver-Hides or 19 bags of Chicken Liver-Hides per day (!!) and they’d still not show any ill effects.

Therefore, our Liver-Hides are not only healthy but also safe (unless fed in excess to cats which eat like the poor slaughterhouse cats mentioned above). In my view, a guardian should feed a variety of foods to provide as many natural nutrients as possible.

What I like about our Liver-Hides (aside from the fact that they are raw and from pastured animals) is that the livers come from animals which haven’t been exposed to any toxins (e.g., hormones, antibiotics, toxins such as drugs and heavy metals from the sewage sludge used on most non-organic farms) which tend to accumulate in animals and their livers. Furthermore, the poultry we use are ‘processed’ in ways which prevent bacterial contamination and, in the case of our chickens, in a manner which the Humane Society considers well above ‘industry standards.’

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

31st Mar 2011

Is This ‘Dehydrated Raw’ Pet Food Really Raw?

Consumer be ware of companies that claim their pet foods are dehydrated raw if their claims aren’t verified by an unbiased 3rd party! So far only organic certification assures you that pet food manufacturers have to declare in a legal document if the ingredients they use are heat treated (e.g., cooked or boiled) and how they are processed.

For the past several years we have observed that one particular pet food manufacturer has made its reputation offering so called “raw dehydrated pet foods” for cats and dogs. However, lately we have seen that they (have had to?) publicly admit in some places (e.g., pet food industry magazines, own press releases, and a few words hidden in a somewhat confusing temperature statement on their web site) that the animal-derived ingredients they use are “essentially cooked” before they are mixed with the other dried ingredients which they have dehydrated later in a contract (but “human grade”) food processing plant.

It has not been easy to make sure we didn’t misread this the first few times we came across this ‘secret’ heat processing information. But lately the company seems to have become more transparent to admit that the animal ingredients used in their dehydrated products are indeed cooked. Maybe this openness is based on a legal issue the company may have encountered? For sure, they meanwhile have succeeded to fool many of their customers (retail stores and consumers alike) to believe their statements about raw dehydrated are true!

Anyway; this is what you should learn: Even if a company repeats over and over again that their foods are raw, you better check to see if this is true. (Interestingly, the same company keeps repeating their pet foods are organic, while they may or may not use a cheap organic ingredient to 2 or maybe 3 in some of their cooked/baked ‘raw’ pet food products).

Unfortunately, only certified organic pet food products are tightly regulated. Only manufacturers of certified organic pet food products have to disclose all their processing and ingredient sources to an independent agency. But at least this can give consumers and retailers alike the confidence that they aren’t outright (repeatedly and successfully) lied to by a manufacturer.

If you think ‘made in a human grade facility’ claims warrant anything in respect to pet food manufacturers’ truthfulness and disclosure, listen up. While certified organic pet food manufacturing sites are inspected at least once a year, a human food manufacturing site may be inspected once in 10 years or so. Great, ha?

It’s sad to say, but trust isn’t what a consumer can build on when choosing a dehydrated ‘raw’ pet food. The only way to assure truthfulness of ‘raw dehydrated’ (and most other!) pet food claims is to check for the proof that an unbiased third party has access to all of a manufacturer’s records, and at this point this restricts it to certified organic pet food products. – Just look for the USDA organic seal on the packaging or website. The abuse of this seal is punished heavily and therefore abuse of this seal happens very rarely [Can you see what regulations can achieve, if they just exist :-) ]

The even worse news is that apparently raw pet food retailers who KNOW about a (this particular) manufacturer’s deceptive use of cooked ingredients in their dehydrated raw pet foods, keep selling those foods as ‘raw’ to their customers who expect pet foods that are indeed raw. I have had several customers approach me about this lately and I couldn’t agree more with their disapproval of such deceptive practices.

Well, that’s what consumers fall prey to if you leave it up to some industry members……..

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Raw Pet Food, Regulations Comments Comments Off

31st Jan 2011

Green Pet Foods

Leaf - copyright Onesta Organics

Green pet food claims have sprouted just as natural claims have. But just how true are these green claims? If one looks at the facts it turns out that green washing isn’t reserved for products for humans.

A Green Seal certifying agent confirmed that USDA organic certification is the best and most credible label for pet and human food products, also in respect to any green claims. Green Seal is a third party certifier that uses stringent processes to verify green claims.

Here I should remind everybody that only certified organic pet food claims are regulated and enforced by the US government while any other (non-certified) ‘organic’ claim isn’t and is therefore not verified by an unbiased third party.

If you just glanced at one page of our site it probably has become clear that most Onesta Organics products are certified organic.* But how else are we behaving environmentally friendly?

Since our facility is certified to National Organic Program standards, our facility is essentially free of environmental toxins.

We use organic sanitizers and biodegradable detergents.

We use non-toxic pest control measures. I am also happy to say that we don’t really have pest infestations; probably because we store our products and almost all of our ingredients in the fridge or freezer, and not in open containers at room temperature as is the industry standard.

We use minimum packaging for both our products and shipments. That’s why our product boxes are a snug fit for the products we pack in them and don’t suggest a greater amount of product than you actually pay for.

Our shipping boxes are usually full to the rim with products; this doesn’t only save our customers money but it also allows for more environmentally friendly shipping. We reuse shipping materials as long as our products’ integrity isn’t compromised. We of course also recycle any shipping materials.

We use motion-sensor lightening which is an easy step to reduce energy use.

We try to source our (organic!) ingredients that are grown locally, or at least within the US. However, special ingredients such as cinnamon or kelp are simply not available in the US and have to be imported. If we use ingredients from foreign countries we choose fair trade when possible (e.g., banana).

Finally, we compost everything that can be recycled so our trash cans remain quite tidy and empty while our landscaping flourishes. Production ‘waste’ that shouldn’t be composted ends up in the paws of adopted or fostered pets or even in those of some of our human friends.

It is easy to be a green pet food company, it certainly starts with an organic certification, but there are quite some add-ons that can easily be implemented to decrease the negative impact any industry activity can have on the environment.

——
* Our fish pet food products aren’t certified organic because fish isn’t certified organic in the US. However, we are using fish that’s either US farmed organically or fished in US waters in a sustainable way.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

31st Dec 2010

Dr. Junger’s Interview with the Organic Trade Association

Q: What requirements does pet food need to meet to become certified organic?

A: Organic certification of pet foods currently¹ follows exactly the same requirements and standards as those established for organic human foods by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Only pet food products that contain at least 95% of organic ingredients² can display the USDA organic seal and show the ‘certified organic’ statement. These products also need to disclose the name of the USDA-accredited certifying agent. Organic (or ‘certified organic’ – see below) pet foods may not contain conventionally grown ingredients if organic versions are available, nor may they contain any genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients.

Products that contain a minimum of 70%, but less than 95%, organic ingredients³ cannot display the USDA organic seal and cannot be marketed as ‘certified organic’ but may carry a ‘made with organic’ claim. However, even these ‘made with organic’ products need to disclose the name of the organic certifying agent on the packaging; the organic ingredients used in such products are declared on the ingredient panel.

Products labeled as ‘(certified) organic’ or ‘made with organic ingredients’ can not include ingredients that are genetically engineered, produced using sewage sludge or irradiation, synthetic substances that are not on the USDA National List of allowed substances, cannot contain sulfites, nitrates or nitrites, or include both organic and non-organic forms of the same ingredients.

A USDA-accredited certification agent inspects all records (e.g., all ingredients, production processes used, cleaning, sanitation, and pest control measures) as well as the manufacturing and storage facilities. The manufacturing and ingredient and product storage facilities must necessarily be free of toxins (e.g., no toxic cleaning or pest control chemicals, no fumigation with pesticides, etc). Finally, the packaging of certified organic pet foods must be approved by a USDA-accredited organic certification agent to verify that ‘organic’ and other claims made are truthful.

1. Currently, new organic standards—for pet foods—are being developed. These standards will most likely allow the inclusion of more synthetic substances than are currently allowed for organic human and pet foods.
2. The remainder may be non-synthetic substances that cannot be certified organic, such as fish or salt, or synthetic substances included on the National List.
3. The remainder may be non-organic agricultural ingredients, non-synthetic substances or synthetic substances that are included on the USDA National List.

Q: Why should you care whether your pet’s food is organic or not?

A: Organic pet foods are safer than conventional versions of the same foods because they: 1) are less contaminated with toxins such as those found in synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge or synthetic pesticides; 2) never contain GMOs which have been shown to both cause health problems and negatively impact the environment; 3) are free of synthetics, such as antibiotics or hormones, which can be used to produce conventional animal-based ingredients; and 4) contain ingredients that are fully traceable to their origins.

Increasing numbers of studies also show that organic ingredients are healthier than their conventional counterparts because they contain higher levels of healthful nutrients. Furthermore, organic agriculture is more sustainable and safer for the environment than conventional agriculture.

Green Seal considers “Organic certification as the most credible label for human and pet foods, also in respect to any green claims.” This is because organic certification is presently the only pet food claim that is regulated and enforced by the Federal government. Certified organic pet food manufacturers are currently under greater scrutiny (e.g., at least one yearly inspection and full disclosure of records, including the organic and non-GMO status of each ingredient used) by government agencies than conventional human food processing plants.

Q: Is organic pet food available for all kinds of pets (i.e: dogs, cats, birds, fish, etc.) or just some?

A: In theory, certified organic pet foods could be available for all kinds of pets. However, overwhelmingly, it is consumer demand that determines which organic food products manufacturers are offering. Presently, although the largest number of organic pet food choices is offered for dogs and cats, there are also organic commercial foods available for birds and small mammals.

Q: Is organic pet food widely available? If not, where are the best places to find it?

A: Yes, organic pet food products are widely available. Certified organic brands are available in natural food stores, conventional grocery stores, ‘brick-and-mortar’ pet supply stores, and through many online pet supply websites.

Q: What should consumers look for to be sure that the pet food they are buying is, indeed, organic?

A: Consumers should look for the the name of the certifying agency, the USDA organic seal, and/or the certified organic claim on the label of the pet food package. These are three easy, telltale indications that a pet food product is USDA certified organic.

Unlike other claims, such as ‘natural,’ ‘holistic,’ ‘premium,’ etc., certified organic pet food claims are regulated and enforced by the Federal government. Remember that non-certified organic pet food claims are not regulated or enforced by the government. This means that pet food manufacturers can market their products as ‘organic’ even though no unbiased party has verified that any of the ingredients used are indeed organic, GMO-free, free of antibiotics or hormones, etc., or that production follows the NOP regulations in any way. In the absence of the ‘certified organic’ statement and a USDA organic seal (their abuse is punishable by heavy fines), the term ‘organic’ is currently used very liberally in the pet food industry. As a result, there are many misleading marketing materials, including ads and website content. in which the term ‘organic’ is used for pet food products that aren’t certified organic at all. In this respect, deceptive online content is particularly widespread. Remarkably—and unfortunately—this is perfectly legal.

Consumers should really be aware of this legal loophole. As one State compliance officer at CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) states: “It is buyer beware of any pet food product that does not show that it is certified by one of the NOP certification agents.”

Although USDA NOP rules define pet foods with a minimum of 95% of organic ingredients as ‘organic’, most manufacturers of such pet food products also use the ‘certified organic’ statement to assure consumers that their organic claim is justifiable. Again, as long as you see the name of the certifying agent, the certified organic claim, and/or the USDA organic seal(at least on the label where they need to be disclosed by law), you are indeed looking at a certified organic pet food product. If you are in doubt about a product you see online, you can always request a copy of the manufacturer’s organic certificate, which indicates which pet food products are indeed certified organic.

Q: What are some of the key ingredients pet owners should look for when buying pet food (i.e.: for their dog or cat)?

A: 1. Always consider if a product contains ingredients that are species-appropriate. For example, cats are obligate carnivores. Dogs are omnivores, but evolved on diets high in animal protein. Disproportionate and widespread use of grains may be one of the major reasons that many cats and dogs develop allergies or food sensitivities. Unfortunately, a large number of food products for these animals contain large amounts of grains; this is something that consumers should watch for when choosing foods and treats for their animals.

2. Steer clear of products that contain ingredients that are not human-grade. This is especially important if the product is not USDA certified organic, as organic certification precludes the use of ingredients that can’t be traced back to their source (e.g., so-called ‘animal byproducts’ or ‘rendered meats’ can originate from a number of sources and animal products, none of which can be traced to source in case of a problem).

3. Look past the front label. The term “natural,” as it appears on many pet food labels, only means that the product contains the actual ingredient, and not a synthetic version. Thus, a product claiming that it is “made with natural chicken” may contain little more than 3% chicken, which could have been raised with the use of antibiotics and genetically engineered feed. Ingredient panels must at least list their ingredients in descending order of quantity. Reading the ingredients panel will let you know which ingredients are most prevalent in the product.

4. Look out for products that are overly processed, or those that contain so-called ‘refined’ ingredients. Refined ingredients, such as refined grain flours (which are often marketed as ‘grains’), are stripped of many of their nutrients; removal of nutrients makes the remaining bulk of these ingredients nutritionally inadequate (e.g., high in calories, low in fiber and nutrients, or simply more allergenic). Most pet foods are baked, cooked, or extruded at high temperatures, processes that destroy a good many nutrients and may make other ingredients unhealthy (e.g., many fats and oils are unstable at high temperature). We recommend pet foods made from whole food ingredients that have been minimally processed. It is worth noting that some manufacturers use previously cooked ingredients (mostly meat and fish) in their dehydrated pet food products.

5. Stay away from ingredients that are obviously unhealthy. This includes sweeteners, such as honey, which have no business being part of a pet’s staple diet; such ingredients only contribute to the explosion of pathologies in our pet population that were all but unknown just a few short decades ago (e.g., obesity, diabetes, arthritis. cancer).

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

22nd Nov 2010

Puppies Have Claimed Their Rights

On October 6th, 2010, two 3 month-old puppies
moved into our house
to claim their right to the good life!

Charlie! © Onesta Organics

Where did they come from?
They were lucky enough to end up with a local rescue group:
United Hope for Animals (www.hope4animals.org).

Where were they before they were rescued?
They were found in a plastic trash bag in a dump
in Tijuana, Mexico.

What do they do these days?
Sleep, play, eat, walk…repeat…

Typical puppy stuff…

They need to enjoy their lives as puppies
before they’re confronted with
the more serious duties of adult dogs; you know, like:

Sleep, play, eat, walk…repeat…

……..We have arrived!……..

P.S.: They will be participants at the next Puppy Bowl!

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Animal Rescues Comments Comments Off