We want our pets to be healthy. We want to feed them the best possible diet. We hear about Pet Food – Natural, Organic or Holistic but just what is the difference? It can be confusing but here are some guidelines to help you decide what is best for your pet…



Natural vs Organic vs Holistic
The terms “natural,” “organic” and “holistic” are frequently used on pet food packages to imply that foods with these labels are healthier.  Although these terms are increasingly popular, they can be misleading or confusing when trying to choose the best food for your pet. They do not guarantee better nutrition for your pet.


Defining food terms
Defining terms can even be tricky, as different countries and their pet food authorities* may differ in their definitions. Here are some generally accepted definitions:

a. Holistic
“Holistic” is a vague term that can have many meanings. In general, it means related to the entire body. Related to pet food, however, it is generally not defined or regulated by any regulatory body.

b. Natural
According to The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the term “natural” for pet food and animal feed means a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources that have not been produced by a chemically synthetic process.

In addition, natural feed and ingredients do not contain any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic. Chemically synthesised vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients are acceptable. 

Check with individual manufacturers what their term ‘Natural’ means.


What does ‘Organic’, ‘Holistic’ or ‘Natural’ mean to you?

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c. Organic
According to The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program, the term “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, however, contain only organic ingredients. In fact in the US, there are 4 levels of organic food:

  • 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.

Read more about Australian pet food labelling

Pet Food - Natural, Organic or Holistic? Just what is the difference?

Which food is healthier?

Natural and organic foods are not necessarily healthier than conventional foods. For instance, the USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.

In summary, when it comes to pet food – natural, organic or holistic – it is up to you, the owner to choose the food that suits your pet, suits your budget and wishes and one which meets the standards set by your food authorities.

Pet Food Authority Examples

  • The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Pet Food - Natural, Organic or Holistic and just what is the difference?
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program
  • Pet Food Industry Association of Australia Inc (PFIAA)
  • Food Standards Agency (FSA)

Read more:
Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (UK)
Australian Certified Organic
Vegan pets: Can a dog remain healthy on a vegan diet?


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