For a long time, the 76 billion dollar pet industry thrived on the assumption that we wouldn't read the ingredient labels on the back of the food we feed our dogs.
And for a long time they were right.
Because we trusted them. We trusted a lot of things we don't trust so much more today.
And we also began to notice how many dogs we knew, or maybe even our own dogs, were battling all kinds of health issues from cancer, to allergies and skin issues. In and out of the vet, high vet bills, shorter life spans. In my house we lost 3 dogs in one year, two to cancer, and one related to liver issues (the liver is responsible for detoxifying the body and is strained by bad quality food over long periods of time).
It wasn't until Sally got cancer that I ever thought much about her food at all. Maybe it was because I'd had to look at my own diet when I had cancer. But as I began to ask this simple question, I found out that it wasn't so easy to get an answer.
Is the food I'm feeding my dog safe?
Apparently I wasn't the only person asking this question. And the Pet Food Industry heard us.
We all know by now about data mining and how easy it is to find out what consumers are searching for on the internet. It's a cornerstone of just about any business these days.
And what the Pet Food Industry found out by throwing big money at market research was that we were, most of all, using the key word "Natural" in our searches for dog food and treats.
And so it started showing up, seemingly overnight, on bags of pet food.
So what's the problem? Isn't "Natural" good?
Before we answer that, let's see what "Natural" means according to AAFCO, the agency that is charged with regulating the pet food industry (but in reality defers to the FDA who really just wants AAFCO to handle pet food and let them focus on sexy stuff like human pharmaceuticals but that's another story).
NATURAL: a feed or feed 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 in good manufacturing practices.
So "Natural" allows for all the processing of food. All the heat and pulverizing that preserves the shelf life of dog food but basically kills all the nutrition in your dog's food. Watch this short video on how kibble is made.
The scariest part?
"Natural", according to AAFCO, allows for "rendering" which is a hidden word for "road kill" and euthanized dogs and cats. Read this.
What's the bottom line? Can we trust the word "Natural" as an indicator of quality nutrition in our dog food?
Let's let AAFCO make their closing argument and then we can decide for ourselves.
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet defined natural in relation to pet food labeling."
So they have a definition that includes a whole lot of wiggle room for how the food is made and then ultimately they tell us that there really is no definition for a word they just tried to define.
The word "Natural" means about as much as a Golden Globe nomination. It sounds nice but it's really just marketing.