Products with the organic seal help our pets live healthier lives, but are they worth the price?
Picture a dinner table showcasing two plates at the center. One dish carries corn, wheat, soy, and chicken while the other offers chicken, turkey, potatoes, and peas. It’s fairly easy to decipher which plate seems more appetizing.
Ruth Sturgis, owner of the health-conscious pet shop Dog Daze, 309 S. Main St., North Syracuse, suggests that this sort of thought process is useful for choosing the right pet food for your animal. Being conscious about what’s in your little friend’s food could mean the difference between a healthy pet and an unhappy animal.
Organic foods are a trend that’s taking over the popular culture. So, with the tendency people have to treat their pets as family members, it’s no surprise Fido and Fluffy are benefiting from the fad as well. Most commercial pet products like Pedigree brand contain filler ingredients like corn or wheat gluten, animal fat and additives that add no nutritional value for your pet. In most cases, by feeding an animal commercial pet food, it increases their chances of developing harmful allergies and other health complications.
The U.S. government requires that organic pet foods carry a high percentage of U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic ingredients.
These items should be traceable back to the soil they use or the feed they provide for their slaughter. According to USDA regulations, a minimum of 70 percent of organic ingredients must be used to have a “made with organic” seal.
Chris Kilburn, co-manager for Petco Animal Supplies, 3150 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt, notes that about 90 percent of the ingredients in pet foods must be traceable to their source in order to earn the organic seal. Adds Sturgis, the soil must also be meticulously maintained and turned every two to four years to be certified organic. With organic pet foods, there’s also a limit on how much filler can be used.
“The biggest thing with feeding your animal an all-natural diet is that your pet needs to consume less,” Sturgis says. “Because there’s not a lot of fillers in organic pet foods, your pet doesn’t need to go to the bathroom as much.”
Some organic pet food companies have their own spin on their products, separating them from other brands. Blue Buffalo organic pet foods provide antioxidants through fruits like blueberries. They also add LifeSource Bits to their food—a concentrated mixture of vitamins and minerals.
Other pet foods like Natura’s Karma and Organix Canine brands are 98 percent organic and pride their products on having the healthiest ingredients for your animal. Evangers organic pet food out of Illinois is even blessed by a rabbi for its kosher customers. Regardless of the brand, all organic pet food products have no hormones or antibiotics for a healthy animal. But be aware: Organic pet foods can cost up to twice as much as commercial-brand kibble.
Organic pet foods aren’t limited to dogs and cats. Ox Bow and Ecotrition brands also make organic guinea pig and rabbit food, mostly hay and straw products that pretty much mirror the kind of nutrition the animals would find in their natural environment.
Read the ingredients label on a package of organic and all-natural pet foods and you’ll notice there’s very little difference between the products. Aside from the price tag, all natural pet food takes the same care in creating their food as the organic products, but without having to abide by organic regulations. Not all the ingredients found in all-natural products can be tracked down to their source, but manufacturers’ goal is the same as for organic foods—to provide good food for pets.
All-natural pet foods, homemade treats and other pet products sold at Dog Daze, Sturgis says, can restore the silky shine of your animal’s fur and help reduce pet dander. Sturgis’ allergic reactions to cats and dogs have been an obstacle to her enjoyment of her pets, but by feeding them an all-natural diet, she’s able to be around her animals without feeling ill.
Organic pet foods are most recommended for pet owners who live the lifestyle themselves. Remember feeding your animal organic pet foods and then slipping them a piece of your non-organic meal at dinner defeats the purpose of the diet.
Despite the rising popularity of organic pet foods, an all-natural diet keeps the consistency of being a health conscious owner while relieving the stress on your wallet. “The healthier we get, the healthier our pets get,” Sturgis says. “They are our children.”
Pet shop boys: Dog Daze owner Dave Sturgis (above) and employee C.J. Patchett can help pet owners with both dried and frozen organic pet foods.