Unveiling Misleading Claims in Pet Nutrition: Separating Fact from Fiction

Pet parents around the world have one thing in common: the desire to provide their beloved companions with the best possible nutrition. With an overwhelming array of pet health & nutrition options on the market, making informed choices can be challenging. Unfortunately, the pet health & nutrition industries are not immune to misleading claims, leaving consumers puzzled about what truly constitutes a healthy diet for their furry friends. Below are misleading claims commonly used in pet health & nutrition marketing and our suggestions on how to navigate through them.

“Holistic” and “Natural” Hype

The terms “holistic” and “natural” are often plastered across pet health & nutrition packaging, suggesting a superior level of quality and healthfulness. While holistic approaches aim to consider the whole pet’s well-being, including factors beyond nutrition, such as lifestyle and environment, the term is not regulated in the pet nutrition industry. Any pet health & nutrition brand is allowed to claim that their nutrition is “holistic”. Dog health & nutrition products labelled natural can still contain synthetic chemicals they are considered necessary for good manufacturing processes. It can also be produced in the same manner as conventional pet nutrition, including rendering, extrusion and high heat processing.

“Veterinarian Recommended” Claims

Pet health & nutrition brands frequently tout endorsements from veterinarians, implying that their products are backed by professional expertise. However, it’s crucial to question the nature of these endorsements. Are they based on scientific research and clinical trials, or are they simply paid endorsements? Pet owners should seek transparency from manufacturers regarding the basis of veterinarian recommendations and prioritize products supported by evidence-based research.

“Meat as the First Ingredient”

The prominence of meat as the primary ingredient in pet health & nutrition products is often emphasized as a marker of high quality and nutritional adequacy. However, if you read the ingredient list, it will consist of mostly meat by-products and dried meal. Often it is followed by a lot of plant-based ingredients. By including lots of different plant-based ingredients, it means that the percentage of each ingredient is less than that of the meat-based ones, but overall, the product may still contain very little meat. For example, if the meat meal makes up 25% of the ingredients, as long as no single plant-based ingredient makes up more than 25% on its own, the meat meal will be listed as the first ingredient. Even if 75% of the product is not meat based.

“Humanely” and “ethically-raised”.

Often pet health & nutrition companies claim that their products contain meat from animals that have been raised ethically and humanely. However, these terms are not regulated. Anyone can claim these terms, regardless of how the animals have been raised. What’s humane and ethical is subjective after all.

Even terms like “grass fed” can be misleading. There are voluntary standards for companies to meet to claim grass-fed, but they don’t have to meet these standards if they don’t want to.

So, what to do?

After all of this, we aren’t really going to ask you to just take our word for it, since that is exactly what all the other pet nutrition companies are doing, and we have shown that that doesn’t mean much. What you should look for is independent certification and scientific evidence.

Independent certification

Amidst the sea of pet health & nutrition options, independent certification serves as a beacon of reliability and trustworthiness. Independent certification programs like USDA (NOP) and ACO Certification, which is who we have chosen to go with.

The USDA Certified Organic label signifies that a product meets strict standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for organic production. These standards encompass every aspect of the production process, from the sourcing of ingredients to manufacturing practices and labelling.

Key Criteria for USDA Organic Certification in Pet Nutrition:

  1. Organic Ingredients: For pet health & nutrition products to receive USDA Organic certification, the ingredients must be grown and processed without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic farming practices prioritize soil health, biodiversity, and ecological balance.
  2. No Artificial Additives: USDA Certified Organic prohibit the use of artificial preservatives, flavours, colours, and other synthetic additives. Instead, natural alternatives and traditional preservation methods are employed to maintain product integrity.
  3. Non-GMO: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are excluded from USDA Certified Organic pet health & nutrition This commitment to non-GMO ingredients ensures that pets consume wholesome, minimally processed nutrition free from genetic engineering.
  4. Animal Welfare: While USDA Organic certification primarily pertains to the sourcing and processing of plant-based ingredients, it also emphasizes humane treatment and welfare standards for animals raised for organic meat or dairy ingredients.