We’ve all seen and heard of the terms organic, natural and holistic on many of the products we purchase for our pets, but what does it all mean and what is the difference between them? If you find yourself sometimes confused when navigating the different terms, you are not alone. Everything from food and treats, to shampoos to flea treatments can carry these labels. Whether or not these labels accurately define the product depends on the regulations.
Organic is a method of farming in which crops are grown on land that is free of chemicals, artificial fertilizers, genetic modification and pesticides. According to USDA standards to be considered certified “organic,” the product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients and to be considered “made with organic ingredients,” it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Any product containing less than 70% organic ingredients cannot be labeled as organic. They can only list individual ingredients as organic. Pet products such as catnip, food, treats, shampoos and first aid treatments such as ear wash must comply with these regulations in order to be considered organic.
Natural means the ingredient was grown without additives or preservatives or chemical alternations. Natural products are not regulated and may contain synthetic ingredients. When it comes to food, the natural label doesn’t indicate anything about the feeding or care of the animals used to create the food and since “natural” is such a liberal term it can often pertain to only a couple of ingredients. For example, if the label reads, “contains natural chicken flavor,” then most likely this product can be considered “natural.” For other products, such as shampoos or flea and tick treatments, the natural label ideally means minimal processing and no artificial additives.
Holistic is an integrated approach to the whole body and mind together and not a definition as to how ingredients are sourced. There is no regulation on how the term can be used for pet products and can be applied to any product without any real meaning.
As with any product, reading the fine print will help you make educated choices. Whether it is labeled as “organic” or “natural,” one isn’t necessarily better than the other. If you are concerned about artificial ingredients or excessive processing, dig a little deeper, carefully read the label and ask questions.