Pet Food Buzzwords and Marketing Terms, and What They Really Mean

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When you’re buying food for yourself, you likely check the nutrition label. By now, you’re likely aware that there are plenty of products out there that claim to be healthy, but it’s all just in an effort to sell you products! Those “fat free” products could be loaded with sweeteners, and “organic” products can still be full of sodium. It never hurts to check it out with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The same goes for pet food. After all, we just want to ensure our pets are living healthy and long lives.

Pet food brands often use terms that make their products sound better or healthier, but they either meet minimum regulatory definitions or aren’t regulated at all. These healthy-sounding buzzwords are just used to trick us into believing some products are better than they really are.

Here are some buzzwords and marketing terms you’ve likely seen before on pet food labels, and what they really mean.

“Premium”

Yeah it sounds nice, like the food in question meets a higher standard. However, “premium” means absolutely nothing. There’s no official definition for this word. That means that there are actually no standards that must be adhered to in order to label something as such.

“All Natural”

All natural makes food sound pretty healthy, but this is another term that has not been defined for pet food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Although “natural” pet food should only contain minimally processed ingredients from natural sources and not include any artificial ingredients or additives, who’s regulating that label?

In other words, there’s no legal definition for “natural” and any pet food brand can use the term when marketing their product.

“Holistic”

Just like “premium” and “all natural,” a definition for “holistic” has not been defined for pet food. Do your research and see if the manufacturer gives a reasonable definition of their own. You’ll just have to decide for yourself if a product lives up to the name.

“Organic”

Similarly with people food, the term “organic” is used by companies to imply a better-quality pet food that’s better for your pet and for the environment. However, not all pet food products labeled as organic are even made up of all organic ingredients.

Pet food only needs to contain 70 percent organic content to say “made with organic ingredients.” At least 95 percent needs to be organic in order to display the official USDA organic seal.

It’s also important to note that the term organic actually refers to how a food was grown and processed, not the actual quality of the product. Does it mean the food was grown or raised without synthetic chemicals or growth hormones? Yes! But it speaks nothing on the actual quality.

“Reformulated”

Did they change their recipe? Sure. But even if a company may have changed their recipe, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any healthier for your pet.

“Grain-Free”

Not all grains are unhealthy for your pets. What’s most important for pet food is that grains don’t account for the bulk of a recipe. Small amounts of oats, rice, and wheat are typically fine, and even good for your pet. After all, ingredients like oats can include important vitamins and minerals.

“Complete Nutrition”

All this means is that a food meets AAFCO’s minimum requirements to provide all the nutrients an animal requires. It doesn’t mean quality products from good sources. There could be all sorts of stuff in there, from byproducts to synthetic vitamins.