Monday, November 11, 2013

Organic vs. Natural: What's the Difference in Dog Foods?

Rocco reads up on natural pet foods
Recently we had the chance to chat with Derek Panfil from Pet Supplies Plus about the trends he's seeing in pet food sales. 

There's a lot of buzz about "natural" pet foods, so it's no surprise when Derek says that according to Packaged Facts, sales of "natural" pet foods will surpass overall pet food sales within five years. Today, super-premium pet food makes up about 11.2 percent of the $20 billion U.S. pet food market

In his role as SVP of merchandising, Derek see's first-hand what consumers are choosing at Pet Supplies Plus. Here, we discuss some of those things that consumers are looking for in their pet foods. And, Derek helps explain some of the differences between "organic" vs. "natural":

TDWL: Is there a difference between pet foods labeled "organic" vs. "natural"? What is the difference?

Derek:  Yes. Natural pet food has no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.  Organic pet food should be made from plant ingredients grown without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetic modification, or irradiation. While human food is governed by regulatory agencies, pet food is not when it comes to “organic” as a designation.  This means that even if a food is called organic, it may or may not have all organic ingredients.

TDWL:  How should you read an organic pet food label? What should you look for?

Derek: Look for food that is certified organic and meets USDA standards for being free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and artificial preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

TDWL: How can I pick the right type of organic pet food for my pet?

Derek:  In addition to above (#2), find pet foods that have meat and whole protein meats as the first ingredients.  Also look for foods that do not use animal by-products or gluten.

TDWL:  What is the benefit of "organic" or "natural" pet foods?

Derek:  Organic and natural pet foods tend to use higher quality, more nutrient rich ingredients. As in humans, if our furry friends eat the equivalent of junk food every day, they won’t be healthy. Giving pets natural and organic foods, rich in protein, nutrients, and antioxidants, helps them look better (shiny coats), feel better (more active), and live longer (better immunity).

TDWL:  How do you decide which organic/natural foods to carry at Pet Supplies Plus?

Derek:  We look for pet foods that provide high-quality proteins, fruits, and vegetables.  We also look for products that meet the needs of our neighbors; whether it be limited ingredient diets or grain-free offerings of exotic proteins, our goal is to carry foods that will absolutely perform the best for your pet.  

In addition to the ingredient panel, we like to find foods that are made by pet lovers here in the U.S., and ones that we would feed our own pets.  We want our neighbors to have a range of choices so they can find what works best for their pet’s diet.

TDWL:  Is there anything else pet owners should know about organic or natural pet foods?

Derek: Do your homework!  Look at the label, read the ingredients, understand what your pet may need. If your dog is not that active, don’t get a super high protein food.  If your pet is having allergy problems, look for limited ingredient diets.  Don’t be afraid to try new foods until you find one that really works for your pet.

TDWL: Thank you Derek!


  1. Great interview! I don't think my food is considered "organic" but it does list organic fruits and veggies on the ingredients section. We shop at our local Pet Supplies Plus...they are one of the few stores that carries my food!
    Happy Veterans Day.

    1. Oh, that's cool! Have a great day, Oz!
      Your pals,
      Diane and Rocco

  2. Mom always says remember back in the day when life was simple and there were only a handful of choices. Dogs she owned never even hot sick. Nutty

  3. I can only say that I am darn happy that my mom figures out all this complicated stuff and gives us high quality food. Way to much for us dogs! :)