Jamie Wolf, National Field Representative for Life's Abundance pet foods, believes that our pets need fresh foods to thrive, just like any other living creature. To that end, she has teamed with Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM to offer Life's Abundance, a line of pet foods that contain no steroids, hormones or chemical preservatives.
LoveToKnow spoke with Jamie about some of the differences between the average commercial dog food, and other formulas labeled "organic."
Defining Organic Pet Food
LoveToKnow (LTK):Jamie, can you explain what qualifies a dog food as "organic."
Jamie Wolf (JW): The qualifications for organic certification of food products are still very ambiguous, especially for the pet market. Typically, some pet food makers will include one organic ingredient and claim that the whole product is organic. We also need to be concerned when pet food makers depart from American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) terminology in order to describe their "organic" ingredients, using terms like "farm-fresh eggs" and "sun-ripened tomatoes." Currently, there is no good, consistent supplier of organic ingredients for pets. Even if there were, the price would be cost prohibitive. A good pet food manufacturer's first concern should be consistency of ingredients as well as quality of ingredients.
AAFCO is the final authority, or "definer," of what the wording on food labels actually means. In other words, any company making up their own terms to more attractively market their products has gone out of compliance with the only governing body in the industry.
Finding Safe, Quality Pet Food
LTK: Is human-grade, organic dog food safer for our dogs than commercially-produced kibble?
JW: These days, I would honestly have to say no when you consider the situations where toxic spinach and other tainted foods have made their way into the human market. There is a big scurry to label anything organic these days in order to charge more money for the same product that was sold as non-organic last year. The real priority on the consumer's side should be gaining an in-depth knowledge of the company you are trusting to feed your pet each and every day. After all, pets usually eat the same product day after day after day. Does the company use "human quality" ingredients that are also "first quality"? This would be a much better litmus test than if the ingredients were simply labeled organic.
Furthermore, when addressing "commercially-produced" kibble, you should also be highly concerned about the freshness of that food. Buying from commercial pet stores and grocery stores almost always ensures that your pet's food will not be fresh because it has been warehoused so long prior to hitting the shelves.
Ideally, it's best to look for a company that makes small batches of food using only first rate, human-grade ingredients. That company also has to be able to deliver the product to the public immediately in order to ensure freshness. Contact your current pet food company to find out how often the product is produced, and how long it takes to reach market shelves.
The Truth About Nutritional Requirements
LTK: Do all commercially-sold dog foods meet a dog's nutritional requirements?
JW: All pet foods are supposed to meet the minimum guidelines set forth by AAFCO in order to legally say that they are 100% nutritionally complete and balanced for the life of any pet. Again, departing from these guidelines with respect to ingredient terms or approved ingredients disqualifies a product from being "legally" complete. That said, these AAFCO standards are only minimum requirements. Therefore, it is possible to produce an inferior product that still meets the "minimum requirements" and label it 100% nutritionally complete and balanced.
The ideal pet food is one that not only meets the expectations of AAFCO, but also exceeds these minimum requirements in the quality of its ingredients.
LTK: Tell us about the specific main ingredients we should look for in a high-quality, organic dog food.
JW: A good pet food should almost exclusively contain meat proteins, digestible fat sources, and high-quality fiber. An example of each would be:
- Protein - Chicken meal, made from the best cut of the meat with no frozen water, gristle, or bone attached, is one of the best sources of protein.
- Digestible fat - Chicken fat breaks down at body temperature, so it's easy for your dog to digest.
- Fiber - Beet pulp contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Of course, all minerals in the mix should be chelated for maximum absorption. There should be other whole food ingredients included, as well as other added ingredients like extra antioxidants and probiotics.
A pet food should never contain ingredients like:
- Chemical preservatives
Many of these ingredients are used as cheap fillers. They contain inferior proteins that can damage the kidneys, and some are known allergens for many pets.
Chemical vs. Natural Preservatives
LTK: What type of preservatives are used in organic dog foods, and how do they compare to the preservatives used in typical commercial mixes that are not labeled "all natural."
JW: The number one natural preservative today in pet foods is vitamin E. Traditionally, chemicals like BHA, BHT and Ethoxiquin have been used in commercial pet foods to offer a two year or longer shelf life. Vitamin E can safely offer a shelf life of only one year, and that's only if the food hasn't been exposed to direct sunlight or extreme heat during that time. Those factors can compromise the vitamin E. As you might expect, the added vitamin E only increases the benefits of a pet food, unlike chemical preservatives which are suspected carcinogens.
LTK: Your product, Life Abundance, is USDA-APHIS certified. What does this mean?
JW: USDA manufacturing is imperative in order to ensure that your product is being made in a clean facility. Life's Abundance not only uses this type of facility, but it goes one step further and complies with APHIS standards. APHIS stands for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and it's a branch of the USDA.
APHIS inspects every one of our ingredients and approves them as human quality. This is our way of providing third-party validation that our foods are excellent. In fact, we meet the rigid standards of the European market for pet foods. Unlike the United States, Europe does not allow pet foods to go to market unless they are human quality.
Check It Out for Yourself
In the end, you are your dog's best advocate, so you need to check your pet food labels to determine if they really offer the safest, highest-quality nutrition you can possibly give him. If you would like to learn more about Life's Abundance and the benefits of feeding your dog a natural diet, visit Life's Abundance.