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The European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) has a set of standards for manufacturers which represent best practice when it comes to making and labelling pet food, and here at Laughing Dog food, we are proud to adhere to them.
FEDIAF state the following: “The term “natural” should be used only to describe substances in pet food (derived from plant, animal, micro-organism or minerals) to which nothing has been added and which have been subjected only to such physical processing as to make them suitable for pet food production and maintaining the natural composition”.
Examples of acceptable physical processes include freezing, drying, pasteurisation – as long as they maintain the natural composition of the feed material, substance or nutrient. Unacceptable processes include bleaching or oxidation by chemicals.
The FEDIAF also state that, if a compound pet food contains only feed materials, additives and carriers meeting their requirements, it may be described as “natural” as long as it has not been subjected to processes other than those acceptable processes for “natural substances”.
In addition, they are very clear that the term “made with natural …” can only be used provided that the natural substances are clearly identified e.g. by asterisking those substances in the composition list and using a qualifying statement.
If a compound pet food contains only feed materials, additives and carriers meeting the above sections, but also contains vitamins and minerals from non-natural sources, the following claim shall be allowed: “made with natural substances, with added vitamins and minerals”.
As you can see – describing a pet food as natural has to understandably meet very strict rules, and unfortunately the term ‘natural’ can sometimes be used by pet food manufacturers in a misleading way, with different dog food manufacturers advertising their pet products as ‘natural’ for different reasons. All pet food manufacturers should add a disclaimer to their packaging and websites to educate their consumers on the ingredients and their claims to being ‘natural’.
Common synthetic ingredients to look out for in dog food includes flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners, artificial food colouring and artificial preservatives. If an ingredient has been chemically altered it is also not natural – and these can sometimes be a little less obvious to identify on packaging unless you know what you’re looking for.
Added artificial flavours/colourings/preservatives are one of the biggest areas to look out for when choosing a natural dog food. If you avoid these then your choice is more likely to be natural.
During the manufacturing process of making dog food, some of the natural vitamins and minerals in the ingredients can be lost. Additional vitamins and minerals can then be added to ensure the correct levels of vitamins are delivered to your four-legged friend. As explained above, the FEDIAF guidelines make it clear as to how these added vitamins and minerals need to be detailed on the label.
However, it’s really important to remember that by adding vitamins and minerals to your pet’s food ensures that it is providing a complete and balanced meal. The best way to ensure for a healthy diet is to feed a complete pet food that is correct for your breed of dog and their life stage. As the PFMA state, ‘After that, it comes down to consumers’ choice and preference and what works best for their pet.’
Here at Laughing Dog we strongly believe in providing our customers with 100% factual information about all of our dog foods and dog treats. As the term ‘natural’ is so open to interpretation, we do not generally use it within our advertising. We do, however, pride ourselves on ensuring for a clean and transparent label – so that you, the pet parent, can understand what has gone into the mixing bowl.
Our dog foods are formulated free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives – we do not add any artificial additives. We also use natural ingredients in our dog foods and treats – you will see these highlighted on the label so you can clearly understand which ones are natural. You will also have spotted that we have a naturally baked range – baked treats and dog foods.
Our NPD team are very clear on why we cannot call our dog food natural:
A common myth is that our dog food cannot be called natural because it is baked or extruded, but it isn’t actually done with the cooking process; really it is the vitamins and minerals that are the reason why we cannot call it 100% natural.
We use the same vitamin, mineral, glucosamine and chondroitin forms that are used for human consumption and appear in virtually all vitamin supplements. The definition of what can be called natural is very tight for pet food, possibly tighter than it is for human food, with it defining that to be classified as natural it must have not have been modified by a chemical process. However, most vitamins and minerals have gone through some form of a chemical process to make them into a form that the body can absorb, meaning we cannot describe them as natural.’
In essence, it’s not a negative at all for us not using the term natural – we are just adhering to the FEDIAF guidelines!
For all of our dog foods we do describe it as ‘naturally complete’ – this is because our puppy and adult dogs food are 100% complete pet foods for dogs; in other words, you don’t need to feed anything else in your dog’s diet.
Our naturally complete dog foods are single species, (i.e. chicken with poultry fat), and we also provide grain free and wheat free options too, thereby ensuring we have hypoallergenic options available for dogs that need to avoid wheat and/or grains in general. You can also view our guide on what ingredients you should feed your dog here to understand why we choose the ingredients we do.
As with the entire range of Laughing Dog food, we take the time to carefully select ingredients that will work hard to provide clear benefits. Our Naturally 5 dog foods and our Naturally Complete dog foods are made with limited ingredients, the former being just 5 simple and naturally nourishing ingredients. Again, with these recipes, we clearly state which ingredients are natural.
Limited ingredient dog foods are great for providing your four-legged friend with all the essential nutrients that are required and are formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition. These ingredients are therefore carefully selected to cover all the main food groups required for a healthy lifestyle.
Hypoallergenic dog foods are often limited in ingredients; these ingredients are selected to be less likely to trigger an allergic reaction, or adverse reaction as it is sometimes called, as they contain ‘free-from’ ingredients which are gentle on digestion.
So, the next time you pick up a dog food claiming to be natural, remember the FEDIAF guidelines and scrutinise the label. If in doubt, ask the dog food company to explain their label to you in detail – any reputable brand will be only happy to do this.
To find out more about natural dog food and how pet food manufacturers can use the term natural, head to the PFMA’s factsheet.