Protecting Our Pets: From Organic Pet Foods to Natural Pest Prevention, Shoppers Are Getting Serious about Keeping Their Pets Toxin-Free

By Helmer, Jodi | E Magazine, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

Protecting Our Pets: From Organic Pet Foods to Natural Pest Prevention, Shoppers Are Getting Serious about Keeping Their Pets Toxin-Free


Helmer, Jodi, E Magazine


The ingredients listed in some pet foods, flea and tick medications and dog shampoos read like a recipe for chemical soup: pento-barbital, tetrasodium EDTA, pyrethroids. "After we got [our dog], I discovered that there are a lot of toxic pet products out there," says Bethany Gonzalez Moreno.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Concerns over the effects of chemicals and byproducts on her boxer, Athena, led Moreno to swap conventional pet products for organic alternatives. In addition to feeding Athena organic pet food, Moreno traded toxic flea and tick control for dog-safe essential oils, stocked up on hemp toys and purchased organic grooming products.

"Athena is part of our family and we want her to live a long, healthy life," Moreno says.

Pets Go Organic

According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA, ota.com), sales of organic pet food topped $94 million in 2010, accounting for 5% of total organic sales in non-food categories.

"People want organic pet products for the same reasons they want organic products for themselves," says Soo Kim, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "They want to know how the products are produced."

There are no special requirements for organic pet products, although the USDA has formed a task force to examine the issue. But all organic products from carrots to kibble are subject to the same regulations: In order to be labeled organic, products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. Products with at least 70% certified organic ingredients can be labeled "made with organic ingredients."

The Problem with Pet Food

According to Eve Adamson, author of Pets Gone Green: Live a More Eco-Conscious Life with Your Pets (BowTie Press), greenwashing is rampant in the pet products industry, especially in regard to pet foods.

"When products are labeled with words like 'holistic' and 'natural,' it can be confusing for pet owners," Adamson says. "Instead of focusing on the advertising on the front of the package, read the ingredient label on the back of the bag and look for the USDA [organic] seal."

Organic pet food prices are higher than conventional kibble, but the OTA noted in its report that it contains no fillers and is more nutrient-dense which means pets eat less.

And, adds Adamson: "A lot of consumers believe that organic foods will help keep their pets healthier and help them live longer and they are willing to spend a little more money. …

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