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What Do These Terms Mean?

Organic?  Grain-Free?  Individual Ingredient?


(High Carb/Chem, Artificial Ingredients, No Moisture)

• Dry Food Now = Bad Health, Suffering and Vet Bills Later •

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

In The Cat Food Aisle

Cat food manufacturers use words to their advantage.

It’s best to have an understanding of terms.

So What Does “Organic” Mean?

I thought it would be useful to clarify this term “organic.” I read an excellent summation on Natural Planet Pet Foods’ website, and I want to highlight it here (with their permission, of course). This is not an endorsement of Natural Planet’s products. It’s an acknowledgment that they, on their website, care enough to explain details to their customer base. Also note that Natural Planet Pet Foods has not endorsed my own website in any manner.

What is the percentage of organic ingredients needed to be label as organic?

There are three different types of organic categories:

100% Organic

  • Must contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt)
  • Can carry a “USDA Organic” label


Organic (95%)

  • At least 95 percent of content is organic by weight (excluding water and salt). The other 5% remaining ingredients must consist of substances approved on the USDA’s National List.
  • Can carry a “USDA Organic” label


Made with Organic (70%)

  • At least 70 percent of content is organic by weight (excluding water and salt). The other 30% remaining ingredients must consist of substances approved on the USDA’s National List.



Having great, organic ingredients doesn’t

mean much if other things in the can are bad

When reviewing a product prominently labeled ‘Organic’, always keep in mind that even an organic ingredient can be bad for your cat(s). Said another way, don’t equate the word ‘Organic’ to mean you automatically want to choose a particular manufacturer’s cat food. You must still examine each and every ingredient by itself, hopefully using the guidelines in this website.

Here’s an example of a prominently labeled ‘organic’ product:

I rated this product with a (C). There are some individual ingredients that are cautionary at best, and there are other ingredients which are completely unnecessary for a cat’s diet. Only the organic ingredients are shown here. The point is, even brands labeled ‘organic’ can have questionable ingredients.

  • organic pea flour (an attempted, poor protein substitute, difficult on  digestion and pancreas)
  • organic dried peas (same as above)
  • organic chicken liver
  • organic sunflower oil (cat’s cannot convert the fatty acids in this oil to beneficial fatty acids)
  • organic yeast extract (common allergen for pets – completely unnecessary)

Note: I have not found one cat food labeled ‘organic’ which has contained satisfactory ingredients. Nowadays I just ignore the word ‘organic’.


What about the term ‘Grain-Free’ ?

Same argument above for ‘organic’ also goes for the termGrain Free‘. Don’t just assume all of the ingredients in the can are healthy for your cat. Don’t blindly assume that, because a product is ‘grain-free’ that it doesn’t contain other harmful ingredients. There’s not much advantage of manufacturers taking out the (harmful) grains if they are just going to replace them with (harmful) beans, peas and potatoes. As stated above, you must still examine each and every ingredient by itself, hopefully using the guidelines in this website.

Grain-Free cat food is good for cats. Grain-Free dog food, however, is not recommended for dogs… and here’s where all the confusion surrounding this term comes in.

Cats are obligate carnivores and need meat WITHOUT grains. Dogs are omnivores and can eat both meat and plant-based foods, including grains. 

You’ll hear wild generalizations, even from Vets, that “feeding grain-free pet food can cause deficiencies in fiber and carbohydrates.”  THAT APPLIES TO DOGS – NOT CATS. There’s where the confusion  arises.

Another piece of conversation has it that “grain free diets are actually associated with dilated cardiomyopathy. THAT APPLIES TO DOGS – NOT CATS. There’s where the confusion  arises.

When you hear all of this talk saying that grain is good for your cat, it is because somebody is innocently confusing carnivores and omnivores. Grain is NOT good for your cat.

What about ‘Individual Ingredient’ foods?

While you can see in this website that I have a fairly negative opinion about many cat food ingredients, I also want to warn you that the opposite side of the cat-food continuum may be just as unhealthy.

What I call ’limited ingredient’ products should only be used sparingly and as an intermittent supplement to other foods. Some products might only include “Chicken, Water Sufficient for Processing, Liver, and Guar Gum”. One might think that a food with such a short ingredient list might be more ‘pure’ and therefore more health supporting for a cat. Wrong. Look for a cat food that doesn’t have all of the bad stuff noted in this website, but does contain healthy sources of vitamins and minerals in addition to their main ingredients. Use ‘individual ingredient’ products occasionally.

“…Double check the label of any diet that you are feeding (if used as a sole diet) to make sure that it does not use the words “supplemental” or “for intermittent feeding” since these products are not balanced for use as the only diet that is fed.”

“Applaws, Evangers, and Wysong are examples of companies that manufacture diets that are for supplemental use only. In general “supplemental” diets do not contain enough nutrients such as calcium, B vitamins, iodine, etc. These unbalanced diets should not make up more than 15-20% of the cat’s total caloric intake. Stated another way, if you feed your cat 21 meals per week, you could use these supplemental diets for 4 meals per week as stand-alone meals or mixed with a nutritionally balanced product.”Lisa A. Pierson, DVM,

For a behind-the-scenes look at a Pet Food Safety Advocate’s message to a particular  food manufacturer about this subject, Read Susan Thixton’s  Almo Nature Pet Food, Complete Diet?

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