Just a moment. Before taking out your wallet, talk to the sellers. Ask them if what they sell is really organic. If they are smart enough, they will emphasize the fact that the products are “organically grown.” Read between the lines: that doesn’t precisely mean that they are certified organic.
If you see that term written on a blackboard, at a market stand on the city outskirts, its meaning should be clarified. Ask them if they grow those products by themselves. They don’t? Ask how they are grown or manufactured. If they don’t know, they won’t be able to tell you if the products are really organic certainly.
“Organically grown” won’t tell much about a dog food product, unless you are given credible proof of how it was produced, divided, packaged, stored, and distributed. All those steps from production until it reaches your dog’s mouth influence whether or not the product is actually organic.
The main attraction of farmers’ markets is that the produce for sale is fresh, recently harvested. That eliminates several steps in the supply chain, making it more credible for a product labeled “organically grown” on a farmers’ market blackboard to be organic. You don’t need to know how it was packaged, stored, and distributed simply because none of those things were done.
By eliminating those links in the chain, at least you know that the ingredients you feed your pet have not passed through freezers or other means that ensure their conservation for long periods. And also that, after being produced, they have not been processed in such a way they lose their nutritional power or have added chemicals that are harmful to Fido’s body.
The farm where products are grown recycles as much as possible. In case non-recycled materials are needed, they are purchased in the least processed form possible.
When there is a need to fight pest, weed, or disease problems, farmers use biological control, combined with effort, labor, and creativity – for instance, using certain helpful insects. They avoid using means – such as heavy chemicals – to solve those problems quickly and inexpensively but polluting the product or the environment. When there is no other option but to use pesticides, they use natural and biodegradable products.
No artificial resources, such as fertilizers or fattening agents, have been used to improve the yield of the products.
Biodiversity has been respected, rotating crops and applying breeding techniques that maintain soil quality.
We must trust the producer, since the term “organically grown” written on a blackboard does not serve as a certification that the mentioned growing and production conditions have been respected.
Let us remember that every artificial element that is inserted in the cultivation of plants or the breeding of animals ends up in the food that you feed your pet. And in the vast majority of cases, those artificial elements have negative effects on their health, which appear gradually and in the long term, so we end up attributing them to other causes, and not to the food.
Most of the food products at farmers’ markets are for human consumption. But knowing which are the human food products that our dog can safely consume, we can prepare his food with organic products purchased directly from the hands of its producer.
If the label “organically grown” is printed on the bag of a packaged product, it does not offer any guarantee that it is a truly organic product. If we trust the brand, we will be fairly sure that it has been produced on an organic farm, respecting the precepts of organic farming. But it does not give us any information on how the product has been divided, packaged or distributed.
In that case, the legend “organically grown” does not help much, and instead, you have to search the package to find an organic certification seal.
Each country or territory developed its own set of criteria for organic labeling products. In the United States, the certification of organic products is in charge of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), which establishes a strict set of conditions a product needs to meet to be called organic.
In general terms, the organic seal of the department of agriculture, applied to food – whether for pets or for humans – certifies that synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, prohibited pesticides, artificial preservatives, irradiation, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have not been used in its manufacturing.
That is, the seal not only certifies that the product has been grown organically, but also that its packaging and distribution has kept its organic qualities intact.
The certifications of other countries or territories – such as the organic certification of the European Union – establish similar criteria, although some differences are worth analyzing. For instance, the European Commision publicly recognizes how organic farming helps keeping biodiversity and taking care of the environment with their Farm to Fork strategy.
The main difference between certified organic and organically grown is that organic certification avoids the need to know the manufacturer well, to know if the product is really organic.
But, at the same time, organic certification forces us to analyze with a magnifying glass to what extent organic products comply with regulations. The organic food business involves huge amounts of money, and pet food manufacturers do everything they can to certify their products as organic, with the least investment possible. And for this, they leverage all possible tricks to certify as organic products that are not.
In addition, the regulations present loopholes that those who know about law take advantage of to manipulate the regulations at will.
In short, the best way to ensure that the food we give our dog is healthy is to reduce, as much as possible, the time and distance between the origin of the food and the mouth of our furry friend.
It would be great if we could all produce raw materials for food ourselves. But, since we are not farmers, we must trust either the farmer who sells us his own organically grown products, or the manufacturer who labels their products with a valid organic certification.