What 9 Popular Dog Food Labels Really Mean

. 2 min read


Choosing high-quality dog food for our pups is not a responsibility that we take lightly as pet parents. After all, our furry babies deserve nothing but the best of the best. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for pet food companies to try and trick us into thinking that a specific brand is healthy by using misleading words on pet food labels.

To help you out on your next dog food run, here are some common words you might encounter on a pet food label that could woo you into thinking a certain brand of dog food is of higher quality than reality:

Premium - This lovely word is as empty and meaningless as an hour spent on Tinder. Don't let it fool you into thinking it's something it's not, even when accompanied by other fluffy words like "super premium" or "extra premium." This is marketing, not true love.

Gourmet - Everybody's a foodie these days, and everyone demands gourmet. But the truth is, pet food companies can slap the word gourmet on a label without any credentials. Gourmet doesn't mean anything in this case, except maybe "costs more."

Holistic - Holistic? Holy nothingness, Batman! Add this to the long list of pretty names that don't necessarily mean anything at all.

Natural - Okay, FINALLY a term that carries some meaning. The word "natural" falls under the jurisdiction of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the regulators of pet food manufacturing, so "natural" foods must be made entirely of ingredients from plant, animal or mined sources, and cannot be highly processed or contain artificial flavors, preservatives, or coloring. But SPOILER ALERT: the word gets a little vague when we're talking about which parts of an animal is included. Worrying, as there are parts of a chicken that your dog definitely doesn't want in his food bowl.

Organic - An "organic" pet food is made without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers, waste contamination, or food additives. Or hipsters. This word is policed by the USDA, but not all uses are created equal. For example, "100% organic" is self-explanatory, but the word "organic" alone means it contains at least 95% organic ingredients. The phrase "made with organic ingredients" means the product contains 70% certified organic ingredients. So before you get googly-eyed over organic, know what it means.

Flavor - As in "beef flavor dog food," this word doesn't require any actual percentage of meat to be in the food, but instead enough flavoring (usually from that animal's fat) to be detected. So "flavor" is a broad term.

Dinner - A word that conjures the image of a Thanksgiving spread means something different on a food label. A can of "Turkey Dinner Dog Food" must contain 25% turkey, but the remaining 75% can be made up of other fillers of all varieties, including other meats. (Not unlike Aunt Edna's Thanksgiving Jell-O mold, come to think of it.) The same goes for words like "platter," "grill," and "entree."

Meal - As in, "chicken meal" or "lamb meal," this is a catch-all term for all tissue (excluding blood, hair, hides, manure, stomach and rumen) that are cooked down then dried and added as "meal" to the pet food. Sounds like Unhappy Meal to me.

References 1, 2, 3

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.



Gabby Slome

NYC native. Certified canine nutritionist. Equestrian. World traveler. Columbia Business School grad. Healthy eater. Mom to the best mutt in the world, (well according to me), Pancho.