Holistic? Natural? Organic? Healthy?

Holistic? Natural? Organic? Healthy? Jeff Baker, Canine Caviar Pet Foods:

I think it is safe to say that most manufacturers, distributors, stores and pet owners are committed to providing the absolute best nutrition for our pets.  We see a lot of media hype and internet marketing, some which may confuse us more than they help. It is time to get back to helping our customers understand and decipher the different terms and what they actually mean.

The most common questions I hear in the stores are, “what do the terms, ‘organic, natural, holistic and healthy’ mean?” It surprised me to find that a large number of people cannot define the differences between them. Ask your sales representatives and customers to define these four terms and you will never get the same answer twice. In fact, most people will define the terms using one or more of the other terms. The most common answer given in response to the question, “what does natural mean?” is “organic and healthy.” We’ve blurred these terms together to the point that they do not have significant meaning anymore. Therefore, I would like to help educate on the differences between them to eliminate some of the marketing confusion that has been produced by pet food companies.

Only one of these terms, “organic,” is precisely regulated in its usage. Therefore, each of us must decide how to apply this information.



Holistic means “to treat something as a whole from the inside out.” By this definition, a pet food is holistic if it deals with every health issue your pet faces.



When using the word, “natural,” to describe a pet food, it is important to remember that the ingredients must come from nature and the end product must mimic what pets would eat naturally in the wild.

A holistic diet looks to address every health issue your pet faces….



Holistic and Healthy

Organic describes the type of ingredients used in producing pet food, however, there are several classifications of organic. Less than 70% organic may list organically grown ingredients on their panel. Foods containing 70% or more organic ingredients can use the term, “Made with Organic Ingredients,” in their labeling. Foods containing 95% or more organic ingredients may call themselves “Organic.” A fee is paid to the USDA in order to use the USDA Organic Seal.

So what is healthy? The holistic market tends to avoid corn, wheat and soy, as the overall perception is that these ingredients are not healthy. Let’s assume that an organic pet food uses organically grown wheat or soy as part of their ingredient listing. Would you consider that food to be healthy simply because it is organic? What if we are trying to feed our pet a natural food? In nature, wild animals consume raw proteins. Can we consider a food to be natural if the proteins have been cooked?

It seems to me that the two least commonly used terms, “holistic” and “healthy,” seem to work hand in hand in their common goals. A holistic diet looks to address every health issue your pet faces as a whole from the inside out. Again, it is left to us to decide whether or not a food is truly holistic, regardless of it’s labeling. Skin, coat, hip, joint and digestive issues are the most commonly discussed health issues in pet food. But what about kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, circulatory issues, diabetes, cholesterol, eye sight, etc.? If a food does not address these issues, would you consider it to be holistic?


  • Holistic: To treat something as a whole.
  • Natural: Existing in or formed by nature – to mimic what would occur in nature.
  • Organic: Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Healthy: Conducive to promoting a good condition of the body.

(Definitions from www.dictionary.com and www.organic.org)

Translation avaiable in: Chinese (Simplified)