The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which makes recommendations for laws regulating pet food, defines natural ingredients as those “derived from plant, animal or mined, unprocessed or subject to physical, heat, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not subjected to chemically synthetic process.”
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “for the most part, ‘natural’ can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.” It's important to realize, however, that the term “natural” does not guarantee the quality of the pet food or that your pet will do well eating the food.
In order for your dog or cat to remain healthy they need a diet that is complete and balanced. There are six basic nutrient groups that need to be present in your pet’s diet: protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. Each of these groups of nutrients plays a vital role in making sure your pet’s body functions normally, and it is the ingredients in your pet's food which are the sources for these nutrients. Each ingredient provides a unique set of nutrients. Whether “natural” or not, all the ingredients in your pet’s food contribute to the nutrient balance of the diet. It is that balance of ingredients and nutrients that is most important in a diet.
Though the mistake can often be made with pet foods just as easily as with our foods, diets labeled as “natural” do not automatically make them gluten free. If you feel this is important attribute for your pet’s diet, then pay careful attention to the ingredients on the pet food label. There are often many natural/gluten free diets to choose from at specialty pet retailers, including some foods that include ancient grains. These ancient grains are gluten-free crops such as quinoa and buckwheat that have been used for centuries due to their richness in fiber and mineral content. Many are not even technically grains but actually seeds.