The term “organic” is used widely today, but as officially defined by AAFCO, organic animal feed meets production and handling requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP).
According to the NOP website, “organic” products are:
“produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used.”
The NOP regulates all organic crops, livestock and agricultural products certified to the USDA’s organic standards. Organic certifiers inspect and verify compliance. The USDA also conducts audits, investigations and enforcement activities to ensure all products labeled organic meet its regulations.
Organic regulations specific for pet foods are currently being developed. In the interim, the NOP has said that pet foods claiming to be organic must meet its human food regulations.
Certified organic foods will display a USDA organic seal and must be made of at least 95% organic ingredients. For more information, read this fact sheet.
State-Level Organic Regulations
If a pet food claims to be organic and it is in compliance with the NOP, that claim is acceptable under the AAFCO Model Regulations and under state and federal feed laws.
If a pet food claims to be organic and it is not in compliance with the NOP, the product is misbranded under State and Federal feed laws and is subject to regulatory action by feed officials.
The NOP does not replace, and it does not nullify, any state or federal feed-law requirements. An organic product must fully comply with labeling, safety and utility requirements for feed ingredients and feeds. In other words, organic pet food must comply with both animal feed regulations enforced by states and FDA as well as the process control requirements of the NOP.
It must be noted that the USDA does not consider organic foods to be necessarily safer, healthier or more nutritious than conventionally-produced foods. NOP oversight simply assures that people who wish to purchase organic foods are getting what they paid for.
For more information on organic requirements, visit the USDA National Organic Program website.