When it Comes to Dog Food – What Does the Term “Natural” Really Mean?

But Sensible Choice doesn’t seem to even TRY to“walk the walk.”


Maybe it’s partially our fault, but the word “natural” is getting a lot of exposure on dog food labels these days. The problem is, it doesn’t mean anything in particular; there is no official definition of the word. It just sounds good, and companies like Pet Products Plus, Inc., makers of Sensible Choice, like to use it a lot. A bright yellow banner on the front of the bag says, “100% All Natural.” And the back of the label explains, “Sensible Choice dog foods are all-natural products. . . In other words, if it’s not found in nature, you won’t find it in Sensible Choice.” But that just doesn’t explain something like “natural flavor,” the sixth ingredient listed on the label of the Sensible Choice Lamb and Rice food. Natural what flavor?

Simply omitting artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors is not enough to make a dry dog food “natural” or healthy.

This food has quite a few hallmarks of our “Not Recommended” list, including the extensive use of food “fragments,” where food makers buy inexpensive and heavily processed leftovers from human food manufacturing and recombine them to approximate a whole, healthy ingredient. Combining brewers rice, rice flour, and rice gluten doesn’t begin to present the benefits of nutritious whole rice.

By presenting fragments separately on the label, the maker obscures the fact that this food is mainly rice, even though lamb meal appears first on the label. By law, makers must list the ingredients on the label in descending order by weight. If you were to add up the second, third, and fourth ingredients – all fragments of rice – they would surely outweigh the lamb, pushing it far down the label.

This tactic makes the food look better than it really is, as does the pretty label, the repetitive use of “natural,” and the inexplicable but cute little splash of French under the name (“Nourriture pour chien” – “Food for dog” just doesn’t sound as good). Other than these things, this food doesn’t have much going for it.

Sensible Choice is made by Pet Products Plus, Inc., St. Peters, MO. (800) 592-6687.

-By Nancy Kerns