It’s a gross but common fact that many conventional pet food products are made from the inedible waste from beef and poultry farms. These foods contain meat that is labeled “4-D” (in other words, the animals that are Dead, Dying, Diseased or Down — meaning unable to stand) when they are lined up for slaughter. Keep that in mind the next time your little one pops a dog food nugget into his mouth.

Eco-friendly pet foods that use natural and organic ingredients might be a better for your pet, as they contain healthier ingredients and are better for the planet because they minimize the use of things like drugs, hormones, pesticides, synthetics preservatives and genetically modified organisms. (Remember that melamine pet food scare a few years back?) Here’s what to look for when choosing a green pet food to feed your pet:

Organic: Organic pet food is the gold standard when it comes to feeding your pet. Certified-organic pet foods must adhere to strict USDA standards that ban pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, irradiation and artificial or genetically engineered ingredients. Karma Organic and Newman’s Own Organics are a few good brands to try.

All-natural: If you can’t afford the hefty price tag that comes with organic pet food, you can keep it green by looking for a brand that uses all-natural ingredients. The term “all-natural” is not legally defined and can therefore mean different things (or nothing at all) in terms of pet food. But a quick check of the label can tell you if a product is as healthy as it claims to be. All-natural pet foods should primarily contain real protein sources (such as meat and poultry) instead of animal byproducts or wheat gluten. They should also include whole grains (like barley and brown rice) and vegetables rather than processed or dehydrated grains and veggies. They also should NOT contain harmful chemicals like BHA, propylene glycol or synthetic colors or lubricants. Some options: Castor & Pollux, Dr. Harvey’s or Sojo’s

Homemade: With the economy such as it is, it may be hard to justify spending loads of extra money on organic dog food when your family is pinching pennies to buy the basics. But that doesn't mean you have to give up on your pet and purchase inferior food. Homemade pet food is an excellent option for those who want healthy (and even organic) pet food without the organic price. Just be sure to talk to your vet before you get started to make sure that your homemade recipes meet all of your pet's nutritional needs.

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Photo: cdelson

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