“Natural” is also a word that does not impact the quality of your pet’s food.
Natural: The designation of natural also bears little impact on a food’s quality for your pet. Some ingredients like BHT/BHA/ethoxyquin are fat preservatives that are considered to be “unnatural”. BHT for example is an antioxidant- something that we know eliminates harmful free radicals. That is how it works as a food preservative. Antioxidants (natural and chemical) are added to dog and cat food to preserve the food and keep it fresh longer. There are natural alternatives like vitamin E, mixed tocopherols, vitamin C and rosemary. But most ingredients are not readily available in nature for use as a preservative- they also must be processed or extracted to work as a food preservative. Levels of natural and unnatural ingredients in dog and cat food have been stringently tested for safety at the levels they are used. BHT, for example, is “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen” by the National Institute of Health- when it is used in animals with a forestomach and at high levels. At low levels (and in animals like humans- with no forestomach), it works to neutral free radicals, preserve food and even neutralize other chemicals that can work as carcinogens.