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Some pet owners and retailers assume that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is in charge of certifying pet foods. However, this is not the case.
Here are some facts to assist you in understanding what AAFCO does and doesn't do to help you care for your dog with confidence.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a private, nonprofit membership organisation with voluntary membership. Members include the world’s largest pet food manufacturers.
AAFCO creates model quality standards, rules, and legislation to regulate what goes into commercial animal feed, especially dog food, which consumes so much of our weekly shopping money.
In 1909, the organisation began creating animal feed standards, around the same time that entrepreneurs realised commercial packaging and selling of pet meals might be successful.
AAFCO develops guidelines or models for laws to ensure that animal feed producers, including pet food manufacturers, give clear, accurate, and consistent information.
Every year, AAFCO publishes the AAFCO Manual, which is an official document. This handbook covers labelling problems such as label format, component lists, nutrition claims, and guaranteed analysis, in addition to giving ingredient definitions and feed terminology.
Pet meals are not directly tested, regulated, approved, or certified by AAFCO to ensure that they fulfill the standards. Instead, they provide guidelines for ingredient definitions, product labelling, feeding trials, and laboratory assessments of pet food nutrients.
Third-party testing facilities then analyse the food in accordance with the AAFCO criteria. Here are the guidelines that AAFCO has set for pet food labelling:
Additionally, AAFCO constantly revises its standards based on the most recent research in pet nutrition to best support our dogs’ health and wellness.
Here are some of the new updates they made to their dog food rules in 2016:
The AAFCO statement on pet food packaging describes whether the food includes required nutrients, how that determination was made, and for which life stage the food is acceptable.
It essentially informs you that the meal is "full and balanced" for a specific life stage. There are two types of life stages; growth and reproduction, and adult maintenance.
For pet food to be advertised as "complete and balanced" for a particular life stage, AAFCO nutritional adequacy requirements must be fulfilled or surpassed.
To establish that their food is complete and balanced for a certain life stage, pet food producers utilise laboratory analysis and, on occasion, feeding experiments. They conduct these tests for approval from AAFCO.
So, AAFCO has specific feeding test protocols for each life stage, which include:
Therefore, learning how to read dog food labels can help you get a better understanding of which meal will be more beneficial for your pet.
The AAFCO established nutritional profiles to define minimum and some maximum nutrient concentrations for dog diets.
These profiles were not generated until 1991, even though AAFCO has been around since 1906.
When discoveries from pet nutrition studies become available, these profiles are updated. The most recent change was done in 2016. They provide pet food producers with realistic advice.
Adult Maintenance and Growth and Reproduction are the two nutritional profiles for dog food. Here’s what they mean:
A dog food product must first be tested to see if it fulfils AAFCO's nutritional profile criteria and is "complete and balanced." There are two ways to determine whether the dog food satisfies these requirements:
This approach incorporates feeding experiments with actual dogs in addition to laboratory analyses to demonstrate the food's nutritional properties.
The food that passes this trial will be labelled as such: "Animal feeding experiments utilising AAFCO protocols establish that [Product Name] offers full and balanced nutrition,"
This approach involves laboratory analysis of a small food sample to ensure that it complies with AAFCO criteria.
The product that passes this analysis will have a label as such: "[Product Name] is prepared to satisfy the nutritional standards set by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles,"
Products that do not match the AAFCO's nutritional profile criteria for dogs are permitted to be sold. These products are usually labelled as designed for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.
This is most often the case with treats and vitamins, which are designed to make up a tiny part of your dog's total calorie intake. It also applies to some veterinary diets, which are designed to meet specific nutritional requirements.
Therefore, it is better to get products that have met the AAFCO criteria as you will have the reassurance that your dog is getting the nutrients it needs through its diet. Try out Petcubes’ Superior Blend Beef that is carefully curated by professionals and meets the AAFCO nutritional profile requirements, and you can be confident that your dog is getting a well-balanced diet.
According to AAFCO standards, a pet food producer must give a confirmed analysis on the product label and a list of components in decreasing order, with the highest weight mentioned first.
An ingredient label on a pet food product might be confusing at first. So, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
Besides that, the terms "all-natural," "organic," and "wholesome" are frequently used on pet food labels.
These words may sound identical, yet they might refer to quite different aspects of the product. Therefore, AAFCO regulates some of these words.
It's critical to understand the distinctions and definitions of these terms. Here are a few examples:
There is no clear definition of this in animal feed laws, but according to AAFCO, every component in pet food must be produced, packed, and held in compliance with federal standards.
To avoid bacterial cross-contamination, it's vital to observe hygienic handling standards for raw meat if it's labelled as raw.
Synthetic fertilisers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering are not authorised in certified organic pet meals, which must include at least 95% organic components.
The AAFCO guidelines are based on a set of common ingredients. These are specific carbohydrate, fat, fibre, and protein sources that were chosen for their low cost.
Vitamins and minerals must almost always be added to these meals. They'd never pass AAFCO requirements otherwise. Here are some examples of the most regularly used ingredients:
The word "meal" is used because the goods are grounded into uniform-sized particles in addition to being cooked. Although meat meals provide more nutrition, they also result in more processed pet food.
The meat is boiled and cooked down until it is a dry powder to eliminate the liquid, then the meal is put into the kibble recipe to be cooked once more.
The AAFCO guidelines are essentially there to aid in defining which meals are complete and balanced diets for your dog.
While AAFCO does not directly assist consumers, the organization's stance on feed regulations explicitly states that the most essential component of feed control is to safeguard both consumers and the regulated sector.
They also strive to protect human and animal health. Hence, understanding what AAFCO does, can help you understand which dog food is more beneficial for your canine’s health.*For additional information on AAFCO, you can access it here.*
Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.
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