Have you heard of AAFCO, or the Association of American Feed Control Officials? If you are a pet owner, you should be aware of this organization. The AAFCO defines itself as “…a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.” Among other things, this organization sets standards for the quality of pet food in the United States to help ensure the health and safety of pets.
It is important to note that AAFCO does not actually “regulate, test, approve or certify” pet foods, nor are they an enforcement agency. The AAFCO establishes what constitutes the basic nutritional standards for a complete and balanced pet food, and also develops pet food label regulations and ingredient definitions. It is the individual pet food manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that their pet food meets these nutritional standards.
A pet food must meet the AAFCO established nutritional standards in order to be labeled “complete and balanced.” A pet food manufacturer can establish that its food meets these nutritional standards through laboratory testing/chemical analysis alone, or through laboratory testing and feeding trials. The AAFCO breaks down their nutrient profiles into two life stages: Adult Maintenance and Growth & Reproduction.
To obtain an AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy statement that can be displayed on the pet food, the pet food must meet or exceed the AAFCO guidelines. If a pet food meets the nutrient guidelines for both life stages, it is considered nutritionally complete for all life stages. If a pet food does not meet the AAFCO nutritional standards, it may still be sold but may not display an AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy statement. These pet foods will have a statement indicating that the product is meant to be used for only “intermittent or supplemental feeding.”
What does this mean to you and your pet? Always look for the AAFCO nutritional statement to ensure your pet’s food meets minimum nutritional requirements.