Did you know there is a body that tests and certifies the nutritional value of dog food? Although there are critics that say their standards are not high enough it gives you a benchmark or maybe a floor to evaluate your dog food against. If a food does not at least meet AAFCO standards you might want to question its’ nutritional value.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes standards on which states base their feed laws and regulations, but itself has no regulatory authority. Dog Food Nutrient Profiles were last updated by the Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee in 1991. The updated profiles replaced the previous recommendations set by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC published new recommendations in 2006; AAFCO is currently in the process of updating the nutrient profiles.
Dog and cat foods labeled as “complete and balanced” must meet standards established by the AAFCO either by meeting a nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial. There are two separate nutrient profiles – one for puppies and mothers called “growth and reproduction” and one for “adult maintenance”. The nutritional adequacy statement would include info on which life stage(s) the product is suitable for. A product labeled as “for all life stages” must meet the more stringent nutrient profile for “growth and reproduction”. Products labeled as “intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding” do not need to meet either profile.
Products that are substantiated to be “complete and balanced” by feeding trials bear the label statement “animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition.”
Products that are formulated with ingredients to meet the established nutrient profile would include the following statement. “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat/Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.” Foods formulated to meet the standards have not been tested by feeding trials so many consider this a lower rating than foods that have proved themselves by feeding trials.
Some manufacturers label their products with terms such as premium, ultra premium, and holistic. These terms currently have no official definitions. The AAFCO is considering defining some of the terms. The terms “natural” and “organic” do have definitions; e.g., organic products must meet the same USDA regulations as for organic human food.