AAFCO stands for American Association of Feed Control Officials. It is a board put together primarily on a volunteer basis from USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) employees. AAFCO itself is not a regulatory agency. They publish a manual with recommendations and guidelines for feed ingredients as well as nutritional requirements for both farm and domestic animals. The manual also includes labeling requirements for all food products. All products are then registered with the UDSA, which is the regulatory agency for pet food.
AAFCO publishes the nutritional requirements for dogs and cats and gives both minimum and maximum levels of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, fibers, etc. Sadly, there are several problems with the system. There is absolutely no difference in AAFCO’s eyes between vitamins coming directly from food vs. synthetic vitamins. These have a difference in digestibility and bio-availability in the body. There is also no difference in terms of protein quality in foods. Kind of like comparing a steak to a hot dog. It has turned the process of choosing pet food into Russian Roulette for our pets.
With so many recalls over the past few years of contaminated pet food, consumers are demanding more information from manufacturers and becoming more educated about pet food ingredients. Which is all good. The one piece of this puzzle that is not forth-coming for consumers has to do with labels. If a food is labeled “complete and balanced according to AAFCO,” all that means for highly processed foods is that the manufacturer was able to purchase a vitamin pre-mix to add to the finished product that meet the minimum nutrient requirements.
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