The Association of American Feed Control Officials, called AAFCO, is a private organization of volunteers in the animal feed feed industry — including people from the pet food industry itself.
It is not mandated by any laws; it does not write laws or change them.
AAFCO sets standards for nutritional adequacy for a wide variety of animal feed, including cattle feed, feed for commercially raised rabbits, pig feed, dog and cat food, etc.
In my personal opinion, AAFCO regulation falls FAR short of protecting the welfare of our pets; here are some reasons why I say this.
1. How AAFCO tests pet foods
Food is either analyzed in the lab, or AAFCO runs feed trails.
- the feed trial includes 8 dogs minimum, or more
- 25% can be removed during the test – so the test could be conducted with just SIX DOGS
- as long as the remaining animals don’t lose more than 15% of their body weight during the 26 week trial, the food is approved
AAFCO states clearly in its mandate, that it is setting standards for adequate nutrition. Not good nutrition, not particularly healthy. Adequate to keep the animal alive.
2. FEED and FOOD is very different
There’s a big difference between FEED and FOOD.
AAFCO is mostly comprised of Feed Control Officials. These are state department of agriculture representatives who work together on feed that livestock eats. It’s nothing like our FOOD or what we think of as our pet’s FOOD. AAFCO is all about FEED.
Feed is all about fattening commercially raised animals for slaughter with the minimum resources possible; food is about building and maintaining good health.
One difference alone – FEED is allowed, per FDA, to contain euthanized pets and pesticide-laden grains and vegetables that wouldn’t be allowed for human consumption. (www.truthaboutpetfoods)
3. AAFCO doesn’t actually approve pet food
AAFCO does not approve, certify or reject pet food. Wording on pet food actually says that it MEETS the nutritional requirements established by AAFCO. Those standards, as mentioned, are what’s needed for adequate nutrition, in highly processed pet foods.
4. These are the people who brought you the Label Laws
Remember these rules? You can read about them in detail on my blog, What’s on Your Dog’s Menu, but basically it’s a serious of weasel statements that tell manufactures what to call their products when they don’t contain a lot of meat.
For example, let’s look at Cesar Classics Filet Mignon Flavor, made by food giant Mars.
It contains no filet mignon; it contains nothing like what we think of as beef.
Instead, this Cesar Classics flavour contains:
- beef by-products – this is leftover, non-meat which can include lungs, stomach, and intestines (required to be freed of feces) from slaughtered mammals. It is not the flesh or ‘meat’ which has been removed for human food or other animal feed products.
It’s not even the ‘acceptable’ kinds of slaughterhouse leftovers like gristle, pieces of fatty tissue, meat from the animal’s head and feet; connective tissue – all of this goes into hot dogs and processed meat for people.
- animal liver – liver is a good source of protein; the problem here is, what kind of animal?
- meat by-products – again, the leftover waste from the slaughterhouse, but what kind of animal(s) are we talking about?
- chicken by-products – this is not chicken ‘meat;’ it is the scrap, and can include feet, backs, livers, lungs, chicken heads, undeveloped eggs, etc.
….along with artificial colouring, sodium nitrite and more.
The total protein content of this food: 8%.
Remember, it’s the food name that counts
More reading on AAFCO and its role
Dog Food Advisor – https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/
Truth About Pet Food – http://truthaboutpetfood.com/should-my-pets-food-be-aafco-approved/
AAFCO official site – http://www.aafco.org/Consumers
If you buy commercial dog food for your Morkie, you’ll want to read the label very carefully. That’s because the HUUUUGGGGEEE pet food industry is a little… shady… when it comes to truth in advertising.
For example, the industry has set its own rules for WHAT TO CALL dog food, based on what’s in it.
Dog food names and what they mean
The rules and regulations set out by the industry itself seem designed to confuse us! Just look at these examples below. You might think you’re buying a quality food, but take a closer look.
Packaging rules are defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO
is “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.” In other words, it’s the industry regulating itself. Conflict of interest anyone???
The 95% Rule
The food must be made up of at least 95% of what’s named.
For example, Beef Dog Food means that the food is 95% BEEF. Sounds sensible, but from here, it goes down hill.
The 25% or “dinner” rule
The meat that’s named has to be only 25% of the food. So for example, Turkey Dinner is 25% turkey meat
and 75% other ingredients.
Watch for any descriptors like dinner, entree, feast, platter, nuggets, formula, etc.
BUT…it can also mean that Meat + something else like rice, makes up the 25% of the food together. Lamb & Rice Feast could be 1% lamb, 24% rice and 75% other. It’s not usual, but it COULD happen.
The 3% or “with” rule
Anything named after the word “with” is only 3% of the food. Dog Dinner Delight With Liver means that the food can be just 3% liver, and 97% other ingredients.
Watch for “with” or “plus.”
The “flavor” rule
This just means that there is a ‘noticeable’ amount to imbue flavor. Beef Flavour Dog Food means there’s just enough beef to give some flavour, according tot he testing dog. How do they know the dog thinks it tastes like beef? Good question.
Watch for the word ‘flavor.’
First in an informal series on commercial dog foods.
When you’re shopping for commercial dog food – canned or kibble – here is an important place to start: the first 5 ingredients listed on the label.
Even though dog food labels may list dozens of ingredients, it’s the first 5 that matter.
That’s because dog food ingredients are listed in order of weight, so the closer to the top of the list, the more of that ingredient in the dog food.
Let’s look at one notably horrible dog food and one notably good commercial dog food.
Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition (dry food)
Ol’ Roy is the store brand, or private label brand, of Walmart. It’s manufactured by Doane Pet Food, which is owned by Mars Pet Food Division. Virtually any website that compares commercial dog foods rates this one at the bottom of the list. (Mars makes other cheap pet foods like Pedigree, Cesar and Nutro.)
The first 5 ingredients in Ol’ Roy
- Ground Yellow Corn
- Meat and Bone Meal
- Soybean Meal
- Poultry By-Product Meal
- Animal Fat
Are dogs corn eaters? No, but that’s the first ingredient and it’s CHEAP filler.
Meat and bone meal is a nasty mix of waste animal tissues, including bone. Very hard for dogs to digest. And what kind of animal does the meat and bone meal come from? Could be any combination of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats…
Soybean meal does contain 48% protein. It’s probably included to boost the overall protein content of this food but it’s much lower quality than protein from meat.
Poultry by-product meal is made from slaughterhouse leftovers like chicken feet, backs, lungs and heads. If these leftovers are edible, they’re added to people food like bologna, sausage and hot dogs.
Not edible? Then add it to dog food, where it’s rendered (cooked at very high temperatures) until it is a dry meal.
Animal fat – again, what kind of a animal are we talking about?? If it doesn’t say, you don’t know.
And that means it can be spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased or dying cattle (the Three Ds of the meat world); road kill and even euthanized pets!!! It’s all legal.
AND, generic animal fat is often preserved with BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole). BHA is a suspected cancer causing agent. It’s also used in making rubber and cosmetics.
MEAT is great for dogs because it’s a source of protein that’s complete. It contains all all ten essential amino acids — nutrients dogs cannot live without. Plus, dogs can easily digest it, especially compared to inferior protein sources like corn or grain. But if the meat is not named, it can be literally anything, including
Whenever a pet food does not name the TYPE of animal, but just says “animal” or “meat” instead of, for example, “beef” or “chicken,” your guard should go up. That’s because the meat can be almost anything, and changes depending on what’s the cheapest in the marketplace.
MEAT BY-PRODUCTS are even scarier – by-products are slaughterhouse waste. The stuff that they won’t even put in hot dogs! The stuff they sweep up off the floor at the end of the day.
Purina calls this –
“nutrient-rich organ meats”
Sorry, but the rest of the world calls it crap! For example… “deboned chicken” is literally chicken meat that we’d eat. “Poultry by-products” can be what’s left after the ‘real’ meat is stripped off. Stuff like the head, the feet, neck and internal organs that no other food processor wants.
In summary, AVOID –
- commercial dog food that has “meat”
- instead, go for a named product, like beef, chicken, lamb, etc.
- and avoid poultry, and go for chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
- avoid by-products, meat or otherwise
Here’s an example of a label that you can understand, and that actually looks good.
Blue Life Protection Formula Chicken & Brown Rice
Top 5 ingredients:
- Deboned Chicken
- Chicken Meal
- Brown Rice
Now THAT sounds like something you’d want to feed to your Morkie!
To see how your dog’s food compares, check out Blue Buffalo’s web page Take the Test.
When it comes to food for Morkie, you expect the best. And so you should. You want food that is:
- nutritious and healthy
- breed appropriate
- pure or ‘clean’ – minimal or no additives
- clearly labelled as to what’s in the food
You don’t always get this with commercial food
Commercial pet food is such a HUGE and profitable industry, that competition is fierce and scruples are often pretty low among manufacturers.
Just because a food is well-known and seen on TV, doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog. In fact, one dog food expert, Mike Sagman advises:
If it’s advertised on TV, don’t buy it!
You can read more at his outstanding website: www.DogFoodAdvisor.com
Best to worst types of food
Most experts agree, the best-to-worst types of food for your dog are:
- a balanced, homemade raw diet
- a balanced, commercial RAW diet
- a balanced, home cooked diet
- premium wet (canned) food
- premium dry (kibble) food
What does “balanced” mean, in pet food?
A balanced diet for your dog includes animal protein, vegetables, fat and micronutrients (omega 3 fatty acids for skin and brain function; and for older dogs, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate). Grain isn’t necessary, but it is a carrier for the other ingredients.
Dogs and cats also require more than 50 key nutrients, the most important of which are vitamin C and the minerals magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. The balance among these nutrients is important, too.
And, nutritional needs change by age and lifestyle.
So whether you’re making your own RAW food, or cooking your own dog food, it’s vital that you follow a professional recipe, or consult with an animal nutritionist.
Consult with a nutritionist or follow a professional recipe if you make your own dog food.
When you shop for dog food for your Morkie, your head might be spinning when you read labels. I believe the pet food manufacturers – a multi BILLION dollar industry – purposely confuse consumers. Why would they do that? So they can pass off sub-par food (made with the cheapest possible ingredients) as high priced, quality food.
There are many, many ways dog food makers can do that, and I’ll be reviewing them over the next few weeks. Let’s start with dog food names.
But first, who regulates the pet food industry?
Meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)
This is the group that regulates the pet food industry. You’d expect this to be an unbiased, third party group. Possibly a government organization or agency.
AAFCO is a private corporation. It is made up largely of PET FOOD COMPANY EXECUTIVES, business insiders and some elected officials in the United States and Canada. They set standards for their industry that are not very high, to state it mildly. The Association believes foods that are made up predominantly of ingredients like these, are just fine for our dogs:
Ground yellow corn, soybean meal, ground whole wheat, and corn syrup.
What’s corn syrup doing in dog food?
It covers up the putrid taste of processed food, to the point where your dog will find it reasonably palatable.
The role of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration ) is one of oversight. They check that what’s on the label, is in the food. That, and whether or not the manufacturer’s name is correct on the label. They have no input or insights into what constitutes healthy pet food, and their recommendations to the AAFCO are generally considered ‘suggestions’ only. And generally ignored.
Unethical and shady: dog food names
That is what allows the industry to label dog food like this:
- “Beef for dogs” then at least 95% of the product must be beef (or 70% when counting the added water)
- “Beef dinner” requires the product to contain at least 25% of beef
- “With beef” means the product contains at least 3% of beef. Buying a product that says “now with real beef” and you get only 3%!
- “With beef flavour” means the flavour itself is detectable (from beef meal or beef by-products for example), there doesn’t have to be any actual beef meat present in the product
Don’t buy foods that are labelled as dinners, entrees, meals or anything along those lines: it means the food contains just 25% of the named meat.
“With beef” or “with beef flavour” are even worse so avoid them too.
Go for the simple animal protein name, such as Beef for dogs, Chicken or Lamb.