What Are The AAFCO Nutritional Guidelines?
For a long time, pet owners wanted to know whether they're feeding their beloved furry family members a complete diet. Just as with humans, nutritional deficiencies can cause many developmental problems in puppies or kittens and chronic health issues in adult dogs or cats.
The AAFCO guidelines are an attempt to standardise pet nutrition and offer a nutrient panel that's defined as "complete and balanced". This article discusses the details of the standard that goes into our AAFCO Complete & Balanced range.
What Does AAFCO Stand For?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
There is currently no "AAFCO Australia".
It's a guideline established in the USA to help pet food labels adhere to minimum expectations of what the ingredients in their food should offer.
The guideline is detailed in its requirements, but note that it's not an enforcement body.
Australian Pet Food Standards
You may be surprised to learn that Australia currently don't have any level of state and federal government enforcement for nutritional adequacy. There are a number of initiatives that we support to change this. We feel it's important to hold pet food manufacturers to a higher standard for what goes into animal feeds.
For operators who take great care to maintain a high level of quality, it makes sense to hold others in the market accountable for the safety and wellbeing of our pets.
At the moment, companies are expected to self-regulate their quality control and we don't feel this is a system that can be trusted on good faith alone. We hope for and endorse more rigorous application of standards in the future.
The broader AAFCO nutrient profiles expect a minimum level of key ingredients for every life stage. This should include adult maintenance, as well as growth and reproduction.
It's especially rare for raw dog food to meet the AAFCO nutritional profile. Even when that profile is met, it's usually boosted with synthetic vitamins, powders and minerals, often sourced from overseas. We're proud to note that our recipes obtain their requirements using only natural ingredients, without any boosters, fillers or artificial supplements. It's more painstaking and expensive to create recipes this way, but we feel strongly that they provide more benefit long-term heath this way.
Our AAFCO approved recipes have an ingredient list formulated to be suitable for puppies, adults and even expecting mothers. We painstakingly selected only natural ingredients to ensure the nutritional panel meets AAFCO standards to be complete and balanced for all life stages.
How Do You Qualify?
There are two ways to qualify a product:
- Substantiation of nutrient content.
- Feeding trials.
Substantiation Of Nutrient Content
In our opinion, the only option available should be substantiation of nutrient content, which is the standard we follow. Every recipe we create, even our BARF recipes, have been assessed against a raw ingredient panel, which breaks down every nutrient, vitamin and mineral in the source. We have also run lab tests with professional testing services to verify the true breakdown of protein, carbohydrate, fats and key vitamins and mineral composition.
Here is where the standard gets a little fuzzy. The other method used to qualify a product as meeting the standard is the application of an AAFCO feeding trial.
We follow a minimum six month feeding trial on any new recipes, in addition to verifying our nutrient breakdown, just to be sure. We assess for a variety of palatability standards for fussy dogs, allergies, sensitivities and digestive balance expectations.
What's surprising to us about the standard is that only a minimum of 8 dogs or cats are required to undergo this trial. We feel this is very inadequate to establish a proper standard. Our trials involve hundreds of pets in a large variety of environments for a minimum of 6 months.
Many pet food manufacturers will proudly wear the AAFCO label, while only passing the absolute minimum of this requirement. We hold ourselves to a much higher standard.
AAFCO Approved Dog Food
We have two AAFCO dog food recipes designed to exceed the substantiation of nutrient content, as well as thorough feeding trials. We also have more currently undergoing the trial period, which we hope to release very soon!
Our Beef Complete recipe is our flagship all-purpose recipe, which we recommend for feeding puppies, including feeding adult dogs and expecting mothers. This goes beyond intermittent and supplemental feeding and has been used as the only diet for thousands of our happy pets for years. Generally, you're perfectly fine to only feed this recipe, knowing it's complete and balanced for all life stages.
Our Roo Complete recipe is a leaner recipe designed for weight loss, or for dogs with bowel sensitivity to higher fat recipes. Ideal for dogs with pancreatitis or colitis. This recipe is also great for dogs with sensitivity to chicken, since the bone content in this recipe uses turkey necks, rather than chicken frames.
Please note that we recommend you seek the advice of a qualified pet nutritionist with raw feeding knowledge before using raw food in a prescription diet.
AAFCO Approved Cat Food
Currently, we only offer BARF cat food recipes, with a ratio that's balanced for kittens and cats. Our Chicken Basics for Cats recipe is the easiest recipe to start adult cats or kittens with. If they prefer our Beef Basics or Roo Basics recipes, the only addition you'll need is an extra 10% of the weight of the recipe as bone content from treats like chicken necks or chicken wings.
If you're after an AAFCO cat food recipe, we recommend you start with our existing BARF options and stay on the look out for the release of our new cat recipes in the near future.
AAFCO vs BARF. What's The Difference?
Not too much really. BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food and is a well-established ratio feeding style that has been popular for decades. It's very commercially popular and has been fed with success for a very long time. You can compare our recipes in our best dog foods article.
Comparing AAFCO Recipes
Many pet food manufacturers hold pretty low standards when none are required by law. We want to stand above the traditionally low bar set in the pet food industry.
We recommend you ask the following key questions when comparing recipes:
- Is there a substantiation of nutrient content, or just a feeding trial?
- How many animals underwent the feeding trial? What were the results?
- Is the AAFCO standard achieved with natural ingredients, or with synthetic supplements?
- Is all produce human grade?
- Which countries are the ingredients sourced from?
The answers to these questions will go a long way to helping you understand the commitment to a truly high-quality product. Do your research and make sure you're comfortable with the answers.
New To Raw Feeding?
It can all seem pretty confusing with all the differing opinions and standards out there. If you're new, we recommend you start simple with one of the AAFCO recipes. You can't really go wrong there.
As you grow more comfortable feeding a Raw & Fresh diet, you'll come to realise that you don't need to count calories every single day. It's almost impossible to do this as a human, so don't buy the hype when people tell you that your dog or cat needs a perfect daily balance. Variety is the spice of life. As long as you balance their foods over the period of a few weeks and get regular check-ups, you're doing the right thing.
Our AAFCO recipes give you the confidence that the base recipe is held to a high standard. This will give you comfort knowing that you're getting essential vitamins and nutrients at the core of their diet. You can of course give the odd treat and add variety here and there. You can also feed bones safely to clean their teeth.
Just keep feeding your loved ones high-quality foods and make sure they're getting the best medical care. They'll be around longer that way.