Posts Tagged ‘AAFCO’

In How to make sense of pet food label claims, Part 1, we listed common terms used to describe the contents of a food, such as “dinner,” “premium,” “organic,” and more, and revealed the meaning behind those words. Today, we’ll present a buffet of terms.

“All Life Stages” — If a pet food has this claim on the label, skip it. Pets have different nutritional needs in different life stages (growth, growth & lactation, adulthood, senior status). Your pet’s food should specifically reflect your pet’s nutrient needs at each stage of her life.

Bone meal contains high levels of magnesium and phosphorus. These minerals are hard on the kidneys and they are not a good source of calcium. Avoid giving your pet a food containing bone meal.

Many people are concerned about by-products in pet food. The definition of a by-product is, essentially: Something produced in the making of something else.

For example, glucosamine (which many people and their pets take for joint support) is a by-product.

In pet food, nutritionally dense organ meat is a by-product, and it is good for your pet. In other words, just because an ingredient is considered a by-product, does not necessarily mean it is unhealthy to feed your pet.

Did You Know?
Every part of a chicken can be used in pet food,
including beaks and feet!

Fixed formula: does your pet’s food qualify?
A fixed formula pet food is one in which the ingredients do not change.

When pet food manufacturers change the ingredients in a bag or can of food, they have up to six months to change the label to reflect the new ingredients. One work-around is to constantly change the ingredients, so the label never technically has to be updated. Thus, your pet may do well on Mrs. Bea’s Lovely Coat* Chicken and Rice for the first bag, but get sick on the second bag because the food now contains beef and barley — yet the food label hasn’t changed!
*Fictionalized brand.

So how do you know if a brand uses a fixed formula? Two ways:
1. If the diet is therapeutic, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets. These are foods specially designed to treat certain medical conditions. In order to be effective, their ingredient lists and guaranteed analysis minimums and maximums remain steady.
2. If the food is a commercial brand, call the company and ask. (Hill’s Science Diet foods use a fixed formula.) 

Light or Lite -designated foods are designed for weight loss. If your pet needs to lose weight, avoid “Weight Control” or “Weight Management” diets, since those are weight maintenance diets, not weight loss diets. To be sure your pet is on a lower-calorie food, look for the word “Light” or “Lite” on the label. Because these foods cannot be tested in AAFCO trials, they adhere to calorie maximums for both dry and canned foods:
Dry dog food……….3100 kcal/kg maximum

Canned dog food….900 kcal/kg maximum
Dry cat food………..3250 kcal/kg maximum
Canned cat food….950 kcal/kg maximum

Did You Know?
Weight loss diets cannot be AAFCO-tested,
since it is not permissible for animals
to lose weight during feeding trials.


Moisture level in a food is indicated by the type of food your pet eats.
Dry food is maximum 12% moisture, 88% dry matter.
Semi-moist food is maximum 33% moisture, 67% dry matter.
Canned or wet food is maximum 78% moisture, 22% dry matter.
So, as moisture increases, the water content is replacing meat and other ingredients.


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If your pet has food allergies or certain dietary restrictions, you’ve likely spent a good deal of time examining food labels to ensure no offending ingredients are present. But what if all your hard work was for naught? That seems to be the case for some un-named foods examined in a recent study by Chapman University.

Seriously...what's in there???

Seriously…what’s in there???

The pet food study found that 16 out of 52 foods tested contained a meat ingredient that was not listed on the label. And, the meat that was listed on the label was not even detectable in 7 out of the 52 samples. The study noted that the majority of labels (31 of 52) contained correct information; however the university declined to name any of the pet food brands tested.

What does the FDA require on pet food labels? Click here to find out!

The study did determine that no horsemeat was present in any of the samples. So, what’s in there? Here’s the breakdown:

  • 51 samples contained chicken
  • 35 samples contained pork
  • 34 samples contained beef
  • 32 samples contained turkey
  • 26 samples contained lamb
  • 9 samples contained goat.

This bird meat was found in only one of the samples.
Click here to find out what it is!

The study noted that pork was not mentioned on 7 out of 52 pet food labels, representing the “most common undeclared meat.” Meanwhile, the makers of 2 cat foods, 2 dog foods, and a dog treat claimed beef as an ingredient — but no beef was actually present in the sample. The study could not determine whether ingredient substitutions and omissions were accidental or intentional.

So what does this mean for pet owners? Most of us are not equipped with the sort of high-tech lab equipment needed to test our pet’s food. We’re left to research and trust the manufacturers.

But keep your eyes open. If your pet has been doing well on a particular brand, but seems to develop skin or intestinal disorders following the purchase of a new bag of the same brand of food, it could be due to a wayward undeclared ingredient.

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