For most people, pet food is no easy game. The conflicting recommendations (both online and off) and near-constant onslaught of new selling techniques and novel formulations from companies trying to get a leg up in the market creates a labyrinth of decision-making for consumers. Luckily, there are resources available from a variety of reputable organizations and experts, but even keeping those straight can be confusing. This primer should help lay a foundation to better understand a lot of the buzz in pet food forums.
Read more about Evaluating Sources of Information.
WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association)
"The WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee offers expert, evidence-based nutritional information for companion animals to support the veterinary healthcare team. The committee does not endorse, approve, recommend or support specific products or companies."
AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)
In their own words, AAFCO provides:
- A process for defining ingredients used in animal feed and pet food.
- A forum where state agencies, federal agencies, and industry develop uniform language that states may adopt or reference in laws.
- Two meetings per year that include specialized trainings for members and industry.
- AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way.
- AAFCO establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods, and it is the pet food company's responsibility to formulate their products according to the appropriate AAFCO standard.
- It is the state feed control official's responsibility in regulating pet food to ensure that the laws and rules established for the protection of companion animals and their custodians are complied with so that only unadulterated, correctly and uniformly labeled pet food products are distributed in the marketplace and a structure for orderly commerce.
- “PRODUCT NAME is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog (or cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for LIFE STAGE”
- “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that PRODUCT NAME provides complete and balanced nutrition for LIFE STAGE.”
- “PRODUCT NAME provides complete and balanced nutrition for LIFE STAGE and is comparable to a product which has been substantiated using AAFCO feeding tests”
Ideally, a manufacturer is conducting feeding trials that exceed the AAFCO minimums, but again, this information would not be found on the label. Consumers must inquire to obtain this information from the company themselves.
DACVN (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition)
DACVNs also work in industry, though they aren't the only nutritionists qualified to help formulate a commercial diet. Individuals with a PhD in animal nutrition or companion animal nutrition are also qualified. In an ideal scenario, a manufacturer would have a team of several qualified nutritionists and food scientists, to ensure that there are no "blind spots" from only having a single individual oversee everything.