Dogs generally will gobble anything that hits the bowl -- or even comes close. Whether yours is more gourmet or garbage hound, he won't know or care about the nutritional adequacy of those tasty morsels in his dish. That's your job, but the AAFCO helps with the basic groundwork.
What AAFCO Is
The Association of American Feed Control Officials serves local, state and federal agencies "charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies," according to the association's website. Agency membership in the association is voluntary. AAFCO develops model quality standards, regulations and laws to control what's in commercial animal feed, including the dog foods that take up so much of your weekly grocery budget.The association began developing standards for animal feed in 1909 -- about the same time entrepreneurs recognized that commercial packaging and sale of pet foods might be profitable.
What It Does
You can stop looking for an AAFCO seal of approval on Rover's food. The agency doesn't endorse any dog food. Rather, it establishes model labeling standards for manufacturers regarding the ingredient list and nutritional formula, and recommends laws or regulations to implement those guidelines. The AAFCO essentially details what ingredients a dog food label must contain in order to claim complete and balanced nutrition for your pal at any life stage, from puppy to senior. The AAFCO also designs ways to format a label to make it easier for you to analyze, and works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists who research the safety of ingredients, including additives, found in Rover's food and nutritional supplements.
What It Doesn’t Do
The AAFCO doesn't enforce laws or standards. It cannot shut down a tainted facility or slap a fine on a manufacturer for using substandard ingredients or selling food to your pup that doesn't contain what's listed on the label. Enforcement is up to the FDA and federal, state and local feed control agencies. However, those enforcement agencies are AAFCO members. Most states follow the AAFCO model, but each has its own way of ensuring manufacturer compliance and dealing with violations.
The Bottom Line
The AAFCO's work helps government agencies carry out their tasks of ensuring consumer protection and human and animal health. For you, the result of its work provides a starting point for comparing dog foods and ensuring Rover's meals will keep him fit while satisfying his appetite. Most dog foods you find on store shelves meet the AAFCO standards for "complete and balanced" nutrition. Most probably exceed the AAFCO model in one way or another that may or may not be significant. Their goal, after all, is to keep your pal eating their product. The best resource you have -- other than Rover's taste buds -- as you decide which formula and brand will keep your pal as healthy and happy as possible, is your veterinarian.
A medical writer since 1990 and successful home-based business owner for more than 14 years, Sandra King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She uses her formal education, professional insight and extensive volunteer involvement to cover topics on health and fitness, pets, parenting for a lifetime, building healthy relationships, conquering business basics and developing career goals.