I have been a 'pet parent' - or steward, as I like to think of it - all my life ... so ignoring when I had animals as a child, a time when I wasn't making the decisions, it's been over 3-decades. During this time I've experimented with all the food options, and as my concern for my own food has grown, so has my concern over what I feed my pets. It's not easy out there in commercial food land. Marketing FAR outweighs logic. Why are there peas in cat food? Ah-hem, cat's don't eat peas - they eat MEAT - other animals. Period. That's it.
That is why when I found a somewhat local (Indianapolis, IN) supplier of REAL meat and all the goodies that go in a whole animal, I was overjoyed!
MyPetCarnivore.com supplies pet stewards with whole animals, humanely raised, and "prepared" (to be diplomatic, because killing anything is not a pretty business) in order to provide cats, dogs and other carnivores pure, fresh, animal meat - no gums, carrageenan (which is seaweed!), fillers or marketing-hype meat replacements.
Below is a post from their blog, which I found interesting and hope you do, too.
Have you been interested in what you are feeding your carnivore for very long? Then you have probably heard of AAFCO. But what is AAFCO? And if you have decided to feed raw or are feeding raw, does AAFCO matter? Let’s get educated on AAFCO together!
What Is AAFCO?
First of all, AAFCO stands for the American Association of Feed Control Officials. Basically, they set standards for the pet and livestock feed industry in the USA. If a kibble or canned cat or dog food says “complete and balanced” on it, then it meets AAFCO’s standards. Most people, sources, and vets that advise feeding kibble will stress that you need a kibble that meets AAFCO standards and is “complete and balanced.”
Where Did AAFCO Come From?
During World War II, food was scarce, hard to transport, and variety was severely lacking. So, the scientists came up with Recommended Daily Allowances. These allowances identified the minimum nutrients that the soldiers would need to survive. The scientists created meal plans and foods from this information so they could easily send it to the soldiers to keep them alive. However, the food was made to sustain life–not keep people healthy. It was a short-term solution.
After Recommended Daily Allowances were set, the National Research Committee (NRC) did more research. They looked at whole foods and started to set minimums, maximums, and even recommended values for an assortment of nutrients.
Later, AAFCO came along. They originally used the guidelines from the NRC but quickly realized that the processed foods that they were dealing with were very different from the whole foods of the NRC. In 1990, AAFCO started setting standards for processed animal feeds. Like the Recommended Daily Allowances, AAFCO mostly has only minimums of nutrients listed. They have a few maximums but make no recommendations as far as ideal or optimal levels of nutrients in food.
What Does “Complete And Balanced” Mean?
“Complete” means that a kibble has all the nutrients that AAFCO says are essential for dogs and cats to live. “Balanced” means that the nutrients of the kibble are in the proportions of which AAFCO approves. Interestingly, the nutrients that AAFCO says are essential as well as what proportions they approved of are constantly changing. (If AAFCO knew what the best diet for your pet was, why would they need to change their standards so frequently?)
AAFCO also has a list of approved ingredients that manufacturers look at to make their food. These approved ingredients are mostly waste products from human food production. They are typically very low in nutritional value and require the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals to meet AAFCO standards. Also, AAFCO does not care whether the proteins come from meat, soy, peas, feather, or other high-protein sources even though dogs and cats have been designed to get their protein from meat.
AAFCO also does not test or have any standards that relate to the digestibility of the food. Technically, a manufacturer could make a completely indigestible food and sell it as “complete and balanced” as long as it passed the AAFCO chemical analysis.
As an interesting side note, dogs and cats have no need for carbohydrates in their diet. This is why you will not see carbohydrates listed on pet food labels–only protein, fat, fiber, ash, moisture, and possibly a few vitamins or minerals. So, a question. If carbohydrates are not required for your pet to live, why does AAFCO approve the use of carbohydrate sources in the food? Why do they approve food that is 40%+ carbohydrates as “complete and balanced”? Surely adding an unnecessary nutrient to the diet would leave less space for essential nutrients.
What Must A Manufacturer Do To Get Complete And Balanced On Their Label?
Manufacturers can have their food approved by AAFCO in two ways. First, they can put their food through chemical analysis. If the food has the proper amounts and ratios of vitamins and minerals, the minimum amounts and proportions of fat, it will pass AAFCOs chemical analysis. If you tossed enough synthetic vitamins and minerals on a peanut butter sandwich, it could pass.
The second way that a manufacturer could get “complete and balanced” on their label is to do a feeding trial. For the feeding trial, there must be eight animals (dogs or cats). Of those eight, two can drop out for any reason, so only six animals are really needed to finish the trial. These dogs and cats must be healthy before the study and then pronounced healthy after the study has stopped. The subjects can lose as much as 15% of their body weight and body condition. The breed and gender of the pet is irrelevant in the study. Additionally, the trial lasts 26 weeks. The animals in the study are fed only the food being tested, but they do have unlimited water access. After the 26-week trial ,hemoglobin, PCV, alkaline phosphatase, and albumin are tested and must meet specific minimums. Interestingly, AAFCO is not concerned with how much weight an animal may gain on a feeding trial. In a nutshell, for a food to pass a feeding trial, 6 pets must survive on the food for 26 weeks. That’s a little over half a year. Meanwhile, the marketing will tell you that you should feed this food to your furry one their whole life! Let’s hope your pet’s life is a lot longer than 26 weeks.
If the food passes the chemical analysis, it does not need to actually be tested on pets. If the diet passes a feeding trial, it doesn’t have to pass the chemical analysis. Seems a little weird. . . . I mean, I would want to know that my pet was getting all the nutrients they need–especially if I’m feeding so many synthetic ingredients. But, on the other hand, I think I would want the food to be tested on actual pets too.
Are AAFCO Standards Helpful?
If AAFCO standards are meant to help dogs and cats, then why is it that 90-95% of dogs and cats with cancer, allergies, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel, kidney failure, and other diseases get these diseases after a lifetime of eating AAFCO-approved kibbles?
AAFCO standards are really only mildly helpful for industrial pet food manufacturers. The standards help these manufacturers make food that can sustain the life of a pet. Remember, a sustained life is not anywhere close to a thriving life!
Are AAFCO Standards Applicable For Raw Feeders?
You may have noticed on many raw pet foods, including My Pet Carnivore’s foods, that the label states that the food is not “complete and balanced” according to AAFCO standards. This is because AAFCO standards are made for highly-processed foods. A raw diet is very unprocessed. Raw diets are so unprocessed that you need not add any synthetic vitamins or minerals because the original prey has everything a carnivore needs!
Nature Knows Best!
If we assume that a diet is “complete and balanced”, we assume that AAFCO knows everything that there is to know about the diet that a cat, dog, or ferret needs. This, in turn, would mean that AAFCO would never have to change their standards and there would be no need to have a variety of kibbles. Further, this assumption would lead to the thought that cats, dogs, and ferrets are as healthy as they can possibly be–that the rise of cancer, autoimmune disease, and all other diseases is 100% normal and/or not at all caused by diet.
We, as humans, don’t even know 100% what the best diet for humans is. How can we possibly think anyone knows what the best diet for a dog is? You know what I mean? Coffee is good for you–no coffee is so bad for you. Eggs are bad for you–no eggs are a wonder food! Don’t eat fat, eat fat. And on, and on, and on.
So, where do we turn for answers? How can we know what is actually a good and health-promoting diet for our beloved furry family members? Well, we need to look back to nature. Nature provides us with a simple meal plan for our pets. It’s the same meal plan that their ancestors ate and that our pets would have eaten pre-kibble. Nature provided them with whole prey animals.
Diet and nutrition become easy when we look at the diet Nature provides for dogs and cats like those of wild cats and wolves. Simply feeding your pet whole prey, with plenty of variety, is the best way to provide your pet with all the nutrients they need. Variety is key and something that AAFCO does not seem to value. I mean, who and what would ever willingly eat only one thing for 26 weeks? Certainly nothing in Nature!
One could argue that Nature’s feeding style of a variety of whole, raw prey is more scientific than that of AAFCO. I mean, dogs and cats have been eating whole, raw prey far before humans had even domesticated them. Nature’s feeding style has supported the species to this present day. That’s a lot longer than AAFCO’s required 26-week feeding trial.
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I wish I had known of MyPetCarnivore.com decades ago.
(And, contrary to some blogs today, this is NOT an advertisement or paid sponsorship or affiliate for MyPetCarnivore.com - I just believe in what they are doing, and want to pass this education along to help enhance the lives of our fluffy friends.
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