What you need to know and understand about dog food labels
The recent pet food recalls have been a wake-up call for dog owners. Because of this, we all need to learn more about how to interpret dog food labels. This article provides some of the most basic regulations related to labeling of commercial dog foods.
First of all, it is important to note that AAFCO, The Association of American Feed Control Officials is not a government agency. Rather, it is an advisory board of representatives. The members of this board include some state and federal representatives as well as people directly involved in the pet food industry.
AAFCO provides useful information about diets and definitions of food terms. However, the AAFCO does not police the pet food industry.
The AAFCO board of representatives have designed testing procedures that must be performed before a particular label claim can be made. Pet food manufacturers may choose whether to conduct their own feed trials, or rely on laboratory analysis of the food to substantiate their claims. Pet food companies do not have to conform to AAFCO standards in order to sell their products. However, if they do subscribe, it will be stated on the label.
A key to understanding the contents of any particular dog food is fundamental to the knowledge of the basic regulations related to labeling.
*The product name is the first part of the label noticed by us consumers, and can be a key factor in whether or not to buy the product. If the food label name includes the word "dinner," "formula," or "nuggets" (or similar words), the ingredient specified must not be less than 25% of the total weight. (Example: a label worded,"Lamb and Rice Formula" must be at least 25% of these 2 ingredients, combined). That also means that since ingredients named in this way only need to make up 1/4 of the total product, they may not even be the main ingredients!
*Here's another surprising AFFCO labeling rule. If the name of a food includes the phrase "with (the name of a specific ingredient)," that specified ingredient must not be less than 3% of the total product. (Example: a label worded, "with beef," must be comprised of at least 3% beef).
*If a name only includes the word "flavor" or "flavored", no specific percentage is required at all by AFFCO. The product must only contain an amount of the specified ingredient sufficient "to be able to be detected." This amount can be less than 1%.
*The word "poultry" can mean a wider variety of fowl than those traditionally raised on a farm for human consumption.
*The use of the word "animal" is not limited to those traditionally raised on a farm for human consumption, but can mean other mammals, as well.
AFFCO has a list of food ingredient definitions. When dog food manufacturers use these terms their packages, each ingredient must fit the parameters stated in the corresponding AFFCO definition. This list of AFFCO definitions is also included in our Bichon World articles archive.
Please check out the definitions for the ingredients of the foods you give to your little Bichon buddy! They depend on us for their care and well-being.