Tuesday, June 2, 2009 7:57 PM

Nutritional Guidelines: What Do They Mean?

Have you ever read the labels on those cans and bags of pet food? How about after you've found your glasses? Since the manufacturer went through all that trouble to enlighten you, don't you think you should take a look? "Ash content", "animal digest"--sounds gross, doesn't it? It makes us wonder what exactly is being put in these products that we feed our pals.

It may surprise you to learn that quality standards as they apply to pet food are industry-formulated. The U.S. government does not regulate the quality of these products at all. From 1974 to 1985 the industry used the standards established by the National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Science. The NRC's Committee of Animal Nutrition was considered the absolute authority on nutritional requirements of cats and dogs; any diet that claimed to be "complete and balanced" used the NRC's guidelines.

Pet food manufacturers created their own "committee", the Association of American Feed Control Officials, ostensibly to create nutritional uniformity across the industry. The AAFCO can use any guidelines they please, and used the NRC's for the aforementioned 11-year period, including the recommendation to conduct feeding trials to ensure the adequacy of the final product. The industry group quickly "dumbed down" this research technique to a much less strict chemical analysis in order to test whether or not the food met the NRC's requirements. This method was a poor substitute for the actual feeding of the product to dogs and cats. However, it saved the industry thousands of dollars per product line and, since they were setting the rules, this method became the norm. The NRC strenuously insisted that only direct feeding could support claims of nutritional balance when it revised its guidelines in 1985. This angered the pet food industry and the AAFCO dropped its use of NRC standards shortly thereafter.

So, what does the industry use for standards? Well, its own, of course. Since the AAFCO no longer requires the use of feeding trials, most companies don't do any. Older trials completed by the larger pet food manufacturers are still used when a benchmark is desired. Along with chemical analysis, this is the system used to assure us that the food we are buying is completely balanced nutrition for our companion animals. Is it enough? As long as the customer doesn't complain and there are no pet health crises directly attributable to their products, then--yes.
For the pet food manufacturers, it is enough.

To be continued...

What The...?: As I was gazing out my front window Saturday afternoon trying to see if anyone was patronizing our tag sale (between two households we made about $27--really worth it), what did my wondering eyes behold but a large red fox trotting right across our front yard.
This was approximately 2:00 p.m.; usually we see them quite early in the morning. He looked in fine fettle, though, big bushy tail and really buff-looking, not sickly in the least. I guess he just decided to take a stroll. Unfortunately, he took me by surprise so I couldn't get a photo. Dang. Maybe next time!
Chat later!

0 Comments On "Nutritional Guidelines: What Do They Mean?"

Powered By Blogger

Donate to Cat Chat!

Contact Cat Chat

Search Amazon

Custom Search
Blogger Templates

About Me

My Photo
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
View my complete profile