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C2006-28

Dear Christopher Cat

I saw an advertisement for homemade pet food produced with natural ingredients. How can I tell whether this food is good for my pets?

Christopher Responds

Check the label for a statement that includes the words “Association of American Feed Control Officials” (AAFCO).

The statement indicates whether the pet food was tested in feeding trials conducted according to AAFCO protocols — or simply formulated using AAFCO guidelines.

In a feeding trial using an “all life stages” or “maintenance” protocol, the food is fed to animals that are monitored throughout the test.

In “all life stages” feeding trials, the food is fed to females, who breed, give birth and nurse their young, who also eat the food after weaning.

Mom feeds us pet food tested using the “all life stages” protocol, because she feels confident that a food that supports pregnancy and growth provides adequate nutrition for us, even if we get sick.

The alternative, food merely formulated using AAFCO guidelines but not tested in pets, might be safe and nutritious, but no one knows for sure because it wasn’t tested.

Watch this column in upcoming weeks for more ways to evaluate the nutritional content of pet food.

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