Meet AAFCO: A Look into Building Pet Food Policy

Did you know that pet food is one of the most regulated food products in the United States? Laws at both the federal and state level play an important role in helping ensure the safe production of pet food, the use of strictly defined ingredients, and appropriate nutrient levels for a dog or cat. While the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is not a regulatory body, this organization helps to shape many of these policies at the state level.


AAFCO is an association comprised of federal officials and state feed officials from across the United States and Puerto Rico. Pet food is typically regulated within a state’s Department of Agriculture and certain staff from these state government bodies may be active within AAFCO. The representatives work on some of AAFCO’s many committees addressing issues in animal feed and pet food such as ingredient definitions, pet food labeling, and claim guidelines such as “human grade.” These expert committees may take steps such as creating new language, adding regulatory clarification, or otherwise modernizing guidance, and then final text is approved by the AAFCO board of directors and members.

When language is added or updated in AAFCO, it will be included in its “Official Publication” (often referred to as “OP”). The OP includes model legislation for both animal feed and pet food, including issues such as acceptable ingredient definitions, package label claims and what they mean, and parameters for the Guaranteed Analysis. This model legislation can then be easily adopted into state feed law across the country and referred to by regulators as they review and approve a pet food label for sale in that state.

AAFCO Annual Meetings

Committee discussions take place throughout the year and at AAFCO’s Annual and Mid-Year meetings. The 2020 AAFCO Annual Meeting was held virtually in early August. The virtual platform allowed for a new audience of state and federal officials, pet food and animal feed representatives, and other audiences to learn more about the work AAFCO membership does to develop policy for animal feed and pet food regulation.

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