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  • Writer's pictureCasey

Understanding Complete and Balanced vs. Supplemental Feeding

Hi All! We get a lot of questions about why our food is considered for “supplemental feeding” and does not have the “Complete and Balanced” label. We want to address this so our customers understand and know that they are still getting a quality product.

To achieve the “Complete and Balanced” title the food needs to meet one of 2 requirements:

The food must meet AAFCO’s nutritional profiles OR The food passes an AAFCO feeding trial

Here is a link to information on the nutritional profiles –

As you can see on the chart here the only listed nutrients with maximums are iodine, selenium, calcium, phosphorus and the calcium to phosphorus ratio. All of the other nutrients listed only have a minimum as you can see.

Understanding this should seem a little alarming for the reason that with no maximum’s food with high fat content or protein levels closer to the minimum level are still called “complete and balanced”. The numbers are on a dry matter basis so in our previous post where we discussed how to figure this out with the equation ( is very important in understanding how much is really in the food you are buying.

The second piece of this is understanding the AFFCO feeding trials. These trials are generally performed using dogs and cats in kennels, not dogs and cats at home. These trials last for 26 weeks and they need 8 animals to start it. In order to complete the trial only 6 of them need to make it all the way through. The animals are fed the tested food exclusively.

Once the 6-8 animals complete the 26 weeks blood work is done to check for hemoglobin, cell volume, phosphate levels and albumin levels. Along with this they want to verify that none of the animals lose more than 15% of their starting weight.

A couple of things to note here; they do not have any kind of limitation to gender, breed, etc. so it’s just whichever 8 animals they get for the trial. Another thing is they don’t talk about the animal gaining weight, just losing. The basis for approval of the food comes down to 4 levels and minimal weight loss. The trials don’t look at the long-term effects of the food past this. A lot of time food issues are due to prolonged feeding.

As you can see the two tests for gain the “Complete and Balanced” stamp of approval do potentially have some red flags. Even though our food is labeled for “supplemental feeding only” may not mean it is a poor quality food or that one labeled “complete and balanced” isn’t a superior food.

We want to make sure you know all the information about the food you buy for your pets so make sure you do the necessary research and ask the right questions.



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