The Big Country Raw teams thought it would be great to start this new blog by sharing with you some “basics” information about the pet food industry. There is so much information out there, that it can sometimes be hard to figure out differences between claims.
The more the raw pet food industry grows, the more we seem to see acronyms all around the internet. NRC, AAFCO, HACCP, FEDIAF, CFIA… What does it mean? Which ones are important? More crucial… how can you verify those claims?
First of all, it is great to see that raw food companies are starting to consider a more options regarding the quality of the product they sell. The bad part is the pet food industry is barely regulated and the responsibility is mainly on the customer to dig and find out if the information that is given to them is right or if it is just a marketing ploy.
Let’s start with the ones you might see the most:
CFIA is the basic one to look for. It means Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It will guarantee you that the food is made from the same ingredients that you find in the grocery store for our own diet. It means no bacteria, no parasites, only fresh ingredients that you could eat yourself. If a brand says they use only CFIA approved ingredients, they should be able to share with you their suppliers’ certificates.
AAFCO is also another one we see and hear often. For some it is a guarantee of quality, but when you dig a little more into its role and guidelines, you can see very fast that this organization was created by the industry for the industry. AAFCO means the Association of American Feeding Control Official and was founded in 1909. Their purpose is to define the ingredients that are allowed to be used and develop uniform language to be used in the industry. It goes from the “complete and balanced” statement – definition established in 1963, to the “With Chicken” needing only 3% chicken to be promoted that way. The organization is there to prevent people with no qualifications to create a random pet food and put it on the market with un proven claims on it. The problem lays in what they allow to be done. The margins are large, and very low-quality dog food can be “as AAFCO as” very high-quality ones. It is definitely not a guarantee of high-quality pet food, because they don’t do any inspections or legislation, and it is 100% based on a “self-regulation” process by the companies themselves or by the government that wish to apply the AAFCO guideline as law. Pet owner also have to properly know how to read the information provided to them to clearly understand what they feed their dog.
FEDIAF means European Pet Food Industry Federation. It has the same purpose as AAFCO, and is also made by and for the industry. For example, the person sitting as President of the Federation is also working for Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
Those two organizations also provide nutrient guidelines, to make sure the food that you find on the market is complete and balanced for your pet. Both organizations are not scientific ones, and rely on the science that is available in the industry. You can find here and there some independent research made on pet food, but more often they are privately done research made by the companies, and they decided if they want to make the research public or not.
Anyone who works in animal nutrition knows that there is one source of scientific information that is public and independent that we can always rely on, and it is called the National Research Council, better known as the NRC.
The NRC is a 100% governmental agency founded in 1916, that is not sponsored by the industry, and that provides ton of scientific information on many fields of studies. From medicine to engineering and all the way to animal nutrition. There is a Canadian organization that is called National Research Council of Canada, and the US organization is a part of the The National Academies (founded in 1863), publishing their work under the National Academies Press. The National Research Council of the National Academies is the “operating arms” of the organization. Many things published by the National Academies Press are called “NRC” publications by the industry. More often, the Canadian and American publications from those organization are literature review, meaning a regrouping of the available science on a specific subject. The Nutrient Requirement for Dogs and Cats is one of them. Every few years there is a new edition of that publication that has been revised with the latest science available.
A raw food brand that follows the “NRC guidelines” means that the recipes and supplementation requirements have been formulated by a pet nutrition professional who consulted and used the information provided by this publication.
Last but not least, HACCP. It might be the least common one, but probably the most important one to look for especially in the raw food industry. It is a great start to use CFIA ingredients, and also a good security to follow the NRC guidelines, but what about the actual making of the recipes? How can a customer make sure that the quality was preserved during the whole making process? How can we make sure that once you spoon the raw meal into your pet’s bowl, the quality is still there, and that what is said on the package is actually what is in the bowl?
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, and is a preventative system developed in 1960 by NASA and a group of food safety specialists, no less. Concretely, it is an effective and rational way of assuring food safety from harvest to consumption. It requires from a company a lot of money and a lot of time invested, but it is the only way you can be 100% sure that the food you are giving your pet has the highest quality possible.
This is a certification that require regular inspection from the government to maintain the HACCP status of the company, unlike the other organizations mentioned above.
That being said, you also have a job to do regarding the transparency of the brand you wish to feed your dog. It is very easy to put on a website that the brand has this or that certification, even if it is not 100% true. Ask questions, look at numbers. It is the reason why at Big Country Raw we wish to share with our customers as much information as possible! For example, we say that our Dinner recipes are NRC? Well we will show you how true it is! You can always find on our website comparative charts of our nutrient analysis and the NRC guidelines to see how a recipe matches those guidelines.
Our facility in Smithville is always more than happy to meet our customers. Come and say Hi, ask for a visit, we will be happy to share with you how clean our production center is and how delicious our fresh ingredient look!
We really hope those information can help you realise why Big Country Raw is definitely the best raw food on the market, and that we aren’t shy of making that claim, after all the effort and passion we put in producing the best food possible for your and our pets. Stay tuned for other very interesting article about raw feeding with Big Country Raw!
Association of American Feeding Control. AAFCO : The People behing Animal Feed and Pet Food. 2019. https://www.aafco.org/Portals/0/SiteContent/Announcements/2019_AAFCO_The_People_behind_Animal_Feed_and_Pet_Food_082919.pdf?v20190926
Government of Canada. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 2020.
National Academy of Sciences. History: The Organization of the National Research Council. 2020.
The European Pet Food Industry. Structure : Our Team. 2020.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. HACCP Principles & Applications Guidelines. 2017.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pet Food Labels -General. 2020.