How are feeding trials conducted?

One of the ways for a pet food manufacturer to establish that its diet is “complete
and balanced” or “for all life stages” is by conducting a feeding trial. The trial
must follow guidelines established by AAFCO (Association of American Feed
Control Officials).

The protocol of an AAFCO feeding trial is summarized below but is also available in the annual “Official Publication” published by AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials), and may be ordered by visiting

AAFCO is considered to be the foremost authority on pet food. The organization works closely with the FDA and, although AAFCO has no regulatory authority, the Association provides a forum for the membership and industry representation to achieve three main goals:
 Ensure consumer protection
 Safeguarding the health of animals and humans
 Providing a level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry.

These goals are achieved by developing and implementing uniform and equitable laws, regulations, standards, definitions and enforcement policies for regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of animal feeds – resulting in safe, effective and useful feeds by promoting uniformity amongst member agencies.


Eight animals (either dogs or cats) need to participate in the feeding trial. There
is no restriction regarding breed or sex, and the only food given to them is the food being tested. Water is given freely. Six of these eight need to complete the
26-week-long trial.

The animals in the test are examined by vets both before and after the trial for general health and coat condition. At the end of the trial, four blood values are also measured and recorded: hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, and serum albumin.

If any animal shows clinical or pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess, then the diet being tested failed. No dog or cat is allowed to lose more than 15 percent
of his starting body weight. There are specific minimum values for the blood tests, and they are applied to the average result of all participating animals that finished
the trial.

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