What does “for all life stages” mean in the nutritional adequacy statement on a pet food label?

Answer:

  • The food must provide adequate nutrition to support the most demanding life stages, which are growth and reproduction (gestation/lactation), according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
  • A food labeled “for all life stages” can be considered “complete and balanced” or some similar phrase if it has been formulated or substantiated by feeding tests to meet the nutrient levels established in the AAFCO Cat/Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/reproduction and adult maintanance.1
  • A food labeled “for all life stages” can claim to be “complete and balanced”, “100% nutritious”, or some similar phrase with an AAFCO-specific feeding trial sequence:
    1. A gestation/lactation trial must be conducted
    2. A minimum 10-week growth trial must then be conducted using the offspring from the gestation/lactation trial.2
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Roudebush P, Dzanis DA, Debraekeleer J, Watson H. Pet Food Labels. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush P, Novotny BJ, eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th ed. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute; 2010: 199. 2. Zicker SC: Evaluating pet foods: how confident are you when you recommend a commercial pet food? Top Companion Anim Med. 2008 Aug; 23(3):121-6.