Meeting AAFCO minimums has become a default presumed "gold standard" for labeling pet food and is often interpreted by consumers - and relied on by veterinarians - as assurance that a given food is "complete and balanced."
In AAFCO's own words: "AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve, or certify pet foods in any way."
The scoop: AAFCO, a non-profit organization that sets standards for animal feed and pet food in the US, allows pet food companies to put a "100 percent complete and balanced" claim on their food labels if it's met their feeding trial protocols.
Sounds great, right? Until you realize that their trial protocols are a mere six months (diet-related deficiencies often do not surface in such a short time frame.) Until you realize that only six animals are needed to complete the trial. And that success is measured with a physical exam and a very minimal blood test - no full blood chemistry or urinalysis is performed. The only four blood values checked are hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, and serum albumin.