NUK vs AAFCO
A balanced diet… what exactly are we talking about? NUK vs AAFCO.
Nutrition science is a developing science, and constantly changing and improving, like all sciences. Because of this, we keep learning more and more about the attributes of certain foods and their value in our pets and our diets. Back when I started raw feeding, 20 years ago, we mostly threw meaty bones and carcasses to our dogs with some organ meals and sometimes some veggies and fruit. But over time, science has looked at what exactly dogs need and diet requirements have evolved and I don’t feed exactly like I did when I started raw feeding.
The “rule” became 80% meat, 5% liver, 5% other organ and 10% bone, with as many different proteins as possible but at least three different ones, as well as adding oily fish in regularly. Modern science shows that alone may not be enough to meet all of a dog’s nutritional needs, because of changes in farming, mineral depletion in soil, farm animals’ feed and other factors, so ground up veggies are used more often than they used to be, as well as some supplements or foods canines would not normally eat. Like shellfish. As well, we’ve been able to more precisely identify macro and micro nutrient needs. Might this change in the future? Absolutely. So we always keep our eyes open and learn new things.
The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an industry body based in the US which “approves” many commercial dog foods who meet their minimum requirements through feed trials and analysis of foods. The National Research Council (NRC) and European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) also have similar nutritional standards for pet foods. All are similar but not exactly the same. Generally, nutrient content comes from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports.
As an experiment, we compared our NUK blend product to AAFCO standards. We used nutritional analysis through Central Testing as well analysis of the recipe with Pet Diet Designer (a popular diet formulation software program) to do the comparison.
With the exception of medical diets and elimination diets, we encourage all of our customers to add in fish, eggs, veggies and fruits and other products to their dog’s diet whether they’re feeding our foods or others. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are stored by the body whereas water soluble vitamins should be fed daily (for instance B vitamins). NUK covers the water soluble vitamins without add ons, so if you’re feeding NUK you don’t need to add anything daily (although we do recommend add ins because who, including your dog, wants to eat the same damn thing every day.)
What we found, NUK on its own (so nothing added but the NUK blend pucks) in relation to adult maintenance diet is that it is deficient in potassium, iron, chloride, manganese, zinc, iodine, Vitamin D & E and choline. This isn’t a surprise as it’s what a lot of raw diets are deficient in. So we got out our pencils and calculators and compared 750 grams of NUK + 106 grams (a tin) of sardines 100 grams of egg and 2.5 grams of mussels to the AAFCO requirements. So that’s 10 pucks, one tin of sardines, a large egg (no shell as we know lots of dogs don’t like the shell), and 2.5 grams of mussels. This would be a meal for a large dog getting normal amounts of exercise (75 - 80 lbs or so), but would be the rough “recipe” to use yourself, ie if your dog is 10 lbs you might want to divide up a tin of sardines into an ice cube tray in smaller servings for your dog, and get some smaller eggs, or our freeze dried eggs which are easier to divide up. (For every 1 puck + approx 10 grams of sardines and 10 grams of egg, +0.025 grams of mussels)
By adding the sardines, eggs and mussels, all nutritional minimums are covered except Iodine. Iodine, biotin, choline and taurine are not usually tested for, so it is possible there is more available iodine than is measured. A small amount of GOOD QUALITY nutritionally tested kelp would cover iodine. Our Buddy’s Blend Booster (contains kelp) also will add iodine. We did not include it in the math because kelp products vary greatly and the actual amount could vary significantly. Also, a lot of our customers with dogs who have had allergy testing done have identified kelp as an allergen, so it can’t be used in many cases. NUK was also tested for taurine content by Central Testing. While it was within required taurine content, we since added heart meat to increase the taurine, especially for our feline customers.
This is meant as a basic guideline for balancing the NUK product for a normally active adult dog, and is by no means the only way. We also have canine nutrition consults available from our certified canine nutritionist if you wish to develop more specific diet plans, as well as for dogs who cannot tolerate certain proteins or products in this chart.