When I walk into the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) conference hall, packed wall to wall with the world’s biggest names in the pet food and animal feed industry along with state feed officials and federal regulators from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), I wonder:
How did I get here?
From growing up on a hippy commune in Northern California to working in the advertising business, to becoming a pet food safety advocate and consumer advisor to AAFCO – it’s a path I never envisioned. I always thought I’d end up living in a penthouse in Manhattan, gracing the pages of fashion magazines, but animal feed?
When I go to these conferences – with my name tag with POISONED PETS spelled out in all caps – I always feel a bit uneasy. When unwary people introduce themselves, I fiddle with the tag nervously, until there is a pause and I have to fess up. So far, nobody has staggered back in horror, but maybe they are just polite.
I’m never quite sure.
Officially though, when I am there, I represent the Pet Welfare Alliance, an international community of pet guardians and veterinarians that provide oversight of the multi-billion pet products industry at these conferences.
It’s not that simple to get into AAFCO, not every windbag with an ax to grind gets a free pass. First, you need to be a representative of a stakeholder group, and then the board of directors decides whether you have the qualifications to be a contributing member or not.
And to my astonishment, they did. And now I’m what’s called a consumer advisor to AAFCO, which is just a fancy way of saying I represent the interests of pet parents like you. And I’m one of the only two of the consumer advisors to the association in the United States.
It’s not an understatement to say that AAFCO plays an integral role in the food you buy for your pets. Because nearly every bag, and can of pet food is the U.S. was made and sold under rules that were created by AAFCO.
And I am immensely proud to be a part of this process.
But with this honor comes enormous responsibility. And the work that we do at AAFCO is done on a purely voluntary basis. None of us are paid for what we do.
And part of our jobs is we attend the twice-yearly meetings held at various locations across the country. But the costs of going to these conferences is more than I can afford.
So, I’m asking for your help.
The cost of attending the conferences break down like this: The registration is $550, the reception is $70, the yearly publication of AAFCO’s rule book (online and hard copy) is $250, the airporter and parking is $85, a taxi or Uber is typically about $50, roundtrip flights are anywhere between $700 to $1100 depending on the location and time of year, and the hotel stay is usually around $700.
So you can see how these trips are quite an expense; Particularly as I do the work on Poisoned Pets voluntarily, and seldom do I receive enough donations throughout the year to cover the cost of traveling to the most important events of the year.
I cannot stress enough how vital it is that I attend the conferences. There is no one in the United States who represents the interests of consumers with pets that don’t make money from selling or promoting pet food.
Instead, my work is entirely supported by individuals – pet parents – like you. I don’t sell, advertise, or otherwise endorse any pet products, nor am I funded by any private or public institution, so I am independent of any influence by outside interests.
When you consider that the pet food industry is a $91-billion a year business, and the animal feed industry business is somewhere in the neighborhood of $300-billion, a plea for a $5 donation is an absurdly small amount.
Your support will enable me to bring the interests and concerns of pet parents to AAFCO and to help me shape and influence how new laws are written. Please donate $5, $10 or whatever amount you can comfortably afford today.
The list of attendees of the AAFCO conferences are a daunting list of the largest animal feed and pet food corporations in world, including Archer Daniel Midlands, American Feed Industry Association, Baker Commodities, BASF, Cargill, Darling, Diamond, DSM, DuPont, Elanco Animal Health, Eurofins, Hartz, Hill’s, J.M. Smuckers, JBS, Kemin, Mars, Nestle, National Renderers Association, Pet Food Institute, Purina, Royal Canin, Simmons, Tyson, and Wilbur-Ellis, among many others.
And then there’s me.