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  • 1 min read

Is Your Premium Dog Food Truly “Human-Grade?”

Last year the owners of a small pet food company spent a month eating nothing but their own dog food plus meals made with ingredients found in the food. According to, the campaign was: “…an effort to promote and back the company’s human-grade dog food formulas, coinciding with the regional launch into the northeastern US.”

Since the company’s dog food is specifically formulated for canines, the owners consulted with a nutritionist to insure they didn’t stray too far from a balanced human diet during the month-long promotion. The owners, two women, ate one meal of dog food each day.

The rest of their meals used only ingredients found in their pet food plus condiments like salt, pepper, vinegar and lemon juice. (It’s important to note that while a pet food may be perfectly “edible” for humans, it probably won’t be very tasty. Canines and humans have different palates.)

The owners also only drank nutritional beverages containing the juice of ingredients in their pet food (for example, apple or carrot juice).

A dog and its puppy resting their heads on a couch together

According to the owners, they were not trying to be shocking by eating dog food.

Their goal was to stand behind their claim that they use only human-grade ingredients in their pet food formulas.

The Significance of Human Grade Ingredients in Pet Food

The term human grade in pet food means the finished product is legally suitable and approved as nourishment for humans. It is “edible.”

Human foods are much more rigorously regulated than foods made for animals. Unlike the loosely controlled pet food industry, the FDA and USDA regulate human foods and conduct frequent, detailed inspections of the manufacturing facilities that produce food for people.

Only pet foods made in human grade facilities, subject to the inspections and approval necessary to have human grade status, can be legally considered 100 percent human grade.

The Opposite of Human Grade: Feed Grade

In contrast to human grade pet food, feed grade is finished product unsuitable for human consumption (“inedible”). It can only be legally fed to animals (other than humans).

Feed-grade ingredients are essentially waste products of the human food industry. The bulk of these ingredients are rendered by-products derived from:

  • Meat slaughtering and processing plants
  • Dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, marketing barns, animal shelters, and other facilities
  • Fats, grease, and other food waste from restaurants and stores

How Can I Find Pet Food Made with Human Grade Ingredients?

Good question. Per :

“We do not see too many claims about human-grade ingredients on package labels, mainly because AAFCO does not have an official definition of the term. Without an approved AAFCO definition, an ingredient or term is not supposed to be used on pet food labels. AAFCO says “human-grade” is false and misleading, and constitutes misbranding, unless every ingredient in the product—and every processing method—meets FDA and USDA requirements for producing, processing and transporting foods suitable for consumption by humans, and every producer of the ingredients is licensed to perform those tasks. Few pet food companies can meet these criteria.” i

AAFCO’s official reason for not allowing use of the terms “human grade” and “human quality” on pet food packaging is because people might mistakenly or deliberately eat the food themselves

But some small pet food manufacturers who use only human grade ingredients wonder if it doesn’t have more to do with pressure from pet food industry giants who don’t want smaller operations to have a competitive advantage.

Whatever the reason for AAFCO labeling restrictions, relatively small pet food manufacturers are where you’ll find formulas containing human grade ingredients. Those companies can, as of this writing, still legally discuss the quality of their ingredients on their website and other promotional materials, and over the phone to consumers who call for information.

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