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What is Human Grade Pet Food?

Raise your hand if you prefer to buy your Tripawd human grade pet food. I know I do! But what does it mean when a pet food says it’s “human grade?” I’ve always wondered, so let’s take a closer look.

What is Human Grade Pet Food and Does It Really Matter?

Human Grade Pet Food
Wyatt loves his human grade treats!

For a long time, we fed our pets commercial food that we ourselves would never eat. Not anymore. Today’s savvy pet parents like you and me want to feed our dogs and cats food that’s good enough for all of us.

Buying better food to many of us means choosing commercial food with “human grade” ingredients. Examples include:

human grade freeze dried raw pet food
Zesty Paws makes human grade treats for dogs and cats.

But is the human grade term just a marketing spin to get to spend more money? Yes and No.

The term “human grade” actually has some credibility behind it. You’ll find an official definition of human grade pet food ingredients on The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)  definition of “human grade” ingredients website:

A claim that something is “human-grade” or “human-quality” implies that the article being referred to is “edible” for people in legally defined terms….

For a product to be human edible, all ingredients in the product must be human edible and the product must be manufactured, packed and held in accordance with federal regulations in 21 CFR 110, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food. If these conditions exist, then human-grade claims may be made.

Human Grade Dehydrated Dog Food

Are Human Grade Brands Better?

Some veterinary nutritionists may argue that just because a pet food contains human grade ingredients, it’s no guarantee that the food meets the minimum requirements for a “complete and balanced” diet for adequate pet nutrition.

According to Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, if we want to be sure that a human grade pet food provides all the vitamins and minerals a dog or cat needs, look for the following statement:

Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Dog Food X provides complete and balanced nutrition.

Dog Food X is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.

But even if a pet food doesn’t have that statement on the packaging, like Spot Farms pictured above, other will argue that human grade is high quality pet food that provides excellent nutrition. Here’s what Susan Thixton, founder of The Truth About Pet Food, says in her must-read article Should My Pet’s Food be AAFCO Approved?

if the AAFCO complete and balanced claim was really the level of excellence it is proclaimed to be, then why is obesity in pets epidemic? Why do 50% of all dogs die of cancer? Why do so many pets have skin issues or kidney disease or an array of other common diseases?

In another article, Thixton once again discusses the huge quality difference between AAFCO feed-grade meat ingredients versus human grade meats in pet food:

Human Grade. While feed grade pet foods are allowed to use diseased and non-slaughtered animal material, human grade pet foods are required to:

“a. Each of the individual ingredient suppliers has verified that the individual ingredients supplied to the manufacturer are fit for human consumption.

When Does Human Grade Cross the Line Between Helpful and Harmful?

One last consideration about this complicated topic: human grade, meat-based pet food may not be the healthiest overall choice for pets or the planet. Consider what the authors of “The Clean Pet Food Revolution” have to say about feeding our pets a diet that closely resembles ours:

In addition to higher prices, using human-grade meats has significant environmental costs. But is human-grade actually healthier for our pets? The evidence is lacking. No one has done the research in animals.

From a human health perspective, high-protein diets, especially animal meats, have long been associated by medical experts with cancer, obesity, kidney disease, and decreased life expectancy. Why would we think that human-grade meat is going to be any healthier for our pets when it has been shown to be unhealthy for humans? Because it’s “organic”?

 — The Clean Pet Food Revolution

Clean Pet Food Revolution

As you can see, a bag of pet food contains so much more than nutrition. Pet food choices can feel overwhelming. The important thing is to do our best to keep informed about what goes into each bag. We need to know how it affects the health of our pets and the planet. When we do, good health for everyone is sure to follow.

How Do You Choose Your Pet’s Food?

What’s the first thing you look for in a pet food? Does “Human Grade” matter to you? Are there labels that sway you into choosing pet food? Does one brand make you feel better when you buy it? Tell us more about how you choose pet food, by sharing your comments below!

4 thoughts on “What is Human Grade Pet Food?”

  1. Hi. Our vet recommended that we feed our tripaw Royal Canine Urinary SO. She is a recue dog who was neglected and forced to live outside because of urination problems. When rescued a massive tumor was discovered on her kidney and a cancerous lump on her leg that required the amputation of that leg. She is a10 years old very energetic miniture schnauzer and at a healthy weight of 16 lbs. I hear good and bad about Royal Canine. What can you tell me?

    • Oh Lynne, your girl is so lucky to have found you for her people. She is thriving because of your care! As for Royal Canin…well, your girl’s situation is one of those more complex ones, and kidney issues are nothing to fool around with as you know. I always think that our vet’s guidance is needed for something like this so I would never take her off it without asking your vet.

      I can relate to your situation: when our Wyatt had some weight loss issues our own vet put him on Royal Canin. We used it for about six months and then gradually weaned him off when his weight stabilized. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it after reading about the ingredients but wanted to follow my vet’s advice. He hasn’t had any other issues and we haven’t fed it to him since.

      Royal Canin is used by vets when medical issues are complex. I can’t comment on the ingredients because I’m not an expert, but you can read a general review of Royal Canin in

  2. Human grade is something I look for on packaging before I purchase it for my dogs to eat. I believe the quality is much better. It also needs to be cruelty free. A few years ago, my vet recommended I feed my chihuahua mix/tripod Hills Science Diet Hypoallogenic kibble because the kibble I was feeding her before (Purina) made her itchy and lose her hair after a year. She ate Hills for a few years and her hair grew back but I wasn’t satisfied with the food (I mean, does she have to eat this forever because of her allergies?!) and neither was my dog. I researched and researched and finally chose Open Farm. Their food is certified human grade, with locally grown ingredients, grain free (for dogs that have allergies), and cruelty free. I also found Stella & Chewy’s freeze dried patties that I add to the kibble. It has the same qualities as Open Farm and my dog loves it! Her coat and skin has never looked better.


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