What Does “Human Grade” Mean When It Comes to Dog Food?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
New dog food formulas seem to make it onto store shelves every week. Be a food-savvy pet parent and learn the lingo when it comes to human grade ingredients.

When it comes to commercial pet foods, there is an array of options to choose from. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not realize that some of the dog foods they see on pet store shelves are made with low-quality ingredients and may not be formulated to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. As well, marketing claims on the packaging of dog food offer a range of claims, and one of the more recent ones has to be formulas boasting “Human Grade” ingredients. But what does that mean? Can humans eat it? Let’s take a closer look at what this really means.

Definition of “Human Grade” in Dog Food

In order for an ingredient to be classified as “human grade,” it must meet certain criteria. For one thing, it must be deemed human edible by the FDA and it must adhere to approximately 100 different manufacturing and quality control regulations. Feed grade ingredients, on the other hand, are deemed as such by the FDA and they are only subject to about 15 manufacturing and quality control regulations. Plus, feed grade ingredients can include ingredients that are rejected as unsafe or unfit for human consumption.

Related: How Many Times A Day Should I Feed My Dog?

Choosing a High-Quality Dog Food

Now that you know a little bit more about the quality of ingredients that go into commercial pet foods you have a foundation to start from in choosing a high-quality diet for your dog. Though there are a number of important factors to consider when making your choice, the best place to start is with the ingredients list. Pet food labels list their ingredients in descending order by volume – this means that the items listed at the beginning of the list are present in the highest quantity. The quality of the ingredients at the top of the list will give you some important insight into the quality of the product as a whole.

Related: 7 Ways To Improve Your Pooch’s Dog Kibble

When reviewing the ingredients list for a commercial dog food, you want to see at least one high-quality animal protein at the very beginning. Don’t let certain words like “meal” throw you off, either – meat meals from named sources are actually a valuable ingredient. Fresh chicken, for example, contains up to 80% water. So, once the product is cooked into kibble, most of the water will be cooked off and the actual volume of the ingredient will be much less. Chicken meal, on the other hand, has already been dehydrated so it contains up to 300% more protein by volume than fresh chicken.

In addition to high-quality animal proteins, you also want to see some healthy fats and digestible carbohydrates. Animal fats like chicken fat and salmon oil are highly preferable to plant-based fats like canola oil and flaxseed, though these ingredients are perfectly acceptable as long as some animal fats are included as well. Digestible carbohydrates include complex carbs like brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potato. Avoid products made with corn, soy, or wheat ingredients as well as by-products, artificial flavors, dyes, and preservatives. If you follow these basic rules and do a little research to see whether the ingredients are human grade, you are sure to find a high-quality product for your dog.

Shopping for dog food can be a challenging and overwhelming experience simply because there are so many options out there. Take the time to examine ingredients lists and look for a product that is made with human grade ingredients rather than feed grade ingredients.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

More by Kate Barrington