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Happy dog eating human grade food

What does "human-grade" pet food really mean?

What does "human-grade" pet food really mean?

The term “human-grade” has become more popular in the pet food space in the past few years. Pet owners want to feed their pets similarly to how they eat on a day to day basis, so what better than a human-grade pet food….right? It should be noted here that not everything people eat is safe for pets to eat too. Similarly, a product formulated for a pet is likely not going to be nutritionally adequate for a person to consume. Therefore, the term human-grade does not automatically mean it’s nutritionally safe for pets to eat. 
Dog eating human grade food
To understand this term “human-grade”, we can look to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA for some clarification, but the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) have recently established some guidelines for pet foods based on FDA and USDA guidelines.
The USDA defines products fit for humans to be edible or not edible. To be edible, these foods have to be processed, inspected and pass manufacturing regulations that are designed to ensure safety for human consumption. For a product to be deemed edible for humans, all ingredients must be human edible and the product needs to be manufactured, packed and held in accordance with federal regulations. If these conditions are met for a pet food, then human-grade claims can be made. This means that all pet foods with a “human-grade” label should contain all ingredients that are safe for people to eat, the ingredients and the end product have been manufactured, packed, held and transported in accordance with the USDA and FDA regulations that apply to human foods. The AAFCO states that the use of the term “human-grade” can only reference the product as a whole, not individual ingredients.  
Human grade food for pets?
If a pet food is not human grade, does that make it bad for your pet? Absolutely not! There are regulations in place in the USA and Canada which deem ingredients used in animal food need to be safe, functional and suitable for the intended use in animal food. Just because a food is labeled as “human-grade” does not make it automatically better for your pet. There have been very few studies investigating the digestibility of human-grade pet foods. One study found that foods made with human-grade ingredients had similar overall macronutrient digestibility to a dry pet food which exceeded nutrient recommendations set by AAFCO. The same study investigated amino acid digestibility and compared these values to other studies investigating kibble amino acid digestibility and found the fresh diets had higher amino acid digestibilities compared to a kibble diet from a previous study, but the authors noted that these data can change with foods containing different ingredients that differ in quality and the processing method chosen.1 


Main Takeaways: 

  • “Human-grade” does not automatically make something safe for pets to eat 

  • If a product is labeled as “human-grade”, this means all the ingredients are safe for people to eat, and the product from start to finish has been manufactured, packaged and held in facilities adhering to FDA guidelines for human foods

  • Foods made with human-grade ingredients had similar overall digestibility to a dry pet food which exceeded AAFCO nutrient recommendations


  1.   Oba, P. M., Utterback, P. L., Parsons, C. M. & Swanson, K. S. True nutrient and amino acid digestibility of dog foods made with human-grade ingredients using the precision-fed cecectomized rooster assay. Transl. Anim. Sci. 4, 442–451 (2020).

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