The Difference Between Human Grade and Feed Grade
The difference between human grade pet food and feed grade pet food can be dramatic or no difference at all. Here is an understanding of the two, to know what you are feeding your pet.
All pet foods fall into two categories, human grade or feed grade. The legal definition of a human grade pet food is: “Every ingredient and the resulting product are stored, handled, processed, and transported in a manner that is consistent and compliant with regulations for good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for human edible foods as specified in 21 CFR 117.”
This means that every ingredient – including every supplement – are human edible…you could eat the pet food. All pet foods that do not meet the full definition of human grade are feed grade.
Pet foods that meet the full definition of human grade are easy to spot – they proudly state Human Grade on the label. But…there are some pet foods that are human grade but not allowed to state it. These are pet foods that are manufactured under constant USDA inspection. ‘Under constant USDA inspection’ is how human grade meat is produced. Pet foods or treats that are produced under constant USDA inspection are ONLY raw pet foods and meat treats. The USDA has jurisdiction over raw meat but not when it leaves their plant. Some raw pet foods and treats are manufactured in USDA inspected facilities, but they are not produced under USDA inspection. The only way a consumer can guarantee the meat is human grade is when the foods/treats are produced under inspection.
Ask your pet food manufacturer: Are pet foods produced under constant USDA inspection?
Please note you are asking about the pet food, not the manufacturing facility. Some pet foods will respond ‘Yes, our pet foods are manufactured in a USDA facility’ or ‘Yes, our pet foods are manufactured at a USDA inspected facility’. This is not what you asked. You want to know specifically if the pet food was manufactured under USDA inspection (your question is about the food, not the plant).
The legal definition of feed grade pet food is: “Material that has been determined to be safe, functional and suitable for its intended use in animal food, is handled and labeled appropriately, and conforms to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act unless otherwise expressly permitted by the appropriate state or federal agency.”
This definition means just about anything is allowed into feed grade pet food.
Feed grade pet foods could use 100% human grade ingredients or they could use 100% feed grade ingredients or they could use a combination of both. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell by looking at the label. Considering that each US State and the FDA allows pet foods to use illegal, risky ingredients (diseased and non-slaughtered animals) – every pet food consumer should ask their pet food these questions…
Are ingredients human edible?
Note: Human edible means human grade. Pet food ingredients are one of two things…edible or inedible.
If inedible – What inedible ingredients are used?
Note: Some ingredients classified as ‘inedible’ are perfectly safe for your pet. Example of this would be chicken frames. When chicken is processed for human consumption the meat is mechanically separated from the bone. Mechanical separation leaves quite a bit of meat on the bone frame. These poultry frames are sold to pet food. This is a quality inedible ingredient example. Some inedible ingredients are not quality. Example of this would be DOA (dead on arrival) animals or diseased animals rejected for use in human food. This is not a quality ingredient. Will a pet food manufacturer admit to using these types of material? It is doubtful. But you should ask regardless.
(Reminder: pet food ingredients whose legal definitions allow them to be sourced from diseased or non-slaughtered animals are poultry by-products, chicken by-products, turkey by-products, poultry by-product meal, chicken by-product meal, turkey by-product meal, meat meal, meat and bone meal, animal digest and animal fat.)
Most feed grade pet foods use feed grade supplements. Yes, there are human grade vitamins and minerals and there are feed grade vitamins and minerals. Feed grade supplements would be a lesser quality than human grade, they are not held to the same standards as human grade.
Ask your pet food manufacturer: Are supplements human grade or feed grade?
All kibble pet foods are feed grade – regardless if they use human grade ingredients or not. Kibble pet foods are manufactured in a pet food facility; to meet the human grade claim a pet food must be manufactured in a human food facility. This is fair of the regulation; pet food facilities are not held to the same quality standards a human food facility is held to. Any kibble pet food could become human grade, as the manufacturing process is similar to the making of human cereal (extruded product). But to date, no pet food kibble manufacturer has acquired that human grade status.
All canned pet foods – to my knowledge – are feed grade. Again, canned pet foods are manufactured in a pet food plant. And again, these plants could all become a human grade plant (if they went to the effort), but to date no one has.
Some moist pet foods – purchased in tubs – are human grade (manufactured in a human food plant), some are not (manufactured in a pet food plant).
Some raw pet foods (dehydrated, freeze dried or frozen) are human grade, some are not.
And to further explain all the above…
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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