There have been “human-grade” claims on some pet foods for a few years. This term has no definition in any animal feed regulations. Extremely few pet food products could be considered officially human edible or human-grade. A pet food that actually met these standards would be expensive. While pet owners can buy what they feel is best for their pet, they should understand the definitions and the odds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines products fit for human consumption to be officially “edible.” These foodstuffs have been processed, inspected and passed manufacturing regulations (i.e. process control regulations) that are designed to assure safety for consumption by humans.

Edible is a standard; human-grade is not. For a product to be deemed edible for humans, all ingredients 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 are met for a pet food, human-grade claims may be made. If these conditions are not met, then it is an unqualified claim and misbrands the product.

Misbranding a feed is a prohibited act subject to enforcement action on the responsible party. The presence of human-grade on a label implies a product or ingredients may meet the legally-recognized edible standard.

A product formulated for a pet is unlikely to be nutritionally adequate for a human and vice versa. Because pets become like family members in many homes, it should be underscored that not everything that a human can eat is safe for a pet. Such ingredients as chocolate, macadamia nuts and onions, to name a few, are edible and good for humans but can be toxic to cats or dogs. Human-grade does not automatically equal nutritional safety for pets.

A product might claim to be human-grade because its ingredients “came from a USDA meat-packing plant.” But materials leaving a USDA meatpacking plant may be either edible or inedible. The piece of meat that is rejected because it does not meet edible standards and some slaughter byproducts are not human edible, nor can they be implied to be unofficially human-grade.

Whether a product is or is not advertised as human-grade has no impact on product safety. All pet food products must meet feed requirements, including being unadulterated.