And “human grade” doesn’t necessarily mean better or safer

Dr. Heinze told INSIDER, “By law this [human grade] means that everything about the food – ingredients, production, storage, shipping – is exactly the same as it would be for human food and thus could be eaten by people.”

On paper, it sounds great. After all who wouldn’t want their pets to enjoy food that’s just as good as what they eat themselves?

The problem with this claim is that it’s pretty vague in terms of describing how it actually benefits the animal. It’s true that in order for a manufacturer to add the official “human grade” seal to their pet food, they usually have to add certain ingredients that require additional testing and quality control checks. But this does little other than drive up the cost of the product overall, regardless of whether those new, “human approved” ingredients are useful for the animal’s nutrition.

And marketing professionals know that consumers find the term “human grade” appealing because many pet owners view their animals as part of their family. This allows them to justify increasing the price tag on their food, thus making it appear more exclusive, or superior to other pet food options.

Still, Dr. Heinze points out that this shouldn’t be your priority when selecting pet food, since your pet doesn’t need to eat the same foods you do to be healthy. And being “human grade” alone doesn’t mean a food is nutritionally complete or appropriate for a pet on its own.

She told INSIDER, “In theory, you shouldn’t be able to sell ‘human grade’ food at a pet store – only at a grocery store. [The human grade label] is a very high bar and most [pet] foods don’t meet it, and that isn’t really a problem. Dogs and cats aren’t people.”

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