Pet owners only want the best nutrition for their pets. With that, they are increasingly keen on studying labels and descriptions of pet food. Some may maintain reservations and believe that all these sophisticated wordings are merely part of a marketing stunt.
Lately, many pet food brands are coming out with innovations that claim to have been responsibly sourced and processed, void of any extenders that diminish nutritional content, and, overall, just make pets healthier than mass-produced brands. Some even went beyond as to claim that their products are human-grade. While it is easy to slap on such huge claims on food packaging, transitioning to a fully human-grade production takes a high level of responsibility.
Here’s what they do behind the scenes to make pet food with the highest quality standards that they’re at par with human food:
The Turning Point
For so long, regulating bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) only require non-harmful ingredients in pet food. That said, it has become commonplace for manufacturers to use extending ingredients like soy and corn that do not necessarily meet the nutritional needs of pets. To further enjoy the benefits of economies of scale, some went as far as blending in ground-up poultry beaks and feathers and just about every discarded product imaginable of meat manufacturers.
More transparent pet food brands grew more concerned about these deceptive practices and sought ways to elevate the standards in an attempt to inspire the rest of the industry. And so, rather than sticking to the vague FDA and AAFCO requirements, they prototyped their products according to human food ingredient standards. Moreover, they started following USDA guidelines for meat product inclusions.
What else makes pet food human-grade?
What sets human-grade pet food apart is its higher nutritional content. That is partly because human-grade pet food manufacturers make sure to source only organic raw goods. In meat ingredients, only whole protein sources instead of chemical-infused chicken or beef meal are used. Moreover, as AAFCO now defines it, human-grade pet food meets the storage, handling, processing, and transportation standards applied for human-edible foods.
That said, it calls manufacturers to shift to meat processors and other equipment typically used for human food production. Factories undergo regular testing for the presence of pathogens commonly found in raw food like e. Coli and salmonella.
How do you know if pet food is truly human-grade?
Again, it is so easy to add the word human-grade onto a food’s packaging layout. Still, it is not necessarily true to the core. This reality stands even if misbranding is heavily punishable. You can ascertain this by reading the ingredient list of a food product.
Ingredients of a no-go brand usually include meat by-products and the word “protein,” which is just vague. The protein that lacks elaboration could be plant-based, which might not be the best for your carnivorous pet. It could also pertain to the discarded animal parts from slaughterhouses or meat processing plants like feathers and beaks, otherwise called “meal.”
Instead, look for ingredients like whole protein or foods. A brand listing meat products like beef, chicken, turkey, pork, egg, and fish and organic whole foods like carrot, broccoli, flaxseed, rosemary, flaxseed is another good indicator of a human-grade manufacturer.
Still, you can perform additional research online. Aside from customer reviews, what gives a brand more credibility is expert statements. A veterinarian recommending a specific product for a pet, better for a pet with a specific health issue, is a good measure.
What Human-grade Pet Food Is Not
To further explain, just because a product is labeled human-grade does not necessarily mean it meets the nutritional needs of humans or is safe for them. The same is the case with human food that is fed to pets. Let’s take, for example, the common prohibited food for cats and dogs, which are chocolate and some types of nuts.
Being human-grade is not an end-all when it comes to nutrition and food safety. Other brands may not have hopped on the human-grade wagon, but that does not automatically mean their manufacturing processes are inferior. There is a science to back up every food product released on the market, and human-grade is just one of those.
An important takeaway from this topic is that labels should not easily sway pet owners. Every ingredient must be probed for its efficacy on a pet’s health. Moreover, whether a type of food is healthy or not will manifest on your pet. It takes trial and error to find not only what suits your pet’s taste but also what gives them the most energy and a well-functioning body.