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What is human grade dog food, and is it worth the Premium price tag?

my happy dog pack

With the trend of dog owners spending more on dog food, and expecting more, you are going to hear a lot more about claims of ‘human grade dog food’ but what does it really mean?

Are you getting extra nutrition, or any extra benefit for the extra cash of ‘human grade’ products?

And the short answer seems to be NO.

This article won’t be popular with the premium brands charging premium prices for their new products they are trying to differentiate in a crowded market. But perhaps we need to look at what the main dog food organisation in Australia says about such claims.

Then we will look at what can really make a nutrition difference to your dog’s health, gram for dollar.

And a quick reminder –  when we at healthy dog treats actually find a genuine healthy trend in dog treats or dog food, we fully back the benefit.  We like to actually validate a claim based on SCIENCE, right down to the nutritional components, to let you know actually what you are buying, and why.

The Pet food Industry Association Australia (PFFIA)  article June 2022, on human grade dog food spells out what their concerns are:  “It is important that claims on all human food and drink packaging accurately reflect the nature of the product and do not mislead consumers as per the requirements outlined within the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). It is no different from the food we feed our pets.”  Ref 1

“Does ‘human grade’ pet food make it superior? Is the quality better? It’s impossible to see a difference. Pet owners are unable to prove the claim by just looking at the product in the pack, whether a complete pet food or a treat.” Ref 1

Clearly PFFIA are not a big fan of just plastering “human Grade” onto a packet and increasing the prices when the human owners and dogs might not see ANY positive value to their dogs. Warm and fuzzy feelings of the owners are not what they are trying to quantify. Their job is to clean up baseless or misleading marketing claims.

ACTUAL legal requirements to call ‘human grade’ to appear on pet food (PFFAA).

  • The claim includes all vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, plant, and animal-derived materials.
  • The claim cannot be used for individual ingredients – it must represent the whole product.
  • The label must still clearly identify the food as “PET FOOD ONLY”.
  • Raw materials must be sourced from human edible material, fit for consumption (under relevant State Laws) and produced in an accredited human-grade manufacturing facility. It must be safe for cats and dogs to consume.
  • A claim cannot infer that the product is inherently ‘safer’ by virtue of the sourcing or by being processed to human food manufacturing standards.
  • For manufacturers importing ingredients, they must meet stringent import requirements for pet food end-use. And import permit may be required.

These dot points might all seem like noble positive things. Even a positive direction for the dog food industry. But sadly, for very little gain, the major value added seems to be to company profits.

Let’s review how each of the above dot points can be interpreted.

All ingredients must be covered by the human grade claim. That means “vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, plant, and animal-derived materials.” Ref1.

All seemingly a good idea.

But of course, it depends on exactly How clean or healthy the human grade rules make the human grade food.  We have all seen ‘off food’ on supermarket shelves from time to time.

And I am still unsure what the difference between “pet meat’ on special shelves at the supermarket mean compared to human grade meat only a few metres away.

I personally ONLY buy my dog human grade MEAT food for that portion of his diet. I appreciate it’s a few dollars more, but I also know that when I buy whole meat steak or roasts, that I can assume that its about as healthy as meat is going to be for my dog from any local supply chain.

Human grade meat, included in kibble, often can’t be seen in whole form, let alone you still don’t know the actual PERCENTAGE of meat in dog food in Australia, because that is not a requirement.

I would still argue that reasonable quality meat at a high percentage in dog food, would beat a low percentage of ‘human grade’ meat ANY DAY.

The issue that many raw feeders have with commercial dog food is the vague definitions of ‘meat meal’, or meat by-products etc that seemingly can be from any animal, in any condition.  This alarmingly has been found to be animal products that have included disease, or excess levels of anti biotics etc. BUT that doesn’t mean EVERY label that includes these terms are doing anything wrong.

But unfortunately, human grade meat, doesn’t necessarily mean highest quality. It means that the supplier has gotten a licence, and during the time of inspection, has shown inspectors facilities or meat pieces that allow them to keep that licence.

PFFAA also say that “The (human grade) label must still clearly identify the food as “PET FOOD ONLY”.

This raises the question that if the ingredients and facilities are so high quality, why cant human grade dog food be eaten by humans?

Oh – I answer that question here too  what happens when humans eat dog treats?

After-all one of the major propositions that commercial dog food companies use to justify you paying high prices for preservative and additive laden cans and pellets of dog food, is that they are safer than raw meat products. Canned and pellet dog food is typically cooked under high pressure or temperature of both. So the meat shouldn’t cause an issue to humans.  Even if it de-natures the protein somewhat.

Dog food has very high level of minerals and vitamins added (much more than any natural combination of meat or vegetable can provide (a purposeful dictate by aafco), so this means that they have a higher level of minerals and vitamins that their humans require.

There should be virtually Nothing missing in dog food that could be used in a human diet.

The one point we regularly make is that dog food is only required to have 18% minimum protein from any source).

And since carnivore pet dogs should have a much higher amount of bio available protein, perhaps there isn’t an acceptable enough protein in commercial dog food for dogs OR humans ?

A NCBI Research paper says “Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for a healthy adult (HUMAN) with minimal physical activity is currently 0.8 g protein per kg body weight (BW) per day.”

Harvard business says “0.8g per Kg it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day.”

They then give an example for daily protein intake. For a human,  multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36, (0.79 got Kg). so For a 50-year-old woman who weighs 60 Kg sedentary (lifestyle) –  they require 60 x 0.79 lean protein = 75g protein.

Curiously, dog food aafco values are 18% protein of the total amount of food (dry) that a dog eats.

For that 50 year old human woman, if they were restricted to 18% protein, then their total food intake would be 18% = 75 grams.  Their total Food intake (if it was all 18% protein) would only be 416 grams of dry food per day. I wonder how many people would ONLY eat 400g of dry food (at 18% protein) over breakfast, lunch and dinner).  Fortunately, many plant sources have low protein so wouldn’t be included in that value.

PFFAA also say “Raw materials must be sourced from human edible material, fit for consumption

MAKES one wonder if that 50 year old woman could just eat 400g of human grade kibble and survive?  We would not condone that experiment, but it is still a strange dot point that is included on the dog association site.

What human grade dog food means for marketing

PFFAA say, “a claim cannot infer that the product is inherently ‘safer’ by virtue of the sourcing or by being processed to human food manufacturing standards.” Ref 1

Which is all well and good, so in my google search, one of the leading articles on human grade dog food comes up with a preamble that says “We’re here to prove that it’s not just marketing jargon.”

The dog food manufacturer says “Human-grade meat undergoes necessary testing to make sure that there are no pathogens present, like Salmonella or E. coli.  … not the case for pet-grade foods. …  pet food isn’t even legally regulated in Australia. ‘

Now to a casual observer, it might seem that kind of statement was meant to scare people into buying their human grade dog food.  It might also be seen to directly contravene the PFFIA guideless that  “A claim cannot infer that the product is inherently ‘safer’ by virtue of the sourcing or by being processed to human food manufacturing standards.””

EVEN FURTHER, the RSPCA adds some clarity to the statement that “pet food isn’t even legally regulated in Australia”

Pet food is essentially self-regulated with voluntary industry standards applied through the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). In Australia pet food is controlled by Australian Standard (AS 5812-2017) for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food. “ (rspca)

THE PFIAA essentially does what every other country outside of America does. We just follow the aafco dog food guidelines for Nutrient levels of dog food.

If you are wondering who does the regulation of dog food in Australia then you need to look at each states PRIVATE company that the government relies on.  IN Victoria for instance, that company is PRIME SAFE, but if you manufacture in NSW and sell to VIC then Primesafe won’t have anything to do with that.

What the MEAT licensing organisation means to dog food in Australia

angel licking Diego Vizsla “PrimeSafe is the Statutory Authority responsible for regulating meat, poultry, seafood and pet food in Victoria, Australia. PrimeSafe’s primary objective is the provision of safe, wholesome meat, poultry and seafood for all consumers.” (primesafe).

“Under the Meat Industry Act 1993, all meat processing facilities in Victoria require a licence issued by PrimeSafe in order to operate.”

Under the pet meat processing facility section, primesafe say “Inedible Rendering Facility = An inedible rendering facility is a facility that processes inedible meat and offal by way of rendering (heating/drying) into inedible products.“

And under the section “Pet Food Establishment = A pet food establishment is a facility that wholesales, packages and/or prepares pet food/meat for sale.“

Here is the loophole (told to us by primesafe representatives). You only need to be licenced by primesafe when the proportion of MEAT is above about 60%.  Since most commercial dog food is around 30-40% meat (dry food), most dog food manufactures in Australia making kibble, ONLY need to abide by the Australian standard – they are not regularly inspected or pathogen levels tested by state meat authorities.

However, 100% meat, single ingredient dog treats manufactures, in Victoria, would need to be licenced and audited by prime safe. That means that in Australia, most dog food isn’t as regulated or tested as Dog treat manufacturers (of single ingredient meat dog treats).

Unless of course the dog treat maker is just making grain-based treats, like many do. You know, the ones that make homemade biscuits and fancy doughnuts, with little or NO meat content, because they look good on Instagram and have a great markup.

We currently source treats (from several different licenced suppliers) to ensure a big range and the highest quality. Our storage of treats etc are at the highest level, often greater than the manufacturers we have seen. But as we are NOT a manufacturer, we just ensure those that we buy off are LICENCED.

Considering that dog food is eaten every day by dogs, and dog treats are often an occasional treat, and that 100% single ingredient meat treats are highly regulated via each state’s meat authority, that should make our treats essentially safer than the vast majority of dog foods sold – with or without the human grade tag.

Other interesting claims on dog food.

One dog food maker claims “The biggest difference between human-grade dog food and pet-grade is the protein sources …. . Human-grade dog food uses real, whole sources of protein, like beef and chicken ..  while many highly processed pet-grade foods use beef meal and chicken meal”

As I am sure that the company who made this statement knows, dog food ingredient list must accurately reflect the type of meat included. So that means that the label would say “beef meal” or beef by-product” if that is what is included. The buyer must be aware of the differences in these terms.

As you can see … the devil is in the detail. There is very little use in one short statement covering all situations regarding dog food ingredient lists.


No dog food company that wants to remain in business would be selling dangerous dog foods. They would still legally liable for any purposeful wrong-doing.

All dog food companies in Australia, are required to manufacture to Australian Standards of dog food.

Any dog food company not including approx. 60% meat in their product DO NOT have to be licenced to the primesafe equivalent in their state.

The question is, how does the Australian standard for pet food V primesafe standards, V human grade standards actually compare in real manufacturing facilities – and what you get as a FINISHED PRODUCT?

It is not as simple as ‘human grade’ companies creating better products. Composition of the dog food as much as minimums quality meat content are also vital.

Since 100% single ingredient dog treats use WHOLE pieces of meat you can actually see (not broken down into kibble and combined with vegetable matter). And since single ingredient dog treats need to be licensed by meat authorities in any state they manufacture in, there is a strong case for single ingredient meat dog treats being of as high, if not higher quality than companies standing being their “human grade” claims.

If a human grade ingredient dog food maker did actually have 60% quality meat in their product,  you would think they would use that as a branding brag?

If you are paying a premium price, or even just wanting to subsides commercial dog food (human grade or not) with whole grained dog treats, value you can see … you know where we are.

Don’t get me wrong, ALL dogs should be eating ‘human grade’ dog food. But we would always put high quality meat content in their diet above a licencing perk that may or may not mean high meat content.



Ref 1   Help! My pet food claims it’s ‘human grade’. What does this mean? Pet Food Industry Association Australia  June 17, 2022

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