If your dog is a member of your family, keep reading. We all know that kind old lady who boils up some chicken and rice for her precious puppy. Maybe we roll our eyes a little and insist that our pet-store dog food is actually better for them (in many cases, we’d be right). However, when we talk about human grade dog food, that’s not exactly what we mean.
There is human grade dog food, and feed grade dog food. There is also a huge debate among pet owners on which is healthier and better to feed your dog. The fact is, there are several differences between the two types, and endless choices in each category. It is enough to drive animal parents a little wild. We definitely want what’s best for our pets, so the best way to decide is by learning the facts.
So, what is the difference between human and feed grade dog food?
Understand the Definition
As previously noted, “human” grade dog food doesn’t mean feeding your pet dinner from your plate. Let’s get official for a second, shall we? According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), in order to classify a dog food as “human-grade”, all of the its ingredients must be safe for human consumption. It is still a very loose explanation due to there being no true legal definition.
A feed grade classified dog food means it is made of ingredients and materials that have been determined to be suitable for consumption by animals. Obviously there are looser regulations in this category, but that doesn’t mean that all feed grade dog foods are bad for your pet.
To really determine which option is best for your dog, it’s best to learn and understand the differences.
Understand the Difference
To fully see the difference between human and feed grade dog food, it’s best to do a side-by-side comparison. Here we look at Royal Canin, a highly used and trusted feed grade dog food versus Sundays, a human grade choice.
The first difference to be noted is the origin of each company; Royal Canin is owned by a large conglomerate, Mars Inc. while Sundays is family owned. That may or may not make a difference in how you feel about purchasing one of these brands in general. But let’s get back to what’s inside.
The preparation and treatment of the ingredients gets a special notice in human versus feed grade dog food. Companies like Sundays air dry their ingredients to turn it into kibble, while Royal Canin uses a hot extruding method with extreme heat and pressure. The argument here is that the goodness is “cooked” out of the feed grade food in favor of producing greater quantities at a quicker pace. That could leave you with the conclusion that human grade food is just healthier to begin with.
The ingredients in Sundays, the human grade company, are all natural. Royal Canin consists of 30 synthetic ingredients. Synthetic can be a scary word, but not all synthetic ingredients are harmful. Many would argue however, that natural sourced ingredients are always best (whether for your pet or you!).
Human grade dog food contains no “sketchy” ingredients. While that definition may be up to interpretation, it likely means that there no ingredients that have been recalled, or known to cause health issues in animals after long-term consumption. Royal Canin contains a shocking five “sketchy” ingredients like: chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, natural flavors, and dried plain beet pulp. (Yuck, right?)
If you read on and compare the two lists of other ingredients, Sundays’ human grade dog food consists of about 34 ingredients, and all the names are recognizable. The first one listed is USDA beef. Royal Canin has a few good ones too, but the rest of the list is difficult to read without a dictionary.
All dog food is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but human grade foods are often held to stricter guidelines from veterinarians and animal health experts and advocates. In addition to regulations by the FDA, companies like Sundays are vetted by organizations such as the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and the AAFCO.
In addition to those regulations, Sundays employs a veterinary nutritionist and a nutritionist PhD; if requested the company will even provide their names. They review every recipe that is created. The manufacturing location in the Midwest is a human grade food facility regulated by the USDA.
We all want what’s best for our furry family member, and it can be stressful trying to make the right choice. Talk to your veterinarian about human versus feed grade diet to determine what is best for your pet.