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New AAFCO standards for human grade pet food

New AAFCO standards for human grade pet food

Dogs eat much of the same food that humans do. If you check the ingredient list of any quality dog food, you’ll notice that much of what’s listed is similar to what you would eat in your daily life. Chicken, beef, carrots, rice, whatever the ingredient, it is assigned a grade. This could either be food grade or feed grade. Food grade refers to food products that are certified “safe for consumption by humans”, while feed grade is not deemed safe for consumption by humans but can be fed to livestock or companion animals like cats and dogs.

Food grade or “human grade” pet food has been increasing in popularity over the past several years. There has been a major shift in the way humans view their pets and as a result are paying closer attention to what they’re feeding their beloved animals. Many dog owners have been switching over to products marketed with human grade ingredients, as they want their pup to eat a high standard of food, similar to what they would be consuming.

Until recently however, there were no standards or guidelines for the use of human grade food used in the pet food industry. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the American body which sets guidelines for pet food in the United States, had no standards or guidelines surrounding what products petfood producers were able to label as fully human grade. As a result, there was a lack of clarity among consumers on exactly what percentage of their dog’s food was actually human grade.

Fortunately, AAFCO has recently updated their guidelines to include standards for human grade food. Here’s what they have to say:

What is AAFCO?

In Canada there is no governing body that sets requirements for pet food sold and distributed in the great white north. Fortunately, most commercial pet food companies choose to follow American guidelines set by the US association called AAFCO. The Association of American of Feed Control Officials (or AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies that establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods. It is important to note that while AAFCO sets the standard for the nutritional needs of pets, it is the pet food manufacturer's responsibility to correctly formulate and label their food and AAFCO does not create laws or regulate compliance. 

AAFCO pet food regulations were first established in 1917 and were based on the best available research for pet health and nutrition at the time. These original standards have been adjusted and updated over time, based on new research. In 2007, a subcommittee called the Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee was established to modernize guidelines for canine and feline diets. These standards govern minimum nutritional requirements for companion animals.

What does AAFCO say about human grade pet food

In order for a pet food manufacturer to make a “human grade” product claim or label it anywhere on their packaging, AAFCO’s standards must be met under the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Process Verified Program (PVP).

Human-grade food undergoes much stricter testing than feed grade products do. If pet food producers want to use “human grade” in their marketing, they are now required to comply with regulations for ready-to-eat human food products. This included a strict food safety program, rigorous record keeping (including where ingredients are sourced, transported and processed), and regular auditing from a government body such as the FDA (or CFIA in Canada).

It’s important to note that the human grade standard does not just apply to individual ingredients themselves but also how they are transported, packaged, and handled. All of these components must comply with 21 CFR part 117 and other human food laws. 

Food scientist looking at a test tube in front of a microscope

Once the product is ready for sale, whether it is kibble, fresh, canned or raw, must be clearly labeled as human grade on the front of the packaging. Furthermore, statements used in marketing or labeling regarding quality or grade are no longer allowed. Perhaps the most important change is that AAFCO also specifies that the claim “human grade ingredients” may only be used on packaging if the entire product (including every single ingredient) meets human grade standards.

What does this mean for Canadian pet owners?

Unfortunately in Canada this change does not mean a lot. AAFCO is not a regulatory body, nor are there any pet food regulations here in Canada. Most Canadian pet food manufacturers follow AAFCO guidelines, however some may still be dishonest in the marketing or manufacturing of their food. A suggestion for pet owners who want to learn more about where their dog’s food comes from and its grade is to either scan through the company’s website or call their customer service line.

Do dogs need to eat human grade food?

The short answer is no. Dogs have been eating feed grade food for a long time and from the right source, it can be as good quality and nutritionally viable as any human grade food. In saying this, there are a lot of issues with recalls and tainted ingredients in the pet food industry. With the extra safety measures and documentation for human grade food, there is an extra layer of reassurance that your pet’s food is going to be safe.

Is Kabo human grade?

Yes! All of the ingredients in our fresh cooked recipes are 100% human grade and are manufactured in a CFIA inspected facility.

bowl of Kabo human grade fresh food beef recipe

Bowls of different types of dog food (kibble, fresh and raw)
Bowls of different types of dog food (kibble, fresh and raw)

View Sources

AAFCO (2022) “Guidelines for “Human Grade” Pet and Specialty Pet Foods” 

Pet Food Processing (2022) “AAFCO releases new standards for human-grade pet food production”

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February 20, 2024
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