Friday, March 13, 2009

Human Grade Dog Food: Buyer beware & scrutinize labels

It's a little confusing to grasp, but here's the gist of it: The term Human-Grade refers to the quality of a finished dog food product. The term applies to a product that is legally suitable and approved for consumption by a person ("edible").
In contrast, the term Feed-Grade applies to a product that is not suitable for consumption by people and is only legally approved to be fed to animals ("inedible").
The FDA and USDA are responsible for regulating human foods and determining 'edible' status. In order to be allowed to produce human foods, a manufacturing facility undergoes far more frequent and detailed inspections by these and other agencies, compared with the inspection that a pet food plant undergoes.
Other terms like "Human Quality" or "Table Grade" are not legal definitions for human food or pet food. A number of manufacturers use these terms to imply that their manufacturing and finished products are better than they really are.
Only a facility that actually produces human foods, undergoes the inspections and approval necessary to have genuine human grade status and therefore, a pet food must be made in such a plant in order to be called ‘human grade’. Human food plants to not make kibble, the dry nuggets of food fed to many pets in the US.
And the term "Made with Human-grade Ingredients" doesn't mean that a finished product is actually, legally, human grade either. An ingredient (let’s say, a carrot) may start off being human edible but once that carrot has been shipped to and processed in a pet food plant, the 'human-grade' term can no longer legally be used. By definition, it is now feed-grade.
Beware also of pet food manufacturers that bandy about the ‘human grade’ term liberally on their web sites and other marketing materials - but don’t actually state it on the bag. This is a good indicator that the authorities have already picked them up for breaking the rules – or that they’re being a little liberal with the truth. Short-staffed and under-funded inspectors generally only have time to check labels and don’t usually get to the online and printed marketing pitch.
So what’s a pet mom to do? Home cooking is one option, though this can be time-consuming, and achieving nutritional balance is tricky. Raw diets are also a nutritious, healthy way to incorporate real human food into Fido’s menu.
When shopping the pet food aisle, look for a brand that is marked as being produced in a human food factory under FDA or USDA inspection. If in doubt, call your pet food manufacturer and ask them where their food is made.
Various ingredients used in many pet foods are not fit for human consumption at all, and may include by-products, chemicals, fillers and parts from '4D' meats (animals which are dying, diseased, disabled or deceased). These ingredients never have 'edible' status and the finished products certainly don't.Other ingredients may be derived from origins that are human grade, but are not actually edible themselves. Examples would be feathers, feet and beaks from a chicken. The meat would be directed to the human food chain and these components, from that same chicken, make their way to pet food plants as approved and acceptable sources of protein for cats and dogs.

Contributed by Lucie Postins of The Honest Kitchen

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