• Pawspiracy Team

Icky or Iffy, Pet Grade vs. Human Grade

Is there a difference between the two? At Pawspiracy, we use the terms human grade and pet grade as a measure of a product's quality with the focus on the source of ingredients and the factory's production standards. 

What are pet grade ingredients?

Sometimes known as feed grade, these ingredients are essentially the leftovers from our human food industry. The truth is that cuts of meat and fish that are fit for human consumption are simply too valuable to be "wasted" on pets. The pet food industry has to make the most out of animal parts like heads, feet and various organs.


However, not all pet grade ingredients are bad. Brains, eyeballs, pancreas and livers can be good sources of protein and nutrition for your companion. 

The difference lies in quality disparity. It's not as simple as a piece of steak that fell onto the ground in a human-grade factory where it can no longer be considered human grade now becomes pet-grade meat. 

Photo taken at a rendering plant.

Feed grade ingredients can come from dead, dying, diseased, disabled, even drugged animals. These animals do not have to be purposely slaughtered to obtain their meats. They can come from roadkill, euthanized pets, shelter animals, zoo animals, food waste, or any other meat condemned as unsuitable for human consumption. 

Anyone of these could be the source of protein for your companion who eats a pet-grade product. Are you wondering what’s in your bag of pet food yet?

It is a common practice that “food waste” that is unsuitable for human consumption goes to the pet industry to be repurposed as pet food.


In Newfoundland Canada, millions of farmed salmon unexpectedly died in early September 2019 with no definitive cause. The millions of dead and decaying salmon in the pens are currently, at the time of writing, being removed and transported away from the farm. The decomposing salmon were unsurprisingly declared unfit for human consumption and sent to another company to be processed largely into cat food and other animal feed.

News like these are not uncommon and the use of decaying meat in pet food is not an isolated incident. Here is another case that might come as a shock.

In 2017, millions of canned food were recalled across USA when they were found to be contaminated with a drug phenobarbital. There were speculations if the source of the drug came from euthanized horses or euthanized shelter animals as phenobarbital is a common drug used to euthanize animals. Till today, the investigation into the potential source of the contamination is not definitive. 

Let's now take a look at rendering facilities.

These facilities where pet foods are being manufactured can also greatly affect the end-quality of the product. Even the use of quality human grade ingredients without adequate food safety practices, will not properly capture their nutritional value. 

Good manufacturing practices like facility inspections, clean facilities, and refrigeration does not apply to pet grade ingredients as they are not considered food.

Think about a fine steak from pasture-raised grass-fed cows being processed in a dirty, rat infested factory with improper food handling. The once pristine piece of steak left at warm temperatures for hours on end would have an overgrowth of bacteria and nutrient degradation.

There is also little importance placed on food storage practices. Instead of the use of natural preservatives, feed grade ingredients use chemicals with known risks, such as ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT. In fact, pesticides, industrial chemicals, natural intoxicants (e.g. mold), and animal waste are deemed safe for our pets. 

Don't believe me? Read a first hand account of Jerry's visit to a pet food plant. Be warned of his graphic description of unsanitary conditions and how the plant is a dumping site for dead animals. Link: http://www.poisonedpets.com/a-rare-look-inside-a-rendering-plant/

It is no wonder why even the SPCA in NZ advocates for buying of human-grade products.

Let's conclude.

It is important to know the quality of the meat in your companion's food as it may determine the length of your companion's life. Are they eating human grade food, or are they at risk of eating contaminated food with rotten meat, rancid fats, toxic preservatives and the euthanasia drug?

One of the precautionary measures owners can take is to read the ingredient list. Use precaution and avoid generically named meat sources that may include undesirable meat ingredients. E.g. poultry meal can contain seagulls, pigeon, pelicans, maybe flamingos and pet parrots? 

Packaging for a human-grade product and a pet-grade product could look deceptively similar. Pet food manufacturers and brands are not legally obligated to tell you if the ingredients used and practices employed are human compliant or pet grade. It is up to individual owners to ask and get the answers.

Check out the manufacturers, where they get their ingredients, how the food is manufactured, have there been any recalls, even test their customer transparency by giving them a call. If they give you the  “proprietary information” response or avoid your question entirely , it certainly says a lot about their customer service and/or concern for your companion’s well-being.

The effort to find quality food for your companion is invaluable. Don’t settle for the unknown risks in your companion’s food.

Next week, the importance of digestibility and how to measure it at home.

We update our blog every Monday and Thursday. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you won’t miss out any updates.

Until next time, keep your tails wagging.

Pawspiracy Team

*Curious to know more about the ancestry of our companions? Drop us an email and we will send you the links!


More pet food companies are falsely making the human grade claim as they realize owners are becoming more knowledgeable. Be sure to ask the right questions and watch out for the use of ingredients such as bone meal and meat meals as they could be made from offensive meat sources too!

*Curious to read the articles mentioned? Drop me an email and I will send you the links! 😊


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