Since pet industry professionals have all but exhausted the natural vs. organic vs. conventional discussion, it is time to mercilessly deconstruct another buzzword in the growing pet food segment: Human grade. What does it really mean for a pet food to be human grade? Is it really okay for humans to eat pet food!? These questions apparently were too tempting for one news reporter to ignore. BloombergBusinessweek contributor, Teddy Wayne decided to investigate gourmet pet foods with human grade label claims by tasting them, of course. I heard about this story via PetfoodIndustry.com, which always provides great (pet) food for thought.
Let's get one thing clear. Like many terms used on pet food packaging, "human grade" has no real legal definition in the pet food industry. Comforting, isn't it? Not so much. Unfortunately, this lack of label oversight once again creates a lot of room for companies to make less than true claims about their ingredients and production processes. What do you think of when you read the term human grade? To me it is simple. It means using food that you could and would be able to find in the common pantry. Things like flour, real meat, honey, peas, carrots, etc. Whole ingredients with real nutritional benefits - that is human grade. No elusive "natural flavoring" or animal by-products. It also means using production methods and adhering to cleanliness standards that would be acceptable for making food for human consumption.
In the world of pet food labeling, companies use the claim "human grade" to inform the consumer about the safety of the product in question. After all, if it is good enough for humans, how can it be harmful for pets? That is the idea behind the marketing, anyway. But just because some healthy pet foods are made with human grade ingredients does not mean that humans should be eating them! Teddy Wayne seemed to miss the mark on that concept, unless his entire article was meant to be facetious. It's difficult to say. Pairing gourmet pet foods with fine wines was a great use of hyperbole, but serves no real purpose in the context of assessing the value of different gourmet pet foods.
Who knows what Teddy Wayne's intentions were with his article in BloombergBusinessweek. Whether his article is sincere or not doesn't matter so much in the grand scheme of things. What does matter for you, the pet owner, is the fact that looking more closely at human grade label claims is becoming increasingly important. We encourage you to do your research, contact the company, ask questions and demand answers.
At The Organic Hound Co., we are proud to offer USDA certified organic dog treats. By making the effort to have our treats recognized by the USDA as certified organic, we don't have to spend any time defending our label claims. In fact, I would consider our organic certification the best marketing investment we have made so far!