Of course, you love your dog and want to provide him with the very best care possible – and that includes selecting a nutritious food that contains everything he needs.
However, understanding precisely what healthy dog food is (and isn’t) can be like trying to navigate a minefield. Although you can pore over dog food labels and read all the reviews, trying to assess the amount of nutrition your dog is actually getting can be extremely difficult – and it’s compounded by the fact that there have always been “fads” and trends in pet food.
When it comes to healthy dog food from Pure, all you need to remember is that the most straightforward answer is the one that makes the most sense: the best food for your dog is one that contains nutritious, human-grade whole foods.
But what does it mean if a dog food says “human-grade” on the label? Does it mean what it says? And what does the science say?
Let’s dive right in and take a closer look at “human-grade” dog food and what it means for your pup.
Kibble: More Marketing than Science
To understand what a dog should eat for optimal health, we have to go right back to the beginning.
Dogs were first domesticated around 32,000 years ago. However, it was only in recent years that commercial dog kibble became available. Now, commercial dog food – thought to be a clever way to profit from food waste – is a multi-billion dollar industry. For thousands of years before commercial kibble, dogs ate “human food” – our kitchen scraps.
For decades, many pet owners were still under the impression that table scraps were dangerous or unhealthy and that commercial dog kibble is healthier than real, human-grade food. Historically though, turning the population against “human food” for dogs was more marketing than science.
Recently, there’s been a change of thinking. When “Big Kibble” was thrown into the spotlight, and many brands of commercial pet foods were recalled because they contained melamine, cyanuric acid, and other deadly chemicals, people began to wonder if commercial dog kibble was all it had been cracked up to be.
Rethinking Dog Food
In the past decade, there has been a return to homemade dog food, and boutique brands emphasizing fresh, organic ingredients have also grown in popularity. Trendy buzzwords like “grain-free,” “holistic,” and “protein-forward” are also popular. But, while these words do sound wholesome, are these foods really healthier for dogs?
The short answer is: it depends. However, “human-grade,” nutritionally-balanced dog food is backed by science.
What is Human-Grade Dog Food?
“Human-grade” on dog food labels simply means the brand uses manufacturing processes and ingredients that are safe for human consumption. On the other hand, “feed-grade” foods include ingredients that are not considered safe for human consumption (like animal byproducts), and they are not as strict when it comes to processing and handling these ingredients.
While “feed-grade” ingredients are not deemed safe for human consumption, they are regularly used in pet food. Although they are not inherently less safe for your dog in terms of quality, they are not as tightly regulated.
For a dog food to have “human-grade” on the label, all ingredients must pass the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ rigorous standards and be “human-edible.”
“Feed-grade” pet foods are allowed to contain vegetables that have been overexposed to pesticides, ill animals that have been given various drugs, and expired or contaminated meat from unidentified animal sources.
Human-Grade Dog Food is Better for Your Dog
Research on dogs fed a fresh, “human-grade” diet found that a diet of fresh meat and vegetables is much easier for our canine companions to digest. The quantifier in the experiment? The dogs pooped less.
The study found that the twelve beagles that were fed commercial kibble for four weeks had to eat more to maintain their body weight. These beagles pooped 1.5 to 1.7 times more than dogs fed a diet of fresh meat and vegetables – meaning that the fresh food was much easier to process and digest.
What’s more, the beagles fed a fresh food diet also experienced an influx of beneficial gut microbes that the commercial kibble couldn’t provide. These findings align with previous studies that indicate raw or cooked fresh meat can alter a dog’s microbiome for the better.
Digestion aside, fresh, human-grade dog food also makes it easier to see exactly what you’re feeding your dog, and it can alleviate food-related health issues like allergies.
Why isn’t all Dog Food Human-Grade?
Generally, the answer comes down to companies cutting costs and corners for profit. But there’s a paradox.
Although human-grade dog food costs more to produce, it balances the costs with its nutrition value. High-quality, minimally processed, human-grade dog food contains more protein from meat than commercial kibble.
With feed-grade dog food, companies cut their operational costs by bulking the food up with cheap byproducts and filler. Byproducts are non-muscle meat castoffs that increase the protein value in the food while keeping production costs low.
Byproducts include brains, blood, undeveloped eggs, spleens, fatty tissues, and organs. However, byproducts can also include unidentified, diseased animals, roadkill, and expired meat.
The fillers in dog food also help companies keep the costs low. Common fillers include carbohydrates like wheat, soybean hulls, corn, beet pulp, and rice bran. Usually, these ingredients are the byproducts from processing factories that are considered unfit for humans. While fillers do help “bulk” the food up so your dog feels fuller, they contain very little nutrition.
Should I Prepare Food for My Dog at Home?
If you want to know exactly what goes into your dog’s food, you might consider preparing it at home. However, making sure that your homemade dog food meets all your dog’s nutritional requirements can be difficult.
The best alternative is finding a reputable human-grade dog food brand with a good reputation – that way, you’ll know your dog is getting all the nutrition he needs and none of the filler and byproducts.