Human-grade dog food: is it worth the investment?

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Louise Hawkins
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Dogs don’t need human food. The packet says it meets all nutritional requirements, so it should be fine, right?

Well, the bar for dog food standards in Australia is pretty low.

There’s no real regulation controlling the quality of ingredients going into your pup’s food. That means more risk of pathogens in meat and free reign to add all kinds of meat meal (like blood, hooves and even stomach contents).

If it’s not safe for humans to consume, why is it safe for our pups?

How does human-grade dog food compare to pet-grade?

For food to be formally considered “human-grade”, all ingredients must be fit for human consumption to be officially “edible”. This is strictly regulated in Australia and requires either a HACCP or ISO 9001 certification.

Pet-grade food in Australia, on the other hand, is largely unregulated. Any meat can be used in dog food (and we mean anything). It’s like a black box — you can’t tell what’s inside.

In 2019, the FDA withdrew its outdated policy guidelines that allowed meat from dead, diseased, dying, or down animals (4-D) to be used in pet food in America. Without strict regulation in Australia, pet food-grade pet food producers aren’t obligated to avoid using adulterated material, including 4-D meat.

Human-grade meat undergoes stringent processes and standards, like necessary testing to ensure no pathogens like Salmonella or E. coli are present.

This testing starts right from the slaughterhouse to guarantee meat processing hygiene.

The deeper meaning behind “human-grade”

The value of human-grade dog food goes beyond its technical definition.

It’s about what “human-grade” represents, and how it measures up against a sea of unregulated dog food brands with a monopoly on the industry.

It’s the ethical and sustainable sourcing of human-grade meat to avoid any risk of pathogen contamination.

It’s the gentle cooking method at low temperatures to retain maximum nutrients.

It’s the extra reassurance that your pup’s food is safe.

Evidence supports that animals digest human-grade wholefood diets more easily than kibble and that raw and cooked wholefood diets both have significantly higher digestibility for proteins than extruded diets.

Studies also show that human-grade diets can positively influence a dog’s microbiome and reduce fecal output.

Improved digestibility is not only easier on the animal’s digestive tract but also ensures the maximum transfer of nutrients from the food, like:

  • Vitamin A for growth and development

  • Vitamin C for antioxidants to fight oxidative damage and boost immunity

  • Vitamin E for cell function and metabolism

“Diet can dramatically alter the bacterial population of the intestinal microbiome, which influences the health and function of a wide range of body systems. Feeding fresh food to dogs can positively influence this bacterial population when compared to dogs fed a kibble diet.” - Louise Hawkins, Qualified Vet Nurse

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How to spot red flags in commercial pet food

The biggest difference between human-grade dog food and pet-grade is the protein sources.

Human-grade dog food uses real, whole sources of protein, like beef and chicken. When a brand labels its dog food as human-grade, they take on the responsibility to overcome the lack of regulation in Australia’s dog food industry. True human-grade dog food manufacturers use higher standards to measure their food quality than highly processed kibble-based foods.

Many highly processed pet-grade foods include beef meal and chicken meal — which are typically processed in non-human-grade rendering plants alongside fertilizers and other chemicals.

Try to avoid:

  • Meat meal, fish meal, chicken meal, and any non-whole protein

  • Meat by-products (or any unspecified protein). The word “meat” doesn’t mean much at all! It’s usually manufactured in rendering plants and this means it’s not human-grade

  • Other products may also have come from rendering plants, like corn gluten meal

The truth behind rendering

Rendering plants process inedible things like feathers and hair, and ingredients that are used in soap and fertilizers.

According to the National Renderers Association’s book, Essential Rendering, there is a lengthy list of products in the rendering process, including meat and bone meal, meat meal, poultry meal, hydrolyzed feather meal, blood meal, fish meal, animal digest, and animal fats.

“Meal” is the by-product of the rendering process. All moisture and fat are removed from the collection of dead animals and scraps, and the “meal” is what remains.

What to look for in human-grade dog food

Ingredients and process are two key signals of quality human-grade dog food.

Ingredients

Using AAFCO’s definition as a guide, look for ingredients you’d eat. The recipe makeup should be a combination of fresh, wholefood ingredients including human-grade, ethically and locally sourced meat, fruits and veggies — rather than meat meals or other nasties.

Look for brands that formulate their recipes alongside a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. This ensures the food is nutritionally complete with an intentional mix of protein, fats, macro and micronutrients.

Ingredient sourcing and recipe formulation should be easy to find on the brand’s website. If it’s not, it’s a red flag!

Process

Like ingredients, details on quality control should be readily available online.

Make sure food is prepared in a human-grade kitchen with production safety that matches the same standards of human food production.

Try to avoid any brands that outsource their manufacturing.

How Lyka compares

A rich diet should be full of vital nutrients intentionally combining nutritional ingredients, ethical sourcing of quality proteins and human-grade processing.

At Lyka, we:

  • Include 100% human-grade protein sourced as ethically and sustainably as possible.

  • Create our recipes in Aussie-based kitchens with controlled production processes.

  • Design vet-formulated meals in collaboration with our in-house Integrative Veterinarian, Dr. Matthew Muir, alongside board-certified veterinary nutritionists and Animal Nutrition Expert, James Prendergast.

  • Use a lightly cooked method that promotes easier digestion and nutrient absorption.

The dog food industry is broken, and we’re here to fix it. Starting with human-grade ingredients you can trust.

When we say we produce human-grade dog food, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. If we won’t eat it ourselves, we won’t serve it to your pup.

We do this for one simple reason — because your pup deserves the best, and only the best!

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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