AAFCO Guidelines For Human Grade Dog Food

Joanne Keenan
human grade dog food

Until the end of 2022, human grade dog food was one of those overused marketing terms used to imply better quality food … but whether it really meant better quality was questionable. 

Before that, "human grade" was not an official term recognized by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) or AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). 

Now AAFCO has published new guidelines for human grade dog food. The term is better defined, and for pet food to be called human grade, documentation must cover every ingredient used. 

The aspect that will be most apparent to pet owners is package labeling. All uses of the term “human grade” cannot be larger than the product’s intended use on the packaging … so you won’t see “human grade” in giant typeface larger than the name or type of food. And the new standards also note that human grade can only be used on packaging if all the ingredients within the product meet human grade pet food requirements.

But even with these added guidelines, AAFCO is clear that human grade pet foods are still for pets, and not for human consumption. 

What is Human Grade Dog Food? 

AAFCO is the body that oversees pet food regulations, labeling, claims and ingredient definitions. Up until last year, human-grade had “no definition in any animal feed regulations.” So manufacturers and their marketing teams took full advantage of that. 

Until now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) described human grade pet food ingredients fit for human consumption as “edible” … and followed the FDA’s regulations for safe manufacturing, packing and storage. 

But that didn’t stop pet food manufacturers from using waste products and dead, dying or diseased animals … while describing them as “from a USDA inspected facility.” In fact, most foods, whether edible or inedible, human grade or not, go through a USDA inspected facility. 

Demand For Human Grade Dog Food

Pet owners have become more concerned about the quality and safety of the food they feed their pets. Under AAFCO’s new guidelines, manufacturers need to document the origins of every ingredient throughout the supply chain to make the claim of human grade dog food.

2023 Guidelines For Human Grade Dog Food

Here are AAFCO’s 2023 guidelines to describe how pet foods should be manufactured to meet human grade regulations, which come under the FDA:

  1. Human grade refers to the entire product and every ingredient in it. 
  2. Human grade is a voluntary claim, but if it is used, all facilities involved with processing a human grade pet food product must be registered as both an FDA food facility and an FDA feed facility.
  3. Manufacturers must maintain written procedures to ensure proper handling of human grade pet food products throughout the distribution channel.
  4. To ensure the human grade label is not misleading, the company must make documentation available to verify:
    • All supplied ingredients are fit for human consumption
    • Every ingredient and all products are stored in compliance with the FDA’s controls for human food.
    • The manufacturing facility is licensed to produce human food by all required authorities.

Regarding labeling, the manufacturer must ensure:

  • Products are clearly labeled for use as animal food, specifically noting the animal and whether it’s a food or treat
  • Statements of quality or grade cannot appear on the ingredient statement
  • The most prominent use of the term must be juxtaposed with its statement of intended use
  • The product as a whole must meet the requirements of human grade pet food

Still, consumers will need to be on the lookout for manufacturers who use a term like “sourced from a USDA inspected facility,” which can be misleading.

Is Human Grade Dog Food Better?

Under AAFCO’s new guidelines, dog owners will be confident that the manufacturer of their dog’s food can trace the origin of their ingredients from the source through every step in the process until the product is packaged for sale. 

It’s a time-consuming, detailed process that involves better sourcing of ingredients … processes that better dog food companies already have in place. And it will prevent companies from marketing inferior quality products under a human grade label, if they can’t substantiate it.

Note that these human grade label guidelines don’t affect the nutrients of dog food ... only the origin of ingredients. It also means they're processed in facilities with human grade processes and certifications in place. 

What Dog Foods Are Human Grade?

The best way to ensure your dog’s food is human grade is to make it yourself. You can find your own human grade sources … like your butcher, local farmer’s market or supermarket. 

There are a few independently-owned brands that follow the rigid criteria to produce human grade food. Here are a few human grade dog food brands:

  • The Honest Kitchen
  • Caru
  • Open Farm
  • The Farmer’s Dog
  • Evermore Pet Food
  • Ollie
  • Spot Farms

Can Raw Be Human Grade Dog Food?

Raw doesn’t qualify under AAFCO’s human grade guidelines. That’s because AAFCO requires ingredients to be human-edible, and raw meat needs to be cooked before it’s human-edible. So cooked, fresh dog foods can be labeled human grade … but not raw dog food. 

Raw and raw freeze-dried dog foods are still better choices for ingredient quality and safety … you just won’t see them labeled human grade. But you can ask raw food manufacturers to provide the sources of their animal proteins. Many use suppliers from the human food chain.

Lastly, let’s look at the organizations overseeing dog food manufacturing.

Organizations Regulating Human-Grade Dog Food `

These are the organizations involved in maintaining pet food standards & regulations.  


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a federal agency that regulates pet food, which is considered animal feed. The FDA is also involved in regulating pet food labels including the ingredient list. 


USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspects meat, poultry and eggs in the human food chain. Human grade meat comes from the human food chain.  


The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an independent organization. It doesn’t regulate pet food or ingredients, but establishes guidelines that most US states follow. Committee members include major feed manufacturers and ingredient suppliers like Nestle Purina, Hills Pet Nutrition, Nutro Products and Cargill Animal Nutrition … that essentially establish their own guidelines. 

AAFCO’s new regulations may weed out some of the human grade marketing hype being used … unless manufacturers come up with more ways to muddy the waters for dog owners seeking better quality dog food. 

Older Posts

Find us in a store near you.

Shop your favorite Four Leaf Rover products online or find at your local retailer.
Find Us

Never miss out.

Join us for exclusive offers, new product releases & more!
Check out our Privacy Policy. Your email is safe with us and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Need help? Chat with us.

Need more information? Have a concern? No problem. We're here to help.
© 2024, Four Leaf Rover - The content on this website is not meant to replace veterinary advice. Please support the hard working holistic vets who make this information possible. To find a holistic or homeopathic vet near you or to find one who will do phone consultations, visit The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.