Monday, July 25, 2011

Decoding the Terms “Human Grade” & “Table Grade” in Pet Food

Recently a federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit against Natura Pet Foods, the makers of Innova, Evo, California Natural, HealthWise, Mother Nature, and Karma brands of pet food. The suit alleges “that Natura violated California’s Business and Professions Code when advertising their dog and cat food products and allegedly made false and misleading statements about the human grade quality of its food in its advertisements, promotional materials and labeling.”¹ There is a great deal of misinformation out there so the Natura lawsuit provides a good opportunity to explain some terms and regulations used in human and pet food manufacturing. Many of these terms are used in pet food marketing to create perceptions about the quality of the food that may not be accurate.   

Human Edible Processing Plants

“Human grade” is not an official term defined by human or pet food

regulators. However the term “human edible” is used in the food manufacturing. In its February 2011 article, the Pet Connection explained how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determines if something is considered edible for humans or not:

“Edible” means that a food has been handled continuously under process controls established by law or rule, including documentation that the product has not been exposed to anything that would make it unfit for human consumption. Foods considered edible for people must also be manufactured in compliance with certain Food and Drug Administration regulations and state and local requirements for manufacturing facilities that produce food for people.²

The key point to note here is that in order to be approved for human consumption, the food must be made in facilities that are regulated and approved for that purpose. Even though the meats, poultry, fruits, and vegetables used in Nature’s Logic foods come from human edible processing plants, we cannot say our dog and cat food is good for human consumption because it has been made in a pet food manufacturing plant. Unless the food is made in a human food manufacturing facility, no pet food manufacturer can legally make that claim. This might be where Natura got into trouble.

Human Edible Ingredients

The term “table grade” is also not an official term defined by human or pet food regulators. While quality pet food ingredients do often come from USDA-inspected, human edible processing plants, they are different than the food products sold for human consumption. For example, the chicken used to make the meal for our kibble comes from the same high-quality, human-processed chicken sold for people to eat, however we use the surplus wings, backs, quarters and rib cages not sold to supermarkets during a daily production cycle at the chicken processing plant. Much of the same quality material goes to human deboning plants to produce human-edible meat for soups, deli-meat, hot dogs and sausages.  Similarly, Nature’s Logic doesn’t order 2,000 pounds of whole, dressed chickens to make our raw frozen pet food. Instead, we make it with the extra meat, poultry, and unused giblets that results from the process of creating human food orders for grocers. It has the same nutritional value as what goes to grocery stores but is much less expensive, since it is unsold product from the daily production cycle.

Good Use of Resources 

 At Nature’s Logic we believe these ingredients are a good use of quality ingredients that aren’t sold and a responsible use of the earth’s resources. What would we be doing with all this quality, surplus food if we didn't use it to make nutritious, biologically-appropriate diets for our dogs and cats? For more about our company, philosophy, and our pet foods, visit

Have you been confused by "human grade" and "table grade" used in pet food marketing? Do you have other questions?  

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