Pet Grade or Human Grade?

Avatar BCR | September 3, 2008 13 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Pet Grade or Human Grade?

Unfortunately it’s a gray area – Human Grade or Pet Grade ingredients in pet foods.

Last week I shared with you some very important news regarding one pet food manufacturer (Honest Kitchen) and their six month struggle and law suit to make the claim of human grade ingredients on their pet food labeling. This week I need to issue a warning to you about that very same subject.

Months ago when I officially began reviewing pet foods for Petsumer Report – the companies that I contacted shared with me without hesitation if their foods used human grade or pet grade ingredients. Now I am beginning to see a shift in that. These days most are telling me they use human grade/quality ingredients even though their pet food ingredient listings say otherwise.

To me, the topic of human grade meat should not be a gray area. A piece of chicken or beef is either suitable for me to consume or it’s not. Totally black and white issue. That is not the case with pet food. Today alone I spoke with two different manufacturers for upcoming Petsumer reviews and both assured me that they use USDA Grade A – human grade/quality ingredients. However both of these pet food manufacturers have by-products in the majority of their foods which is a contradiction to my understanding of human grade/quality. By-products – by AAFCO definition are not considered human food (chicken by-product official definition is below). In fact to go a little deeper into the AAFCO definition, some of the animal product ingredients (by-products being one of them) are not allowed into ruminant (cattle, sheep, ect) feed. By-products (one example) are legally allowed in pet food but they are not allowed in ruminant feed. An explanation for this is not provided in the AAFCO manual – my only guess would be to protect the human food chain from any illness or disease that might occur from ruminants consuming these ingredients in their feed and their future use in human food.

To further explain and to provide you with absolute facts – I need to get a little technical here – please bare with me and read this, you will understand more as we go along…In the AAFCO rules and regulations publication – this is a direct quote from the Feed Ingredient Definitions section under Animal Products…

“*Use of this ingredient, from mammalian origins, is restricted to non-ruminant feeds unless specifically exempted by 21 CFR 589.2000. Feeds containing prohibited material must bear the following label statement:

“Do not feed to cattle or other ruminants”.”

Here is a complete list of the asterisk marked meat ingredients that must meet the above AAFCO requirements (that are used in pet food):

Meat By-Products (“If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”)

Animal Liver (“If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”)

Meat Meal

Meat and Bone Meal

Animal By-Product Meal (“If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”)

Animal Digest

Here are a few ingredients that are used in pet food that are not marked with an asterisk (no restrictionss to ruminant feed):

Egg Product

Poultry Meal (or chicken meal)

Poultry (or chicken)

(the ingredient ‘beef’ would fall into the category of ‘meat’ and ‘meat’ does have an asterisk. My guess is that it is not recommended for beef tissue to be consumed by cattle or other ruminants because of mad cow disease concerns)

What we have so far is that poultry, poultry meal, and egg product do not have to adhere to restrictions for use in ruminant feed – but by-products do. Hmmmm. It is my understanding and opinion that AAFCO feels – by their show of limitations and labeling requirements of some meat ingredients – that by-products, meat meal, meat and bone meal, and animal digest are somewhat risky ingredients that should not be put back into the food chain.

I want to give you one more AAFCO definition. This a very common pet food ingredient – Chicken By-Product Meal – here is the AAFCO definition…”consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practices.”

Now that all the official technical definitions are out of the way, I have a question for you. Do you consider ‘ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines’ human food? I don’t!

However some pet food manufacturers are telling me they use human grade/quality ingredients when their products contain Chicken by-product meal and similar less than human grade ingredients. They basically are telling me that chicken feet, undeveloped eggs and chicken intestines are human food.

There shouldn’t be – but there is – a gray area to a solid understanding and definition of human grade ingredients. The gray area happens for two reasons. One – AAFCO has no official definition of human grade ingredients. So a manufacturer can say human grade and not be held accountable for such claims. Second, it happens because pet food manufacturers that purchase by-products (feet, heads, intestines, and so on) purchase these ingredients from a USDA approved meat processing facility. They are using (or misusing) the term human grade/quality to mean the products come from a USDA approved meat processing facility. The reality that by-products are human grade/quality is far from the truth.

One of the manufacturers that I spoke with today – whose dog food or cat food products – better than 85% of their products contain chicken by-products – when I asked the magic quality/grade question replied “oh yes, we use only human grade ingredients – you could eat the food and be healthier than you are now”. I almost laughed. Trust me, I’m not going to be eating their pet food. Pet owners are becoming more educated and I’m guessing that manufacturers are taking note of this and having representatives say ‘yes’ to the human grade question. Legally they are not breaking any laws because AAFCO has no official definition to the term human grade. Morally – to me – they are intentionally misleading pet owners.

So – what are you to do now? Start with calling your pet food manufacturer and ask them if they use human grade or quality of meats or if they use pet grade or quality of meat. Once you have that information, flip the pet food bag over you are considering and scan the top 10 ingredients. If you see by-products, by-product meal, animal digest, meat meal (not chicken meal, or turkey meal or similar – specifically the ingredient ‘meat meal’ applies here), or meat and bone meal – this pet food is not using all human grade ingredients. If they told you they use only human/grade quality and you see by-products or above ingredients – well, ‘there’s your sign.’ To me, the ‘sign’ tells a great deal about the integrity of the manufacturer. If a pet food manufacturer can tell a pet owner chicken feet and intestines are human grade/quality with a straight face – they are telling me volumes about their lack of integrity. I would never trust their products if they could so boldly mislead me on this issue. Who knows what else they are stretching the truth on.

To all Petsumer Report subscribers – all such misleading information is marked in the ‘Notes’ section of each review. Always read the notes before making any product decisions.

For all pet owners – understanding pet food ingredients will tell you volumes about the food and manufacturer as well. You have a great start with the ingredients listed above, and if you scan the Paws Club library of past newsletters and articles, you’ll find more information about pet food ingredients.

And one thing that just a couple of pet food manufacturers do to provide their customers with absolute proof they use human grade ingredients is called APHIS European certification. APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Services) is a division of the USDA. If a pet food is manufactured in the US and they wish to market their products in Europe – they must have APHIS European certification. European countries demand that all ingredients (not just the meat) be human grade/quality and demand proof of such through the USDA and demand the manufacturer and all vendors be regularly inspected by the USDA. The few pet food manufacturers that do this – don’t even ship products to Europe. They go to this effort – to achieve the APHIS certification – to provide their customers with inexplicable proof of the quality of their ingredients. When I first began reviewing pet foods for Petsumer Report – this was one of the questions I asked. No one even knew what I was talking about – besides a few – so I decided to change the question to human grade or pet grade. I do not believe that a pet food manufacturer must be APHIS European certified to be telling the truth. It is a definite bonus – but I don’t think it’s everything. Most of the truth lies in the ingredient listing of the pet food and what answers the manufacturers give you to the human/pet grade question.

One more topic – a reminder of the dangers of grapes and raisins with our pets. Below is an account by a veterinarian of a pet that consumed some raisins. Please understand that grapes and raisins are toxic to pets – but grape seed extract – an antioxidant – is not. Grape seed extract is literally taken from the grape seed and is not toxic – in fact it is a wonderful ingredient that benefits the health of humans and pets.

Written by:

Laurinda Morris, DVM

Danville Veterinary Clinic

Danville , Ohio

This week I had the first case in history of raisin toxicity ever seen at

MedVet. My patient was a 56-pound, 5 yr old male neutered lab mix that ate

half a canister of raisins sometime between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on Tuesday. He

started with vomiting, diarrhea and shaking about 1AM on Wednesday but the

owner didn’t call my emergency service until 7AM.

I had heard somewhere about raisins AND grapes causing acute Renal failure

but hadn’t seen any formal paper on the subject. We had her bring the dog in

immediately. In the meantime, I called the ER service at MedVet, and the

doctor there was like me – had heard something about it, but…. Anyway, we

contacted the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center and they said to give IV

fluids at 1 times maintenance and watch the kidney values for the next 48-72


The dog’s BUN (blood urea nitrogen level) was already at 32 (normal less

than 27) and creatinine over 5 (1.9 is the high end of normal). Both are

monitors of kidney function in the bloodstream. We placed an IV catheter and started the

fluids. Rechecked the renal values at 5 PM and the BUN was over 40 and creatinine

over 7 with no urine production after a liter of fluids. At the point I felt the

dog was in acute renal failure and sent him on to MedVet for a urinary

catheter to monitor urine output overnight as well as overnight care.

He started vomiting again overnight at MedVet and his renal values have

continued to increase daily. He produced urine when given lasix as a

diuretic. He was on 3 different anti-vomiting medications and they still couldn’t

control his vomiting. Today his urine output decreased again, his BUN was over

120, his creatinine was at 10, his phosphorus was very elevated and his blood

pressure, which had been staying around 150, skyrocketed to 220.. He continued to

vomit and the owners elected to euthanize.

This is a very sad case – great dog, great owners who had no idea raisins

could be a toxin. Please alert everyone you know who has a dog of this very

serious risk. Poison control said as few as 7 raisins or grapes could be toxic.

Many people I know give their dogs grapes or raisins as treats including our

ex-handler’s. Any exposure should give rise to immediate concern.

Laurinda Morris, DVM

Danville Veterinary Clinic

Danville , Ohio

Wishing you and your pet the best,

Susan Thixton

Truth About Pet Food

Petsumer Report

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