Is Meow Mix As Good As What’s On Your Plate? The Truth About Cat Food Grades


Human grade cat food refers to cat food that contains ingredients suitable for human consumption and is manufactured in facilities that meet regulations for producing human food. Unlike conventional pet foods, human grade cat foods must adhere to the standards and quality control of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines human grade as “a food, food component, or food ingredient that is manufactured, processed, and packaged in compliance with federal regulations for human edible products.” This means the ingredients, preparation, and storage must be held to the same requirements as food made for people.

According to the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations for human food, all ingredients must be guaranteed safe, pure, and high quality. Manufacturing facilities must meet strict cleanliness, safety procedures, quality control, and record keeping.

Human Grade Certification

Human grade certification is a process by which pet food manufacturers can demonstrate that their products meet the highest standards for human consumption. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines and definitions for human grade claims on pet foods.

According to the AAFCO, for a pet food product to be labeled as human grade it must be manufactured in a USDA inspected human food facility. All ingredients must be USDA approved for human consumption and stored in the same manner as human food. The food also needs to contain no prohibited mammalian protein and have full traceability of all components (“AAFCO Human Grade Standards for Pet Products”,

The manufacturing process for human grade pet foods is held to the same standards as for human foods. This includes strict quality control procedures, employee training, facility maintenance, and record keeping. Any product that does not meet the requirements cannot be sold as human grade.

Human grade certification provides transparency and ensures pet owners that the product is safe, nutritious and made from high quality ingredients. It indicates that the food has passed rigorous inspections and controls.


Human grade cat food is made with ingredients that are approved for human consumption and typically used in products made for people. This means the ingredients have met quality and safety standards for human foods. Some of the key differences in ingredients between human grade and regular cat foods include:

Proteins – Human grade cat foods use premium protein sources like chicken, salmon, duck etc. Regular cat foods may use lower quality protein meals and by-products.

Fruits and Vegetables – Human grade foods include nutritious fruits and veggies fit for human consumption. Regular cat foods tend to use lower quality produce.

Grains – Human grade foods use whole grains like brown rice and oats. Regular cat foods often use refined grains and corn products.

Preservatives – Human grade foods use natural preservatives like vitamins C and E. Regular cat foods use synthetic preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin.

In summary, the ingredients in human grade cat foods are typically higher quality, more nutritious, and safer for both cats and humans compared to regular cat foods.

Nutritional Value

There are some key nutritional differences between human-grade and regular cat food. Human-grade cat foods must meet standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for complete and balanced nutrition for cats (Source). This means they contain the right proportions of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals kittens and cats need. Regular cat foods do not have to meet these same standards.

Human-grade cat foods typically contain higher quality sources of protein from meat, fish or eggs compared to regular cat food which may use by-products or meat meals (Source). The protein in human-grade cat food is from fresh, USDA-inspected ingredients suitable for human consumption. This makes them more digestible for cats.

Human-grade cat foods also tend to have fewer carbohydrate fillers like corn, wheat or soy. They rely more on animal-based proteins rather than plant proteins. This matches a cat’s natural carnivorous diet better. The result is nutrition that is more bioavailable and better supports a cat’s health and development compared to regular grade cat foods.

Food Safety

The FDA sets standards and regulations to ensure that both human and pet food is safe for consumption. According to the FDA, pet food must be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled (1).

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA regulates pet food similar to human food and holds both to comparable safety standards (2). This involves setting requirements for ingredient safety, manufacturing processes, facilities, contaminant limits, labeling, and nutrition.

While the FDA has oversight for all pet food sold in the U.S., they allow producers to manage their own day-to-day safety processes. Most manufacturers follow food safety plans and procedures on par with human food companies (3).


Human grade cat food tends to be significantly more expensive than traditional cat food. According to Chewy, a 1.1lb bottle of human grade cat food topper costs around $5, while a 3.75lb box of frozen human grade gently cooked cat food costs $74.99. In comparison, traditional dry and wet cat foods usually cost between $0.50 to $3 per pound.

This large price difference stems from the higher quality ingredients used in human grade cat food. Since the ingredients must be suitable for human consumption, human grade cat foods rely on fresh meats, vegetables, and grains rather than by-products or fillers. The production process is also more complex and costly. So while the upfront price tag is steep, advocates argue that human grade cat food provides better nutrition and digestibility, helping avoid future veterinary bills.


Feeding your cat human grade food can provide several potential benefits. According to research from The Honest Kitchen, human grade food contains higher levels of certain nutrients that are important for your cat’s health like antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid and zinc ( These nutrients help support a shiny, healthy coat and reduce shedding and hairballs. Human grade ingredients also help maintain eye, brain and bone health, boost the immune system, improve muscle tone and more ( Since human grade foods undergo stringent safety and quality control testing, they may contain fewer harmful pathogens or contaminants that can cause illness. Overall, feeding human grade cat food provides high-quality nutrition to support your cat’s health and wellbeing.


While human grade cat food has many benefits, there are some potential downsides to consider as well:

Cost – Human grade cat food is generally more expensive than traditional kibble or canned cat food. For some pet owners, the higher cost may be prohibitive.

Availability – Human grade cat food may be harder to find in stores compared to standard pet food brands. Pet owners may need to shop online or visit specialty stores.

Transition – When transitioning a cat to a human grade diet, it’s important to do so gradually to allow their digestive system to adjust. Abrupt changes can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Pickiness – Some cats may turn their nose up at human grade food after being accustomed to a particular pet food recipe or flavor profile. Pet owners may need to experiment to find options their cat enjoys.

Nutrition – While human grade ingredients are very high quality, pet food companies finely tune recipes to meet cats’ nutritional needs. Without supplementing, a home-prepared diet could lead to deficiencies over time.

Storage – Fresh and refrigerated cat foods often need to be used quickly before spoiling. Owners will need to plan portion sizes accordingly and follow storage guidelines.

Preparation – Meals using fresh ingredients require more prep work than scooping kibble or popping open a can of cat food.

Best Practices

When integrating human grade food into your cat’s diet, there are some best practices to follow:

  • Transition slowly by mixing in small amounts of the new food with your cat’s current food, gradually increasing the ratio over 2-3 weeks. This allows your cat’s digestive system to adapt.
  • Stick to recipes formulated specifically for cats to ensure nutritional balance. Avoid recipes meant for humans.
  • Use fresh, high-quality ingredients. Meat should come from free-range, antibiotic-free sources when possible.
  • Cook meat gently to retain nutrients. Lightly sear, boil, or bake; avoid frying.
  • Grind or finely chop meat to make it easier for cats to digest.
  • Store homemade food safely in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or freeze 1-2 month portions.
  • Wash all utensils, bowls, and preparation areas thoroughly to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Monitor your cat’s health and energy on the new diet. Adjust as needed.

Following these tips will help you safely integrate human grade ingredients into your cat’s meals.

The Bottom Line

Overall, human-grade cat food can offer some benefits over traditional commercial pet food, but it is not necessarily better or healthier across the board. The key advantages of human-grade cat food include:

  • Higher quality protein ingredients that are fit for human consumption
  • Fewer artificial preservatives and additives
  • Often made from whole, fresh ingredients

However, there are also some potential downsides to consider:

  • Much more expensive than traditional cat food
  • Shorter shelf life requiring more frequent purchases
  • Debate over whether ingredients are truly superior for feline health

When choosing any cat food, experts recommend looking at the full ingredient list and guaranteed analysis rather than just focusing on a “human-grade” label. High protein content, meat as the first ingredient, and avoiding fillers are signs of quality. Consulting with a veterinarian to match your cat’s unique nutritional needs is also advised.

For owners willing and able to invest more on premium cat food, human-grade options can be an acceptable choice. But they may not be necessary or provide enough added benefits for many cat owners and their budgets.

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