Is Your Cat Worth the Extra Cost? The Truth About Human Grade Cat Food

What is human grade cat food?

Human grade cat food refers to pet food products that are made from ingredients that are deemed fit for human consumption. They are manufactured in facilities that meet the standards and regulations for producing human food, not just animal feed. This means the ingredients as well as the preparation meets FDA and USDA requirements for human edible products.

Compared to regular commercial cat foods, human grade cat foods differ in a few key ways:

  • The ingredients in human grade cat food tend to be fresher, less processed, and of higher quality. This includes the protein sources like meat, fish, and eggs.
  • They follow stricter safety protocols for ingredient sourcing, storage, handling, and processing.
  • Human grade cat foods cannot contain ingredients deemed unfit for human consumption such as 4-D meat (dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals), fillers, or artificial preservatives.
  • Since human grade ingredients are typically less processed, they retain more nutrients. This makes many human grade cat foods nutritionally superior.

In summary, human grade cat food aims to meet the highest standards of nutrition and food safety – the same standards applied to human foods. This results in fresher, less processed, more nutritious cat food.

Nutritional Benefits

Human grade cat food uses higher quality ingredients compared to traditional cat food brands. They contain less fillers and artificial ingredients, allowing more room for nutritious ingredients like meat protein. The Honest Kitchen states that human grade foods use “ingredients fit for human consumption, which are [held] to higher quality standards than pet food ingredients” (source). This leads to increased levels of nutrients essential for cats like protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

In particular, human grade foods tend to have much higher meat protein content. As obligate carnivores, cats thrive on a meat-based diet. Traditional kibble often relies on plant-based proteins to reduce costs. In contrast, human grade foods use premium cuts of meat like chicken, beef, lamb and fish. This provides complete proteins with all the essential amino acids cats require (source). Overall, the higher quality ingredients in human grade food translate to superior nutrition and health for cats.

Health benefits

One of the main benefits of feeding cats human grade food is improved digestion and gut health. Human grade cat foods typically have higher quality proteins and fats that are easier for cats to digest and absorb nutrients from. This leads to less gastrointestinal upset like vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. According to, the natural enzymes and probiotics in human grade food also support healthy digestion.

Human grade ingredients must meet stricter safety standards. This means the ingredients have lower risks of harboring pathogens, toxins, or other contaminants that could cause illness. Reducing exposure to these harmful substances may help reduce allergies and intolerances in some cats. Additionally, the digestibility of human grade food puts less strain on the liver and kidneys.

The moisture content and pH balance of human grade foods is often more optimal for urinary tract health. This helps reduce the risks of crystals and stones forming in the urinary tract, according to Overall, human grade cat food supports many aspects of feline health by providing high quality, easily digestible nutrition.


Cats tend to prefer the taste of human grade cat food over traditional cat food. According to this source, the appetizing aroma and taste of natural ingredients in human grade cat food makes it more enticing for finicky eaters.

Human grade cat food often contains more premium protein sources like chicken, turkey, duck etc which cats enjoy. The ingredients also tend to be fresher compared to traditional kibble, which can lose flavor over time. As discussed in this veterinarian article, the flavor of human grade cat food is similar to people food, which many cats find tastier.

Additionally, human grade cat food recipes contain fewer artificial flavors or additives that can diminish taste. The more natural ingredients and cooking methods help preserve appetizing flavors that cats crave.

Food safety standards

Human grade cat food must meet stricter food safety standards than regular pet food. According to the AAFCO guidelines, human grade pet food production facilities are held to the same standards as human food production under the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations (21 CFR part 507).

While regular pet food is regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, human grade pet food must meet additional requirements for human food safety and quality control. This includes more stringent protocols for ingredient sourcing, handling, processing, and packaging. Manufacturing facilities and equipment must adhere to strict sanitation requirements.

By meeting human food standards, human grade pet foods undergo more rigorous safety testing and quality control. This results in greater product consistency and reduced risk of contamination. Essentially, the higher benchmark ensures the food is safe and of high enough quality for human consumption.

Cost comparison

Human grade cat food costs significantly more than regular cat food. According to Tufts University, the average cost per kilocalorie for regular cat food ranges from $0.07 to $0.24. However, the cost per kilocalorie for human grade cat food can range from $0.20 to $1.90.

Looking at the cost per meal also shows a significant price difference. As noted by Truth About Pet Food, a meal of feed grade cat food may cost $0.07 – $0.15 while a meal of human grade cat food often costs $0.75 – $3.00. This equals 4-20 times more per meal.

The bottom line is human grade cat food has a substantially higher cost for both calories and meals compared to regular cat food. Pet owners need to factor in this price difference when deciding if it’s worth the investment for their cat.

Not necessarily required

While human grade cat food offers many potential benefits, it’s not necessarily essential for cats to thrive. Many traditional cat foods without the human grade certification can still provide complete and balanced nutrition when formulated properly.

The key is looking at the specific ingredients and nutritional profile rather than just the human grade claim. Plenty of regular pet foods have high-quality protein sources, whole foods, and optimal macros and micros for cats. As long as the ingredients meet nutritional standards and the food is produced in a safe, sanitary facility, it can be very nutritious.

So while the human grade certification provides an extra level of quality assurance, it ultimately comes down to the specific brand and formula. There are some excellent cat foods without the certification that may be more affordable while still nourishing cats appropriately. Focus on the ingredients, guaranteed analysis, quality controls, and actual nutrition rather than just the human grade label.

Consult your veterinarian for personalized pet food recommendations based on your cat’s needs. But human grade certification, while great, is not an absolute necessity for cats to thrive on their diet.

When it may be worth it

Human grade cat food may be worth considering for certain cats with specific needs, such as:


Kittens require high quality nutrition to support their rapid growth and development in the first year of life. Human grade cat foods made from fresh ingredients may provide better digestibility and more complete nutrition for kittens compared to standard commercial kitten foods (1). The controlled manufacturing standards of human grade pet foods can also minimize risks of contamination.

Elderly cats

As cats age, their metabolism changes and they may become more sensitive to lower quality ingredients in standard cat foods. Human grade ingredients cooked at lower temperatures may be easier for elderly cats to digest and absorb (2). The moisture content of canned/wet foods may also benefit cats prone to dehydration.

Cats with food sensitivities

For cats with food allergies or intolerances, the limited ingredient formulas of some human grade cat foods can help identify and avoid problematic ingredients. The quality control of human grade production may also minimize ingredient cross-contamination (3). Novel protein sources may be easier to find in human grade cat food.




Top recommended brands

Based on reviews and ratings, some of the top human grade cat food brands include:

1. Smalls – Smalls uses human-grade ingredients and customizes recipes based on your cat’s needs. Their freeze-dried raw food comes in portions and flavors like chicken, turkey, beef, and more.

2. JustFoodForDogs – This brand uses USDA certified ingredients and follows food safety standards. They offer veterinary formulated diets in wet and dry foods like chicken, turkey, salmon, and more.

3. Stella & Chewy’s – Made with 95% meat and organs, Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried raw cat food contains minimally processed, human-grade ingredients.

4. Farmer’s Dog – Tailored to your cat’s needs, Farmer’s Dog delivers fresh human-grade food customized with proteins like chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb.

5. NomNomNow – This fresh cat food brand cooks meals in a human-grade kitchen using ingredients like chicken, fish, turkey, and more.

The bottom line

When considering whether human grade cat food is worth the additional cost, there are a few key factors to weigh:


  • Human grade cat food adheres to stricter safety standards for human consumption which reduces risk of contamination or spoilage (source).
  • Some cats prefer the taste and texture of human grade food.
  • It may contain fresher, less processed ingredients.


  • Human grade cat food is significantly more expensive than traditional cat food (source).
  • It does not guarantee better nutrition or ingredients compared to high-quality traditional cat foods (source).
  • It requires more frequent purchasing and proper refrigerated storage.

In summary, human grade cat food may be worth the extra cost for picky eaters or pet owners wanting maximum freshness and safety assurances. However, traditional high-quality cat food still provides balanced nutrition at a lower price point for most cats.

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