There are lots of options out there for feeding Fido, but which is right for your dog? There may not be one correct answer that works for everybody. Between dietary needs, safety concerns and flavor preferences, finding the best food for your pup may prove difficult. One option on the market won’t take you far from the dinner table.
More than dog food
Human-grade dog food is now an option that stocks many shelves, including at Lizzi & Rocco’s Natural Pet Market. Far from chomping down on a handful of your average kibble, these products are made with raw ingredients like pumpkin, beef and chicken. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), for a product to claim that it is “human-grade,” the ingredients must be edible by humans and all manufacturing processes must be in accordance with federal regulations. Jessica Schlosser, owner of Lizzi & Rocco’s, says she feeds all of her pets a natural diet.
“My life exists for natural diets,” Schlosser says, explaining that the food she feeds her pets comes from farms that also produce food for human purposes. Starting in 2004, Schlosser sought out higher-quality options for her dogs, transitioning from kibble to a raw diet over the course of several years. She says her dogs enjoy the fresh diet, and that it keeps them healthier.
There are a number of reasons why pet parents choose to feed their dogs a human-grade diet. Human food is subject to stricter regulations than dog food during processing and manufacturing, therefore it is more likely to be free of pathogens or bad ingredients.
“If I don’t feel comfortable and safe consuming it myself, I am not selling it,” Schlosser says about the products in her store, though she obviously doesn’t eat raw meat products.
However, there is also a difference between human-grade dog food and actual human food that is fed to dogs. Not everything that humans eat is animal-safe, and foods like chocolate and onions can be toxic for pets, according to the AAFCO. When it comes to her pets’ raw food, Schlosser avoids the grocery store and instead sources ingredients from companies like Answers Pet Food that specialize in raw dog food. While grocery stores may have food like beef that is edible for dogs, it is sold with the intent to be cooked, which eliminates the danger of pathogens that may have contaminated the food during transportation or thawing. Businesses that prepare raw food for pets know that it will not be cooked, so they take extra precautions to avoid exposure to pathogens in the first place, Schlosser says.
Nutrition is also a concern for pet parents that turn to human-grade food. In a 2020 study conducted by the American Society of Animal Science, six commercial human-grade dog food varieties were fed to roosters to determine how well the food and nutrients could be digested. The study concluded that all six foods had high digestibility, proving that (at least in roosters) natural dog food is an effective source of nutrients.
Many people form an anthropomorphic bond with their dogs — they treat their pets like humans, and seek to keep them as happy and healthy as any other member of the family. That bond can be so strong, that sharing a bed might be worth progressing to sharing a meal. Human-grade dog food probably won’t meet the full nutritional needs of a human being, but it can still be a snack in a pinch. For Schlosser, it’s a frequent source of lunch and dinner.
A new meaning to “adventurous eating”
Once a year, the employees at Lizzi & Rocco’s have a potluck, where everyone is required to bring a dish. The catch? One ingredient in the dish must come from the store.
“We have turned some of the pet food products into some pretty gourmet dishes, if I do say so myself,” Schlosser says, describing how she had transformed cat food into meatballs. Not only has she eaten quite a bit of pet food; she enjoys a lot of it. Even some of her customers are willing to try a dog treat here and there, some of which her employees make in-house.
“I do think I’m gonna do one of those challenges where, for a week, all I eat is pet food,” Schlosser says. Although these foods are nutritionally-balanced with dogs in mind, human-grade products are certainly worth giving a taste, if you want to know exactly what you’re putting in your pet’s bowl.