Best Human Grade Dog Food: Quick Picks
- PICK #1: The Farmer’s Dog. Healthy, drool-worthy dog food from one of the original manufacturers of fresh dog food. Dog food is customized for your pup based on a quick canine survey assessing your dog’s activity, weight, age, etc. New customers can get 50% off!
- PICK #2: Nom Nom. Freshly-made, pre-portioned dog food that is customized based on your dog’s weight, age, activity level, allergies, & more. Includes free consultation with nutritional expert. Some recipes are grain-free, others include healthy grain options. New customers can get 50% off!
- PICK #3: Ollie. Fresh, high-quality dog food customized based on age, breed, activity level, etc. Includes mix of fresh meats and quality organ meats. New customers can get 50% off with code K9OFMINE!
- PICK #4 PetPlate. Fresh, pre-portioned meals customized based on your dog’s size and age. Includes option for “topper” plan for owners who want to feed their dogs basic kibble, but want an easy add-on for more tailored meals. New customers can get 30% off!
People have loved their pets throughout human history, but there’s no doubt that many modern dogs are enjoying better lives than their ancestors would have imagined possible.
This love for our pets manifests in a variety of ways, but the most obvious example relates to the foods many owners give their dogs.
Modern canines enjoy foods that are leaps and bounds better than the foods dogs available only a few decades ago.
These days, owners can choose from an array of nutritionally balanced, high-protein foods, which are often fortified with vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotic supplements and other helpful additives.
There are even a few manufacturers who’ve begun taking things a bit further.
Instead of cooking up “feed quality” recipes for dogs (which are essentially held to the same standards as cow or chicken feed), these brands have started using “human-grade” ingredients and manufacturing their foods in USDA-compliant kitchens.
These foods tend to differ in several ways from traditional kibbles and canned foods, and they’re starting to get a lot of attention from doggo moms and dads.
We’ll dive into the subject below and examine a few foods made with human-grade ingredients. We’ll try to illustrate the differences between these types of foods and others and point out a few of the best ones on the market.
Best Human Grade Dog Food Brands
The following five pet food manufacturers make some of the best “human-grade” foods around.
Each manufacturer emphasizes different things in their recipes, so be sure to review them all before making your choice.
Note that most of these foods require you to submit a bit of information about your pooch. This info may be used to alter and customize the recipe slightly so that it will perfectly suit your pooch.
These questionnaires vary in length and detail, so I went through and filled them all out for my own pooch. We then listed all of the questions asked, so you’ll know what to expect.
Also, because most of these foods are quite a bit more expensive than traditional dog foods, we’ve included the manufacturer’s comments about pricing, as well as the total cost to feed my own dog.
1. The Farmer’s Dog
About: The Farmer’s Dog is another subscription-based food service that seeks to provide owners with real, fresh food in a convenient fashion. All of the recipes produced by the Farmer’s Dog are made with “human-grade” ingredients that are sourced from suppliers and farms that meet USDA standards.
After setting up an account with The Farmer’s Dog, you’ll need to answer a few questions about your doggo so that they can tailor the recipe to suit his breed, age, activity level, ideal weight and any sensitivities he may have. A few days later, you’ll receive your first batch of food.
- Meal plans are customized to suit your dog’s specific needs
- All foods are prepared in USDA kitchens
- Flexible shipment schedules available
- All food is delivered within a few days of being cooked
- Packed with biodegradable insulation materials – you can compost them or throw them in the sink and dissolve them with water
- Each recipe features The Farmer’s Dog proprietary nutrient blend
Basic Recipes Offered:
- Turkey & Parsnip
- Beef & Lentils
- Pork & Sweet Potato
Ingredients for Turkey and Parsnip Recipe:
Turkey, parsnips, chickpeas, carrot, broccoli, spinach, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, fish oil, taurine, vitamin B12 supplement, zinc amino acid chelate, iron amino acid chelate, vitamin E supplement, copper amino acid chelate, thiamine mononitrate, sodium selenite, riboflavin supplement, potassium iodide, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid
Protein Content (Dry Matter Basis): 32%
Price: The Farmer’s Dog reports that meal plans for smaller dogs start at less than $3 per day. I plugged in my 95-pound Rottie and found that it would cost $118.29 per week.
Want more info? Read our full review of The Farmer’s Dog here!
- Email Address
- Owner’s first name
- How many dogs
- Dog name(s)
- Zip Code
- Do I believe that fresh food is healthiest? (basically, yes, no or not sure yet)
- Dog’s sex
- Dog’s age
- Silly personality question (cutest, most loyal, etc.)
- (Option for mixed breed)
- Body condition
- Activity level
- Eating style (picky to will eat anything)
- Health issues (20 different options, plus ability to add ones not listed)
- Type of current food
- Brand of current food
- Does she get treats/scraps?
- Prescription diet?
- Select recipes
Most dogs seem to like the way The Farmer’s Dog recipes taste, and most owner reviews explained that their dog seemed to digest and tolerate the foods quite well (mild intestinal issues were common during the transition, but this can happen with any food change). The bags are frozen flat, so they won’t take up a bunch of space in your freezer, which is pretty helpful for those with limited freezer space.
They only offer three different recipes, while most similar services offer three or four options. While the foods are pre-packaged in daily servings, you’ll have to split the food up if you want to feed your dog twice a day.
2. Nom Nom
About: NomNom produces single-serving sized fresh foods that are designed to please your dog’s palate with a variety of high-quality “restaurant-quality” ingredients.
As with many other “human-grade” food manufacturers, they sell their products as part of a subscription-based service.
When you sign up for Nom Nom, you’ll need to provide some basic information about your dog’s breed, size, and any health issues he is battling. This will allow the company to tailor one of their vet-designed formulas to specifically suit your pooch.
- Customized based on weight, age, activity level, and health issues
- Free nutrition consultation with your order
- Pre-portioned meals – simply rip open the bag and dump it in your pet’s bowl
- No organ meats included – organ meats aren’t bad for dogs, but their nutritional content can vary, which creates problems when trying to balance a recipe
- Specially prepared nutrient mixes are used in each food to ensure proper vitamin and mineral content
- Dog food samples available to new customers
Basic Recipes Offered:
- Beef Mash
- Turkey Fare
- Chicken Chow
- Pork Potluck
Ingredients for Turkey Fare:
Ground turkey, eggs, brown rice, carrots, spinach, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, fish oil, vinegar, citric acid, taurine, choline bitartrate, zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, copper gluconate, manganese gluconate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), selenium yeast, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 supplement, cholecalciferol (source of vitamin D3), potassium iodide.
Protein Content (Dry Matter Basis): 44%
Price: Nom Nom says that meal plans vary from about $100 to $300 per month, and that it will cost about $155 to $200 for 30 days of food for a 30-pound dog. To feed my 95-pound Rottweiler, the total came to $88.22 per week with the two-week-at-a-time schedule. They also offer 20% off your first order.
- Email Address
- Pet’s Name
- Pet Type (Dog/Cat)
- Current Weight
- Target Weight
- Dog’s DOB
- Delivery Frequency (every week/every 2 weeks)
- Appears to be 4 meals per day
Most dogs appear to love Nom Nom recipes, and many owners witness positive results when transitioning to the foods, such as healthier skin, coat, and better energy levels. We were happy to learn that Nom Nom makes all of their foods in their own, Bay-Area kitchens. They also use dicalcium phosphate or calcium carbonate to supply the calcium content of their recipes, rather than bone meal, which may contain heavy metals.
There aren’t many downsides or obvious problems with Nom Nom. A few owners had problems with the company’s customer service department, but they appear less common than similar complaints associated with other manufacturers. A lot of owners did complain that the individual serving bags were difficult to open, but that’s a very minor issue that probably shouldn’t stand in your way of trying Nom Nom
About: Ollie provides custom-designed dog foods that are specifically designed to suit your pup’s individual needs. You’ll need to provide some basic information about your dog to get started, and then you can just sit back and wait for your pet’s food to arrive at your front door.
Their foods are made with fresh ingredients, so they’ll need to be refrigerated or frozen once you receive them. Once it’s time to feed Fido, just use the included portion scoop to measure out the proper amount for your pooch.
- All recipes are customized to suit your dog’s size, age, breed, body composition, activity level, and allergies
- Recipes are vet-formulated to meet the AAFCO’s guidelines for all life stages (including large-breed dogs)
- All of the meats used in the recipes are sourced from the U.S. or Australia
- 1% of the brand’s revenues are donated to shelters
- You pick the basic recipes, and Ollie customizes them for your pet’s needs
- Each batch of food is lab-tested for safety and quality
Basic Recipes Offered:
- Healthy Turkey Feast
- Hearty Beef Eats
- Chicken Goodness
- Tasty Lamb Fare
Ingredients for Healthy Turkey Feast:
Ground turkey, pumpkin, turkey thigh, turkey liver, turkey heart, carrot, turkey gizzard, lentils, kale, blueberries, coconut oil, chia seeds, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, cod liver oil, salt, zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, manganese sulfate, potassium iodate
Protein Content (Dry Matter Basis): 44%
Price: Ollie reports that most meal plans start at $3.00 per day for small dogs, but the average recipe runs about $6.00 per pound. When I put in my 95-pound Rottie’s details the total came to $96.83 per week.
- Owner’s first name
- Dog’s name
- Zip Code
- Dog’s DOB
- Activity Level
- Body Condition
- Current Food Type
- Primary Current Protein
- Select your protein
We applaud Ollie’s use of premium meats that are only sourced from the U.S. and Australia. Most of the recipes (including Healthy Turkey Feast, listed above) are pretty impressive, and they contain a variety of organ meats and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Most dogs seem to like Ollie’s recipes, but Ollie also guarantees that the food will be “bowl-lickin’ good” or they’ll issue a refund.
A relatively large number of owners reported that they liked the food, but a couple of individuals experienced some hiccups with Ollie’s customer service department, although these issues don’t seem especially common.
4. Pet Plate
About: Pet Plate offers a subscription-based food plan that allows you to receive fresh, veterinarian-designed meals at your home.
Designed to be supremely convenient to store and use, Pet Plate meals come in pre-portioned plastic containers, which you can warm up in the microwave before feeding your pet.
You can even sign up for Pet Plate’s special topper plan. This is great for owners who feed their dogs kibble but want to add something nutritious and tasty on top.
- Each meal plan is customized to suit your dog’s size and age
- All recipes are designed by a veterinarian to meet or exceed the AAFCO’s guidelines for all life stages
- Cooked and tested in the USA
- Can be stored in your freezer for up to one year
- All meats come from USDA farms
Basic Recipes Offered:
- Chompin’ Chicken
- Barkin’ Beef
- Tail Waggin’ Turkey
- Lip Lickin’ Lamb
Ingredients for Tail Waggin’ Turkey:
Turkey, sweet potatoes, potatoes, turkey liver, apples, carrots, green peas, pumpkin, salmon oil, dicalcium phosphate, salt, proprietary supplement blend (vitamin E, zinc oxide, ferrous fumarate, copper gluconate, manganese gluconate, sodium selenite, potassium iodide, vitamin D3)
Protein Content (Dry Matter Basis): 41.59%
Price: Pet Plate estimates that meal plans cost between $2 and $19 per day, depending on your dog’s size. Feeding a “medium-sized” dog will cost about $6 to $8 per day. When I filled out the questionnaire for my 95-pound Rottie, the total came to $89.95 per week.
- Dog’s name
- Dog’s DOB (they even ask for the day)
- Recipe (you can select up to four)
- Email Address
Most dogs appear to like Pet Plate’s recipes, and owners loved knowing that their dog’s diet was designed by a veterinarian. They offer several different recipes to choose from, and most owners loved the convenience the plastic tub packaging offered.
Pet Plate’s customization options aren’t as varied as those of some other human-grade food manufacturers, but that’s probably not a problem for owners of healthy dogs. We could quibble with the recipes’ protein content (which is lower than most similar food plans), but it’s still higher than most kibbles.
5. Honest Kitchen
About: Like the other foods we’ve discussed so for, the Honest Kitchen produces premium dog food recipes that are made from “human-grade” ingredients.
However, unlike these other brands, the Honest Kitchen recipes are not fresh dog foods and are not sold via a subscription-based service. Instead, you simply buy your dog’s food as needed.
In addition to a variety of kibble toppers and partial dog food mixes, the Honest Kitchen provides two basic types of food: Dehydrated meals that you add to warm water and serve, as well as their Whole Food Clusters line, which is essentially a kibble-style product you can serve as-is.
We’ll primarily be focusing on the dehydrated meals here, as that it their primary focus.
- Made in the USA in a “human-grade” food processing facility with many organic ingredients
- Three different recipes to choose from
- Honest Kitchen claims to have been the first company to produce “human-grade” dog foods, as they started in 2002
- Requires no refrigeration (although re-hydrated leftovers would need to be refrigerated)
- Contains no by-products, preservatives of GMO ingredients
Ingredients for Cage Free Turkey:
Turkey, organic oats, potatoes, organic flaxseed, carrots, cabbage, organic kelp, apples, honey, garlic, tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, zinc amino acid chelate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, iron amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate, sodium selenite, thiamine mononitrate.
Protein Content (Dry Matter Basis): 24.07%
Price: Approximately $1.61 per pound. Crunching the numbers, this food looks like it would cost me about $45 per month to keep my 95-pound Rottie fed a similar amount of calories that she currently gets. That’s in the same ballpark as what I currently spend on her premium kibble.
Customization Questions: None – simply pick the food you think will work best.
Much more affordable than the other human-grade dog foods discussed here. No need to sign up for a subscription-style service. A wide number of recipes available, including some made with organic, whole grains, as well as grain-free options.
Although no preservatives are used in these recipes, they aren’t exactly as fresh as the other human-grade competitors detailed above are. Also, they require a bit of preparation before being suitable to give to your dog. Some owners reported that the product’s consistency didn’t appear very appetizing, although this didn’t bother dogs!
Differences Between “Human-Grade” and “Normal” Dog Food
We’ll talk about the definition of “human-grade” dog foods in a minute, but let’s start by looking at some of the key differences between a typical bag of kibble and a bag or tub of pet food labelled as “human-grade” or “made with human-grade ingredients.”
Some of the most important differences are detailed in the table below.
|Characteristic||“Human-Grade” Dog Food||Typical Kibble||Typical Canned Food|
|Overall Appearance||Most appear to be comprised of readily identifiable ingredients you may cook for yourself. This includes things like pieces of chicken, rice, and peas.||Usually, kibble takes the form of small, roundish, crunchy balls. Individual ingredients are rarely identifiable.||Some canned foods are minced and formed into a pate-like consistency. You’ll rarely be able to identify the constituent ingredients easily. |
Other canned foods are comprised of cuts of meat, as well as carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, which are all mixed in a gravy-like sauce.
|Preserved or Shelf Stable?||Not usually. Most foods made with “human-grade” ingredients must be kept refrigerated or frozen. |
There are also a few “human-grade” foods that are dehydrated products, which are shelf stable and require no refrigeration.
|Most kibbles are preserved. The best foods are generally preserved with naturally occurring mixed tocopherols (such as Vitamin E). |
Kibbles are usually shelf stable for about one year.
|Most canned foods are preserved, and – like kibbles – the best ones typically use naturally occurring mixed tocopherols as the preservative. |
Most unopened canned foods are shelf stable for two years. Once opened, they’ll last about one week if refrigerated and sealed up tightly.
|How to Serve||Thaw a frozen packet (if necessary), cut open bag or open tub, pour into your dog’s bowl. Most such packages are designed to contain a single serving. |
Some “human-grade” come in dehydrated form, so you’ll need to add warm water to the mix before serving.
|Scoop out desired amount and transfer to your pet’s bowl. ||Open can and dump out the desired amount in your pet’s bowl.|
|Care of Leftovers||Leftovers must be refrigerated.||Leftovers can be left at room temperature for several hours.||Leftovers must be refrigerated or discarded.|
|Special Recipes Available? (such as LID, joint-support, reduced calorie, etc.)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Available for All Life Stages?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cost||Very high||Typically, the most affordable option||Higher than kibble; lower than “human-grade”|
What Does “Human-Grade” Mean?
Chances are, if you are reading this, we don’t have to convince you that your dog deserves the very best.
That’s part of the reason you’re reading about dog foods in the first place. In fact, we’d bet that you probably like the idea of feeding your pet food that’s deemed high-enough quality to grace your own dinner table.
While there’s no doubt that the foods listed here are some of the healthiest dog foods on the market today, The problem is that the regulations regarding the use of the term “human grade” are complex.
There are at least four different federal agencies that play some role in the regulation of pet foods:
- American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Further, the Department of Agriculture for each state is also involved in regulating some pet food labelling issues.
Theoretically, “human grade” dog foods are those made with “human-grade” ingredients and prepared in USDA-approved kitchens in accordance with the FDA’s 21 CFR part 117.
That seems simple enough, but there are a million complicating factors.
For one, some states won’t recognize any kitchen that manufacturers dog food to be a “human-grade” facility. This means that for some states, human-grade dog food simply doesn’t exist. Of course that doesn’t mean much for the average owner, but it illustrates just how confusing and unregulated the “human-grade” title is.
Additionally, the term “human-grade” doesn’t even appear to have a legal definition, according to the AAFCO. The most appropriate term that should be used is “human edible.”
This is important because there are two different types of foods that can come out of a USDA-approved kitchen: human edible and human inedible.
So, even if a food was processed in a USDA-approved kitchen, it may not be considered human edible or “human grade,” even if it can still be used in a pet food.
Despite this, many manufacturers will promote the fact that their dog food is processed in a USDA-approved kitchen, although this doesn’t mean that the food is closer to human edible quality.
To complicate matters even further, many of the regulations in place are currently in a state of flux, as regulators are doing their best to adjust to these new trends in dog food manufacturing. Hopefully, these issues will be resolved in the near future.
Truthfully, at least at the moment while regulations are still developing, the label of “human-grade” is more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. There simply isn’t any kind of all-encompassing regulation or approval process when it comes to labeling a dog food as human-grade.
That being said, human-grade dog foods do tend to generally be high-quality options that most owners love. Most human-grade dog foods deal with fresh, wholesome ingredients, and owners tend to see favorable outcomes when switching their dogs to one of the human-grade brands we detail below.
In this article, we’ve explored only those brands that produce foods embodying a “human-grade” ethos, regardless of the technical, legal details of their claims.
Can humans eat human grade dog food?
Theoretically, yes. If you wanted to eat human-grade dog food, you could. However, dog food contains fewer spices and flavors than human food, since dogs don’t always digest them well.
Is human grade dog food better than kibble?
Human-grade dog food offers a number of benefits over kibble, often using fresh ingredients and requiring less processing than traditional dry dog food.
If a dog food is made in USDA kitchens, does that make it human grade?
No. USDA kitchens can produce “human edible” and “human inedible” food, so just because a dog food was made in a USDA kitchen does not mean the food is human-grade.
How is human-grade dog food stored?
Fresh, human-grade dog food needs to be refrigerated,
Further Reading About the Term “Human Grade” For Dog Food
As you can see, there is a lot to unpack regarding the term “humand grade,” as it relates to dog foods.
If you’d like to read a little more about the regulations surrounding the term “human-grade,” check out the following pages (some may require you to register before accessing the article or resource):
- AAFCO: Labeling and Labeling Requirements
- AAFCO: “Human-Grade”
- AAFCO: State Regulatory Requirement Summary
- Pet Food Institute: Regulation
- FDA: FDA’s Regulation of Pet Food
- PetFoodIndustry.com: Are human grade pet foods really human grade?
- PetFoodIndustry.com: AAFCO pondering new approach for ‘human grade’ claims
- PetFoodIndustry.com: Pet food labels: human-grade claim legal guidelines
- The Honest Kitchen: WHAT HAPPENS IF THE FDA ENDS THEIR HUMAN GRADE VERIFICATION PROCESS?
“Human-grade” foods may be relatively new to the pet food market, but we’re pretty sure they’re here to stay. There are a lot of things to like about human-grade dog food, and they help many owners feel much better about the food they give their pooch.
The issues with terminology and regulation will probably be resolved in the not-too-distant future, which will help clarify things for owners.
But, in the meantime, just be sure to examine any food you intend to purchase carefully, discuss your choice with your vet, and follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you’re struggling to distinguish between the myriad of human-grade options, consider checking out our stack up comparing Ollie vs Farmer’s Dog, which highlights some of the key differences between various fresh foods.
Do you feed your dog a “human-grade” diet? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Let us know which one you chose and what your dog thinks about it in the comments below!