By-Products and Animal Digest – Not for My Dog!

August 7, 2012

Some commercial dry dog foods contain by-products, shown on the ingredients label as “meat meal” or “by-product meal” or “meat by-products.”  By-products are an off-shoot of  the rendering process.

Meat by-products are created by cooking animal carcasses as such a high heat that the material is melted.  Anything usable is separated from the mess and dried, separating fat from bone.  Out of this, they form a protein meal, which you see in dry pet food.  Most by-products contain parts of animals that are not suitable for humans to eat.

While I realize that in the wild, dogs and cats will eat all manner of  disgusting detritus, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy for them.   I won’t willingly feed my pets a food that could contain such things as diseased tissue, blood, heads, beaks, feet, brains and feathers, euthanized parts of other animals and animal poop.

And that leads me to animal digest, which is the digested part of an animal, just as it says.  It is legal according to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), which governs the pet food industry, as long as the cooking time and temperature are enough.

AAFCO defines animal digest as “material resulting from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue.”  It goes on to say that the tissue shall be void of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, “except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.”  (

Animal digest is used in lesser quality pet foods, often as a protein substitute.  It might be derived from beef or poultry, specifically named or in an unnamed source.  The animals used for digest of unspecified source may come from anywhere – including the 4-D’s of the pet food industry – dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals.

I chose to combine both of these pet food ingredients, because they are both so closely related to the rendering industry. You won’t find either included in high-quality dog or cat foods, and it is my belief that if you pay a bit more for better food for your pet, you will save money in the future on veterinary care.

Choose wisely!

Leave a Comment

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

dawn April 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

what is a brand that doesn t use it as i see i t listed as an ingredient in most of the brands that sell at walmart


Carol North April 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Dawn, check out Pure Balance, a Walmart food. Read the ingredients list and I think you will find it’s acceptable. If you have a small dog, Newman’s Own is a decent food but a bit more pricey.


Nona November 29, 2013 at 12:16 am

this animal digest is on the label of Purina One.


doglover December 17, 2014 at 1:11 am

It would be a good thing if you did your research prior to posting in this venue. People trust you to write other than fiction.


Carol North December 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Sorry you feel that way, but I don’t post any comments of my own without being able to back it up. If you are a pet owner whose dog or cat has done well on this brand, wonderful! Obviously, not all animals are negatively affected by it but there are enough complaints, both here and on the Consumer Affairs site, that I would be remiss if I didn’t bring it to the attention of readers.


Kelly Robbins March 9, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Don’t buy human food or pet food at Walmart. It’s so gross!!! Completely understandable that not everyone can afford organic, but we all need to get on board with our health and our pets health. Lots of ways to feed and eat healthy without breaking the bank!!!


Kitten July 20, 2016 at 4:09 am

For all of those people out there that say we should all buy organic, please take this information into account. 1. I am a farmer. 2. Not all organic products are actually grown in the US. Check your labels, some say packaged in the US. If you look closer some where on the package it should say where it was grown. 3. As an example, the National Berry Commision went to Serbia to see their practices for growing berries, seeing how our farmers are being put out of business by imported products, which our government has just approved more of. These products are grown in fields with no hygiene facilities what so ever, no toilets, no hand washing areas, no hygiene practices at all! 4. They under price our farmers here, so we are going out of business, myself included as well as 10 other farmers in my area. 5. They ship their food here knowing that only 2% of the food shipped in gets inspected. If it is part of the 2% and it is sent back, they just ship it back out to us again knowing that the chances of it being inspected again are very slim. I have gotten all this information directly from our USDA inspector that does our inspection every year on our farm for good ag practices, hygiene, safety and etc.
So make sure you know where that organic product you are buying is coming from. If you are buying it local or a store that provides the farm names of where items are grown, then good for you for being on top of it, because most are not. Just food for thought!


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