The Mystery Meat in Pet Food

August 8, 2016

Lower priced pet foods contain all sorts of bad ingredients. Most are easy to pick out, but some deceive the shopper because they sound good.  Meat meal is one of those mystery ingredients. Meat meal is the dried powder that’s left after the rendering process does its job, and it’s basically high in protein. But…there’s meat meal …and there’s meat meal, twisting the saying slightly. The consumer needs to know how to choose good meal from bad meal. As Mike Sagman of wrote, “No meal is EVER better than the raw materials that are used to make it!”

Meal is good! All meal in pet food contains a lot more protein than does fresh meat. But how it is prepared and with what ingredients are the keys to a good product. To better explain the process, consider a whole, fresh chicken. That chicken contains about 70% water and only 18% protein. Put that whole chicken through the rendering process, what is left is a powdery meal that contains only 10% water and 65% protein. This meat meal is what goes into the making of dry dog and cat food.

When you shop for pet food, look for a named meat meal.  By that, I mean a species name.  The better meat meals come from clearly identified meats, such as chicken meal, beef meal, or duck meal. So how do you recognize the bad meat meals? Look for ingredients like meat meal, animal meal, poultry meal or blood meal, and any meal that includes the term “by-product” in its name. Examples would be chicken by-product meal or lamb by-product meal.

Avoid meat and bone meal. The actual definition of meat and bone meal allows the manufacturer to include fur, hooves, horns and horns and manure. In the Truth About Pet Food blog, author Susan Thixton writes about an AAFCO meeting in August, 2015, with several consumer advocates attending. Ms. Thixton was one of those. The article states that said advocates “were witness to the discussion of non-slaughtered, spent laying hens ground whole – feathers, feet, feces and all – becoming the pet food ingredients chicken/poulty by products and chicken/poultry by-product meal.”

This is not the type of food we consumers want our pets to eat, yet you can walk down the pet food aisle of your supermarket or big box store and find package after package of dog and cat foods that contain these bad meat meals. One example that I like to use, mostly because I detest this pet food, is Beneful. Beneful is a popular dog food seen in television commercials and magazine ads. Yet, it contains several ingredients that dogs should not eat. Beneful Originals® with Real Chicken contains chicken by-product meal and poultry by-product meal, neither of which are good for dogs.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty advertising that touts cheap, poor quality food as perfectly balanced and good for your dog or cat. Be careful when you shop and don’t settle for garbage pet food. You’ll save money down the road on veterinary care and your dog or cat will thank you for providing them a better diet.



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Amanda Bennie August 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Great information as usual!
Thank you Carol.
Amanda Bennie


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