Dog Food Nutrition

What Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food?

January 5, 2024

What Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food?

This page contains affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post through our independently chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn More

What Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food?

Good dog foods should contain plenty of meat protein, and chicken, whole or deboned, is a common meat. However, chicken meal is often used in dog food.

This article explains the benefits and reasons behind the use of chicken meal in dog food, as well as its potential health benefits.

The Definition of Chicken Meal in Dog Food

According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which provides definitions for pet food ingredients, chicken meal is defined as follows:

Chicken Meal is a dry rendered (cooked down) product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts of whole carcasses of chicken, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, or entrails. Chicken meal does not contain feathers, heads, feet, or intestinal contents.

According to some sources, it’s considered the single best source of protein in commercial pet foods.

AAFCO explains that the rendering or cooking process to make a meat meal, such as chicken meal, is designed to destroy disease-causing bacteria. It leaves behind an ingredient that is very high in protein when the water is removed.

Chicken meal is not the same thing as chicken by-products or chicken by-product meal.

The Difference Between Chicken and Chicken Meals in Dog Food

Dog foods often include both chicken and chicken meal due to their weight and nutritional value. Chicken, in its whole, fresh, or deboned form, is the first ingredient on the label due to its 70% water content. However, after cooking, the moisture is removed, lowering its protein content.

Chicken meal, on the other hand, is cooked down and has the moisture removed before being added to the dog food ingredients. This results in a concentrated protein powder with 10% water and 65% protein, with most of the fat removed for use elsewhere.

Using too much whole or fresh chicken in dog food can cause manufacturing problems, as fresh whole meats are more susceptible to bacterial growth. Dry products, like chicken meal, are easier for companies to work with than fresh or frozen meats. Chicken meal can be used in larger amounts and provides four or five times the nutrients as whole chicken.

How is Chicken Meal Made?

Chicken meal is a crucial component of dog food, typically made from chicken skin, bones, and other parts of the animal. However, it is important to note that the parts used in chicken meal are not suitable for human consumption. Some chicken meal ingredients are sourced from 4D meat, which may contain foreign objects or dangerous pharmaceuticals.

The process involves dehydrating and cooking chicken parts at high temperatures, creating a concentrated protein powder resembling corn meal. This process also kills bacteria, viruses, and parasites, resulting in the loss of nutrients. Therefore, artificial nutrients are added to meet AAFCO nutritional requirements.

Why is Chicken Meal Used in Dog Food?

Chicken meal is commonly used in dog food due to its accurate protein percentage, high protein content, and nutrient density. Chicken meat, which is 63% water and 29% protein by weight, is cooked out before it enters the dog’s bowl, causing the protein percentage on the back of the food to be inaccurate.

This can lead to a deficiency in essential nutrients for dogs, such as heart health, immune function, and tissue repair. Named meat meals provide the right concentration of the right type of protein, including amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, which are essential for maintaining strong bones, healthy skin and coat, and optimal organ function.

Additionally, the chicken meal used in reputable dog food brands undergoes strict quality control measures to ensure safety and nutritional integrity. By choosing dog food that includes chicken meal or other named meat meals, you can trust in the safety and quality of the ingredients.

Chicken Nutrition Facts

NutrientSkinless, boneless breastSkin-on, bone-in breast
Calories165 gr197 gr
Protein31 gr30 gr
Total fat3.6 gr7.8 gr
Saturated fat1 gr2.2 gr
Monounsaturated fat1.2 gr3 gr
Polyunsaturated0.7 gr1.7 gr

Is Chicken Meal in Dog Food Good?

Chicken meal in dog food is a popular ingredient, but it’s not practical for companies to provide enough meat protein if they only use whole meats. Companies that don’t use named meat meals like chicken meal may add protein using peas, lentils, and legumes, which can be expensive for dog lovers.

While chicken meal is generally a good-quality ingredient, it’s important to consider the source. If you have concerns about the chicken meal in dog food, contact the manufacturer and ask about their source and protocols.

Be cautious about generic meat meals like “meat meal” and “animal meal,” as they don’t know the animals used. Chicken meal is a natural source of glucosamine due to the cartilage in rendered chicken.

Dog Food with Chicken Meal as the First Ingredient

Most dog lovers prefer to see whole meat as the first ingredient in a dog food, such as whole, fresh, or deboned chicken, followed by chicken meal. However, in some cases, you may see chicken meal listed as the first ingredient.

This shouldn’t be a problem if it’s good-quality food. You do need to consider the rest of the food’s ingredients.

If the other ingredients are split between pea protein, pea fiber, and pea flour, or if there are six kinds of lentils and legumes, there is a serious problem. The same is true if the food has half a dozen kinds of grains.

On the other hand, it’s not unusual to see chicken meal used with other kinds of named meat meals, such as lamb meal or turkey meal. That shouldn’t be a problem since the dog food is adding more meat protein to the food.

So, while it’s always nice to see whole meat, such as chicken, included as the first ingredient along with chicken meal, if chicken meal is the first ingredient, this shouldn’t stop you from buying an otherwise good dog food.

Healthier Protein Alternatives to Chicken and Meals

Whole foods are recommended for pets as they are easier to digest and absorb. The top 5 protein-rich meats for dogs include chicken, duck, beef, salmon, and rabbit.

Chicken necks are rich in calcium, chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega-3s, which improve joint function and reduce inflammation.

Duck necks promote joint, skin, and cellular function, while beef heart is a natural source of taurine, essential for heart health and muscle building.

Salmon is rich in omega-3s, nourishing skin and modulating inflammatory responses.

Rabbit is a novel protein with hypoallergenic properties, making it suitable for dogs with allergies.

Final Thoughts

Chicken meal in dog food is found in all kinds of dog foods. This is not an ingredient that you should worry about, as long as the rest of the ingredients in the food look good. It has nearly four times as much protein and other nutrients as whole chicken. It’s good for dogs, and they like it. Dog food companies like it. And it’s good for the dog lover’s pocketbook.

Best Dog Foods For Shedding

Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *