When reading a bag of pet food, it gets confusing the different terms that are used! Who knows what all these different words mean?? Let’s start with a few. Often, we find people confused why the bag of food we recommend says “Chicken Meal” instead of “Chicken.” We often get asked if that’s bad or if it should only say chicken. We wanted to take some time to explain what these different terms mean!
Here is how AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials) defines these three ingredients:
Chicken: the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.
(Translation: Chicken meat, skin and bone)
Chicken Meal: Chicken (see above) which has been ground or otherwise reduced in particle size.
(Translation: Chicken meat, skin and bone that is ground into small pieces. Chicken meal is a dry, solid material that can be made into kibble.)
Chicken by-product: the parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.
(Translation: Chicken necks, unborn eggs, feet and organs)
Chicken by-product meal: the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.
(Translation: ground up necks, unborn eggs, feet and organs)
So now that they made that clear as mud for us, let me explain! Chicken and Chicken meal are the same product. They come in different forms, meaning chicken is in its natural form including water. Chicken meal is that same chicken, but has essentially been dehydrated and ground to a powder. For the purpose of kibble, we prefer to see chicken meal. When kibble is processed, the water content is taken out, so if we put chicken in the food, and chicken is 75% water, you now only have 25% actual meat left! When we use chicken meal, the water is already removed and we are using 100% chicken, keeping more meat in that food! Ingredients are listed by weight before processing. If we have chicken as the first ingredient, but then we remove moisture, we end up with far less meat than other ingredients. If we have chicken meal listed as the first ingredient, when the moisture is removed, we end up with the same amount of protein!
What we DO NOT want is by-product of any kind. This is the leftover parts and pieces that are unfit for human consumption. It lowers the price greatly for the food company, but our dogs pay the price for this discounted product. You also do not want to see “meat by-product” or “animal by-product.” This means the company does not know what meat is in the mixture and could contain any source of protein, including dog, cat, horse, or other proteins that we don’t want to feed our pets.
You will often find different results during research. What we base our results on is food trials, science, and research! Fresh meat is always great for our dogs, but when it comes to a dry kibble product, we prefer to see that “Chicken Meal,” so we know our pets are getting the actual percentage of meat we need them to get!
Here is a chart to help!
Stay tuned for our next blog post about ingredients to avoid in pet foods!