November 18, 2023

What is Chicken Meal?

Those reading ingredients lists on pet foods may come across unfamiliar terms such as “chicken meal” or “chicken by-product.” The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines chicken meal as a dry rendered product made from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from whole carcasses of slaughtered poultry, exclusive of heads, feet, and entrails. It’s not the same as fresh meat, but it does offer a very concentrated source of protein and minerals.

Chicken meal is a common ingredient found in many pet foods, especially those with higher levels of protein like raw and kibble. The process by which it’s made is quite similar to how you’d cook up a piece of chicken, except the pieces are cooked at very high temperatures to remove the water, kill pathogenic microorganisms, and separate fat and oil.

The cooked parts are then ground into a powder that is used as a highly concentrated source of protein and nutrients. Ordinary chicken meat, which is also a common ingredient in some pet foods, has a lot of water in it — over two-thirds — and can’t be used at the concentration level that is needed to make a finished food.

This is where chicken meal and other meat meals come into play. They provide more of the highly digestible proteins that dogs need to thrive, as opposed to just a lot of protein. Despite the difference, both chicken meat and chicken meal can be a good addition to a pet’s diet, but your best bet is to stick with a food that has real, human grade, high-quality chicken as the first ingredient.

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