Have you ever wondered what exactly is in your dog’s food? You might be surprised to find out that the “Chicken and Potato Dinner” you’ve been feeding your furry friend may not actually contain real, natural chicken. So, let’s dive deeper and unravel the mystery behind the confusing ingredients found in many pet foods.
What’s the Deal with Chicken Meal?
One such ingredient that leaves pet owners scratching their heads is chicken meal. But what exactly is chicken meal, and where does it come from? Chicken meal is a powder-like substance made from chicken parts and by-products. These animal by-products are the parts of the meat, like the skin and bones, that are not fit for human consumption. Essentially, they’re the parts we don’t want to use in our own food.
The Making of Chicken Meal
The source of chicken meal plays a critical role in its quality. Typically, chicken meal is made from a combination of chicken parts, including the skin, bones, meat, necks, feet, and intestines. It’s important to note that these parts are not suitable for human consumption. In some cases, the chicken meal ingredient is sourced from “4D” meat, which stands for dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals. This raises concerns about the potential presence of foreign objects or dangerous levels of pharmaceuticals. While the manufacturer may save money, your dog’s health pays the real cost.
During the rendering process, the chicken parts are dehydrated and cooked at high temperatures for an extended period. This process separates the fat and removes water, resulting in a concentrated protein powder that resembles cornmeal. Unfortunately, this high-temperature process kills not only bacteria, viruses, and parasites but also the natural nutrients present in the meat. To compensate for the loss of nutrients, artificial additives are sprayed onto the food to meet nutritional requirements.
The Pros and Cons of Chicken Meal
Chicken meal provides a source of protein for our pets, but it’s definitely not the healthiest option. Some manufacturers include chicken meal in their dog food because it helps cut costs and extends the shelf life of the product. However, there are downsides to consider.
The Disadvantages of Chicken Meal
- Digestibility: Pets digest and absorb essential nutrients better from natural, whole foods rather than from chicken meal or supplements.
- Source: Chicken meal is often made from 4D animals, which are unfit for human consumption and lack inherent nutrients or vitamins.
- Artificial Nutrients: Artificial nutrients in chicken meal are not as easily digestible as those found in whole foods.
- Not a Whole Food Ingredient: Proper nutrition, healthier bodies, shiny coats, and good stool quality are best achieved through easily digestible whole food ingredients.
Finding Chicken Meal in Your Dog Food
The easiest way to determine if your dog food contains chicken meal is to read the nutrition label. If it’s listed as an ingredient, then that’s what you’re feeding your pet.
Healthy Protein Alternatives
Since whole foods are more easily digestible and better absorbed, it’s recommended to opt for high-quality, whole ingredient protein sources. Here are the top 5 protein meats for dogs:
- Chicken: Chicken is a great source of calcium, chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega-3s, which promote joint function and reduce inflammation.
- Duck: Duck provides benefits for joints, skin, cellular function, and bone strength.
- Beef: Beef heart is rich in taurine and collagen, promoting heart health, muscle development, energy storage, and joint health.
- Salmon: Salmon is a rich source of omega-3s, which nourish healthy skin and regulate inflammation.
- Rabbit: Rabbit provides hydration, supports kidney and liver function, and is a novel protein option for dogs with allergies.
In the end, feeding our pets fresh, natural ingredients results in a healthier, stronger body and a chance for a longer life.
Providing Your Pet with the Best Nutrition
Switching your dog’s food to incorporate just 25% real food, such as green leafy vegetables or a high-quality freeze-dried option, can significantly reduce the risk of cancer according to a Purdue University study.
To ensure the best nutrition for your pet, consider taking our virtual Pet Assessment. In just three minutes, you’ll learn about foods that complement your pet’s unique nutritional needs, helping them thrive and live longer through whole food nutrition.
Dr. Alison Birken is a small animal veterinarian in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She owns Victoria Animal Hospital, co-founded Forever Freckled, and is a proud dog mom to her Saint Bernard, Dory.
To learn more about providing your pet with the best care, visit Katten TrimSalon.