On a commercial cat food label, what is the proper definition for poultry byproducts?

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The AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) actually defines poultry byproducts as a poultry by-products meal. This consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

The definition is made even more specific by referring to something as a chicken by-products meal, as opposed to poultry byproducts meal. The AAFCO define this as: “Chicken byproduct meal consists of 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.”

Why is it so important to make this distinction for pet owners?

First of all, the word “chicken” is much more specific than “poultry.” Many pet food experts insist that the consumer should always look for something that is species-specific, rather than generic, such as “poultry” or “meat meal.”

Second, these same pet food experts suggest that the labeling should include both muscle meat, such chicken or fish, as well as the byproduct.

They add that if a food contains byproduct only, it could be considered an inferior source of protein for cats. Although cats may eat a certain amount of by-product in the wild, the most nutritious commercial cat foods will show a named meat, such as “chicken” as the first ingredient, rather than just “chicken byproduct meal.”

The AAFCO sets the standards for any pet food labeling. Many manufacturers will include the AAFCO logo on their labels, but must meet the AAFCO nutrient requirements in order to do so. They must either meet an AAFCO nutrient profile or pass a feeding trial.

Manufacturers, however, are only required to represent the food’s minimum crude amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates and water, as established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

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