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

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In cat food, you probably won’t see the word “poultry”– more likely “chicken”, the most popular protein source for cats. You might also see the word “turkey,” but the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials), which sets the standards for many pet foods, doesn’t have a complete description of this item.

The AAFCO describes chicken as the following: “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.”

The AAFCO also has definitions for poultry meal, chicken livers and chicken meal, as well as the word “natural.” Because the AAFCO definition of “natural” could apply to many cat foods presently on the market, some premium cat food manufacturers go a step further by using “human grade” ingredients, which is a term which has not yet been defined by the AAFCO.

According to the AAFCO “natural” is defined as: A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”

The AAFCO further limits the use of “natural” on pet food labels to allow the use of the term “natural” in reference to the product as a whole, when all of the ingredients and components of ingredients meet the definition. The AAFCO recommends exceptions be made with the addition of chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals, or other trace nutrients to food products, with a suitable disclaimer that those additives are not “natural.”

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