On a dog food label, what’s the proper definition of meat meal?

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According to the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials), meat meal is the dehydrated product made from animal tissues (by definition without any blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, or stomach contents).

Meals do contribute a more concentrated amount of protein than “fresh” meat because of the wet-dry issue. While fresh meat is wet, it weighs more before processing, but can have almost 50 percent less protein after processing.

Meat meal, however, is dry from the start, so its protein content is consistent from start to finish. In the “pro” column, a meal contains only about 10 percent water, so the protein count is always high. In the “con” column, however, we have to say that meals are far more processed than fresh meat, especially once a meal is added to kibble, being cooked and dried a few times over.

Of course, the term “meat meal” can be pretty mysterious, and there are some “meals” that are high quality, and some that are awful. Here’s how to spot the inferior substances:

  • Stay away from any “generic” references such as “meat meal” or “animal meal,” as they can include anything from road kill to dead zoo animals. Rather, opt for species-specific meals, such as beef, chicken, lamb, fish, etc.
  • As for the term “by-product meal,” it’s really much too vague; many experts agree that by products are far more nutritious, especially since they include organ meats—but it should say “chicken by-product meal” or “beef by-product meal”-not just “by-product meal.”
  • Stay away from any dog food that has these phrases:

–Meat and bone meal

–Glandular meal

–Poultry meal (it should specify whether it’s chicken or turkey)

–Blood meal

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask a pet food expert or your veterinarian. What you feed your dog will affect its health for a lifetime!

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