What is a byproduct meal?

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In general, a quality dog food should include both “meat” and “byproduct” as the total primary protein source. However, a manufacturer will sometimes just include “byproduct meal” as the protein.

To understand what a byproduct meal is, it’s important to first know what a byproduct is.

Byproducts are what is left of a slaughtered animal after the edible portions have been removed. They include clean organ meats, such as liver and kidney, bone, blood, brains, GI tract, brains, lungs or head. Sometimes, they include things like feet, eggs, or feathers, which are commonly taken from chicken and other poultry meat, turkey and beef. Although not intended for human consumption, they can legally be used in dog food, and batches can vary in quality.

Poultry byproduct meal, which is a high-protein product, is often used as a major component in some pet foods. It is made from grinding clean parts of the poultry carcass and can contain bones and undeveloped egg. There might also be a feather or two—but only those that are unavoidable in the processing of the poultry parts.

Chicken by-product meal, like poultry by-product, is made of “dry, ground, rendered clean parts of the chicken carcass” according to the AAFCO, and may contain the same ingredients as poultry-by product. It can vary in quality from batch to batch. Chicken by-product costs less than chicken muscle meat and lacks the digestibility of chicken muscle meat.

There’s an enormous amount of debate as to whether or not byproducts are okay to use in pet foods. Many experts, including veterinarians, say that byproducts are a more complete source of nutrition because they include a combination of ingredients rather than simple muscle tissue Most veterinarians agree that meat is a great source of protein and amino acids, but provides few benefits beyond these factors. On the other hand, byproducts include organ meat, all essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that animals need to thrive.

However, other animal health specialists take a philosophical stand against byproducts, claiming that since much of it isn’t fit for human consumption, it should also not be given to animals. These advocates claim that byproducts could include diseased portions of deceased animals, along with other less desirable ingredients.

The bottom line is that only you, the consumer, and your veterinarian, pet nutritionist or other expert, can make a decision as to whether or not your pet should consume byproducts.

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