You might have heard about chicken meal, or noticed it on the back of your dog’s food. If it has conjured up images of chicken bones going through a mincing machine, you’re not alone – but chicken meal is a lot more than just scraps. So, what is it, and is it good in dog food?
What is ‘chicken meal’?
Chicken meal is normal fresh chicken meat that has been cooked and dehydrated until dry. As well as the muscle from chicken this could also include the skin and sometimes the bones too (but not the feathers, heads, feet, or internal organs). This rendered and dried product is then ground down into a powder which can be added as an ingredient to animal feed.
Is chicken meal real chicken?
Yes! Chicken meal is made from real chicken meat that has just been dried so that it can be ground down and used as an ingredient in kibble.
This is a bit different from ‘chicken by-products’ which you may see on some dog food labels. Chicken by-products include the other non-muscle parts of the chicken such as the internal organs, head, and feet. These still come from ‘real chicken’ and are perfectly safe for your pet to eat, but tend to be the parts of the animal that humans don’t want (most dogs don’t mind either way!).
Are nutrients lost in the process of making chicken meal?
Rendering can have an impact on the levels of available nutrients in chicken meal compared to fresh meat, with protein digestibility being reduced in some instances. It also causes a decrease in the amount of heme iron available.
However, pet food manufacturers ensure the volume of ingredients used in their food is carefully formulated to provide your pet with optimal levels of nutrition. So, this nutritional difference usually not of great concern in a real-world scenario.
Why is chicken meal used in dog food?
Chicken meal is used as it provides a concentrated form of protein. It is used in many commercial dog food diets, especially in dry kibbles and biscuits. If manufacturers tried to incorporate the same amount of protein with untreated wet/fresh meat they would struggle to make an appropriate dry diet – the moisture content would be too high. Chicken meal helps solve that problem.
Is chicken meal good for dogs? Is it safe?
Chicken meal is just chicken meat that has been cooked and dried. Chicken is an excellent type of meat for dogs as it is low in fat and very nutritious. Chicken meal is high in protein, which is essential for the healthy growth, development, and repair of your dog’s body. Chicken meal can also contain good levels of glucosamine which will help towards keeping joints healthy.
Chicken meal is perfectly safe for dogs, nothing has been added to the chicken meat it has just been cooked and prepared so that it can be used as an ingredient in your pet’s commercial diet. The rendering and drying process also has the benefit of killing any bacteria that you might find on raw chicken meat.
Do dogs like eating chicken meal?
Although we can’t ask them if they like chicken meal, most dogs have chicken meal as part of their normal dry food diet. Chicken meal is just a concentrated form of chicken which the majority of dogs enjoy the taste of.
What is poultry fat in dog food? Is this the same as chicken meal?
Chicken meal is a concentrated form of lean chicken meat, that has had the fat removed as well as the moisture. Poultry fat is one of the by-products of meal production, which separates off from the chicken meat during the rendering process.
Poultry fat is often added to pet foods to add flavor and improve the taste of the product. Chicken fat is a cheaper ingredient than high protein chicken meal and can help keep manufacturers costs down too. Poultry fat is a good source of non-carbohydrate energy for dogs and is also high in nutritious fatty acids, so shouldn’t be seen as inferior to chicken meal – it’s just providing different qualities to the diet.
Does chicken meal cause allergies in dogs?
No, chicken meal specifically doesn’t cause allergies in our pets. However, some dogs can develop allergies to common proteins found in dog foods, chicken being one of those. If a dog has or develops a chicken allergy, they will react to eating fresh chicken as much as to eating chicken meal in commercial kibble.
Other proteins that dogs are commonly allergic to include beef, lamb, and fish. Allergies can present in different ways with some dogs having itchy skin and paws, whereas others may have stomach upsets. If you are worried your dog has developed an allergy, discuss it with your veterinarian who will be able to advise you on what to do next.
Chicken meal is an excellent way of providing our pets with a healthy source of protein, whilst still being able to feed them with a convenient dry food kibble diet. Hopefully, this has helped answer some questions you might have had about chicken meal, but if you have any concerns regarding your dog’s individual dietary needs then speak to your veterinarian for advice.