What Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food

What Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food Feature Image

You might be wondering whether your dog’s food provides all the nutrients that they need for the entire day and while you read the ingredients list you happen to stumble upon some additives that are quite unfamiliar to you like chicken meals or by-products.

In this article, you will know the answer to the question, “what is chicken meal in dog food” and how it affects your dog’s health.

A Chicken Flesh And Ingredients For A Chicken Recipe

Definition Guide

The following are the most common ingredients that can be found at the back of your pet food ingredients list:


According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), if your dog food has chicken listed as the first ingredient or one of the major components, your dog’s food most likely contains a clean combination of chicken flesh (clean flesh) and skin, with or without accompanying bone obtained from whole and parts of chicken carcasses, not including other parts like intestinal contents, feathers, and feet making it relatively safe for human consumption. Raw fresh chicken that is not cooked contains approximately 50% to 70% moisture content. This moisture content is then reduced by two-thirds after the cooking process.

Kibble formulas are usually composed of not more than 35% raw chicken because it can be very problematic for many pet food manufacturers’ machinery. Hence, the next time you see chicken on the ingredients list, you may assume that the dog food only contains less than 35% real chicken. Depending on the pet food manufacturer, real chicken in your pet’s food may vary from chicken fillet to chicken carcass. In essence, reading the ingredients list is very important to confirm what the pet food label advertises in front of the bag.

Chicken Meal 

Chicken meat meals are dry, ground, and rendered clean flesh and skin, with or without accompanying bone. It is derived from parts of a whole chicken carcass, not including chicken feet, feathers, and entrails. This was according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

A high-quality meat meal can be made from deboned chicken breasts such as the kinds from the grocery stores that are safe for human consumption. It could also be made from the whole carcasses of spent egg farm hens after their production cycle. Hens from these farms usually do not have many muscles on their skeletal frames so typically, it has a high ratio of skin and bones versus higher quality muscle meat. Meals are cooked twice before it becomes a dog kibble. First, it undergoes the rendering process, then it is cooked to make into a dog food kibble.

By Product Meals

Chicken meat meals can either be of good or bad quality, depending on the way it is processed as well as the handling. You can tell that it is a good source of amino acid for dogs if the protein is not damaged. Unfortunately, pet owners do not have a way to tell whether the chicken meal in their dog food kibble has a poor quality or not.

Chicken By-Product

According to the AAFCO, chicken by-products are made of the waste material left over or any clean parts of the carcass of a slaughtered chicken. A chicken by-product contains ground and rendered clean organs including chicken necks, chicken feet, intestines, and underdeveloped eggs, not including feathers. Chicken by-products are relatively cheaper ingredients for dog foods but it does not contain the same nutritional benefits the whole chicken meat or meals can provide for your pup.

Chicken By-Product Meal

Based on a scientific study, a by-product meal contain slightly lesser amino acids and faintly lower digestibility compare to a regular chicken meal. The quality of the chicken by-product meal highly depends on its components. Generally, the chicken feet have a lower quality than a chicken head. Unfortunately, dog owners cannot distinguish what components there are in a particular chicken by-product.

A Clean Combination Of Whole Chicken Herbs & Spices

How Is Chicken Meal Made?

Chicken meals are generally made of ingredients like skin, bones, necks, feet, and intestines. It is important to remember that in some cases, the chicken meal ingredients are sourced from dead, dying, diseased or disabled meat of animals which are legally considered as allowable chicken meal ingredients( 4D meats ). With this ingredient, there will be a potential presence of foreign objects and high levels of pharmaceuticals. While not frequently, the possible inclusion of these particular ingredients makes a chicken meal bad for humans.

Adding chicken meal instead of human-grade fresh meat will minimize cost in production but in return, it may negatively impact your dog’s diet. The process of making the chicken meal begins with the rendering stage. The parts from the real chicken are dehydrated and cooked at high temperatures for a long period. this separates the chicken fat and removes water, creating a concentrated protein powder that is reduced to specific particle size. During this process, bacterias, viruses, organisms, and other infectious agents are eliminated together with the nutrition that the pets need. Manufactures commonly address the problem by spraying the dog food kibble with the needed nutrition to meet the standard regulated by the AAFCO.

Grain-Free Dog Food

Why Is Chicken Meal Included In Dog Food?

Chicken meal is included in dog food because primarily, it makes the dog food way cheaper compared to using only chicken muscle tissue from a natural source – otherwise called whole foods. However, the affordability of the dog food you’re buying may result in your dog needing more protein or more nutrients that can be clearly sourced from relatively expensive dog food that uses all-natural ingredients. The second reason why the chicken meal is included in dog food is the fact that it has a longer shelf life, giving convenience to storage in malls or in a grocery store. Although the chicken meal is not totally detrimental for dogs, it isn’t the healthiest option for your furry friends either.

A Dog Eating Real Food With Meat

Disadvantages Of Chicken Meal In Dog Food

While a chicken meal can be considered as a source of protein in pet food, it has some disadvantages that you, as responsible pet parents, might want to think over before choosing a pet food product that has chicken meal as its primary ingredient.


Did you know those dry food companies are not permitted to disclose the quality (including digestibility) of the ingredients in the bag? This makes it extremely impossible or difficult for customers to determine exactly what they are placing in your dog’s mouth. [1]Essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are best absorbed and digested by pets in their natural state, and chicken mill, pills, and powdered supplements are not easily digestible which can affect your pets’ health. The amount of digestible protein is what actually adds up as proper nutrition, good stool, and good coat quality rather than the actual content of proteins in the food or the amount of crude protein.

Made From 4D Animals

Although not always present, the possible inclusion of these 4D ingredients makes chicken meal always considered unfit for human consumption. In the extrusion process, more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are destroyed and provides nothing for the pets.

Artificial Nutrients

Some commercial pet foods contain a chicken meal with artificial nutrients that are also hard to digest.

Not A Whole Food Ingredient

Unlike many pet foods that use whole foods as an ingredient, a chicken meal as the primary ingredient may not give your pet proper nutrition, excellent overall health, and good stool quality.

Protein-Packed Dry Pet Food

5 Healthy Protein Alternatives To Chicken Meal

If you are looking for another healthy alternative for a chicken meal, the following ingredients may also provide the essential nutrients for your dog’s proper nutrition.

1. Chicken

Chicken necks are nutrient-rich parts that contain calcium, chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega-3s that may help in healthy joints and reduced inflammation.

2. Duck

Duck neck particularly improves your dog’s joints, skin, and cellular function. It would also help in the development of healthy teeth and bones.

3. Beef

The beef heart contains significant amounts of taurine which is important for your pets’ heart health. It contains high amounts of elastin and collagen that is important for joint health in pets. Additionally, it also contributes to muscle building, energy storage and can effectively boost stamina and endurance in pets.

4. Salmon

Salmon contains high levels of omega-3 that can improve your dog’s skin and controls their body’s inflammatory responses.

5. Rabbit

Rabbit meat is considered a novel protein as it has hypoallergenic properties that are very suitable for dogs with allergies. Rabbit meat provides moisture and hydration in pets and helps support liver and kidney health.

A Chicken & A Dog

Frequently Asked Questions

Is chicken meal okay in dog food?

Yes, a chicken meal is okay in dog food. However, if you wish to give your dog a meal that has relatively high protein content, you might want to consider kibbles that use premium protein sources like manufacturers that have natural chicken as its primary ingredient.

What ingredients should you avoid in dog food?

Some of the ingredients that you need to avoid in dog food, besides by-product meal that has the least nutritional value, steer clear of pet products that include melamine, propylene glycol, unknown meat meal, artificial coloring and flavoring, BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, carrageenan, sodium hexametaphosphate, and monosodium glutamate. These ingredients can be detrimental for your dog and should be avoided at all costs.

What is better chicken or chicken meal?

In terms of cost, a chicken meal is better than a real chicken as it is less expensive which makes a chicken meal good for the pet food manufacturer. However, if you look for the best nutrition for your dog, actual chicken is the best option for you as a chicken meal may contain 4D meat of animals that is harmful to your dog’s health.


It is important that you choose the best ingredients for your dog’s overall well-being. In doing so, you will be able to prevent any further issues that may require you to bring your pet to a veterinary clinic. Essentially, affordability may not be a good factor to consider on what food to give your pup since dog food brands with premium quality ingredients are sold at a hefty price. So, instead of looking at the short-run results, you might want to consider the long-term effect that premium dog food can bring to your pup.