Meat and Meat Meal: Sorting Through Animal Protein Sources

Just a few years in the past, we added a brand new column to the chart full of data that we publish in our annual “approved dry dog foods” listing within the February subject. The column tabulates what number of canine meals made by every firm on the listing have been made with meat solely, meat meal solely, and/or a mix of meat and meat meal.

These tabulations don’t represent a judgment concerning the merchandise listed; they’re merely data for canine homeowners who perceive the variations between the phrases and the inferences that one could make from that data. But it has come to our consideration that a lot of you aren’t conscious of what, precisely, you’ll be able to infer a few pet meals firm – or a person product – from its inclusion of meat, meal, or each on its substances panel. So let’s clear this up!


First, although, you have to perceive that, for the needs of this article, after we use the generic phrases “meat” and “meat meal,” we’re discussing named meats: hen and hen meal, pork and pork meal, beef and beef meal, and so forth. We don’t embrace any merchandise on our “approved foods” lists that make the most of unspecified protein sources on the substances label. When an unnamed animal protein supply seems on the substances panel, the buyer has no thought of what mammal or kind of poultry is within the can or bag.

To repeat: If you see one of many following phrases on the substances listing of a pet food, you received’t see that pet food on our “approved foods” lists: meat, meat by-products, meat meal, meat and bone meal, poultry, poultry by-products, poultry meal, poultry by-products meal. 

 Each of those phrases or phrases have authorized definitions once they seem on an ingredient panel. Lacking a phrase that signifies the species of animal has contributed the “meat” in query, the client has no means of realizing what they could be feeding their canine. Is it beef? Lamb? Pork? Chicken? Whatever leftover animal protein supply the producer should buy on sale? There isn’t any approach to know. 


What we’re discussing right here and now, although, is the distinction between named meats and their named meat meal corollaries. What’s the distinction between hen and hen meal, beef and beef meal, and so forth.? 

There is a important clock ticking in the case of contemporary and frozen meats and meat by-products. Refrigeration is expensive – and doesn’t maintain off degradation of the substances for lengthy. Freezing preserves meats longer, however is a number of components extra pricey than refrigeration. Companies that use contemporary meats of their pet meals have to get these substances into their mixers and extruders shortly; the extra time it takes to get from the meat-processing plant to the food-manufacturing plant, the more expensive the substances turn into.

If the meat merchandise are not refrigerated or frozen, their high quality is closely impacted by the point and distance it takes them to journey to both a rendering firm or a pet meals producer. The longer it takes them to be cooked in a single kind or one other, the extra bacterial decay and enzymatic breakdown will happen, affecting the standard of the protein and fats. 

Pet meals makers want to check and management a slew of quality-indicated parameters to verify the meat-based substances are of adequate high quality to be secure, nutritious, and palatable. The high quality of the product may be decided by the colour and odor of the fabric, in addition to analytical values for protein, accessible lysine, whole lysine, methionine, pepsin digestibility (increased values are equated with increased protein content material), peroxide worth (increased values imply better rancidity of the fat), OSI worth (signifies the oxidative stability of the fat), ash (extra on that in a minute), degree and kind of amino acids they include.


The ash content material in a pet meals corresponds nearly completely to the quantity of bone that’s included within the product’s animal protein sources; it consists of the minerals that will be left when you burned every part in a meals that will burn. Foods with an satisfactory quantity of calcium, phosphorus, and different minerals they want – however no extra – might include as little as 2% ash. Super cheap, low-quality meals might include as a lot as 10% ash, indicating that they have been made with animal protein sources that included plenty of bone. Most canine meals include between 5% and eight% ash. 

Meat meals are made by means of a course of known as rendering. The course of is known as “rendering” because it renders unstable, degradable meats right into a extra steady kind. The animal merchandise are subjected to excessive temperatures, each in an effort to kill any pathogens and to drive a certain quantity of moisture and fats away from the bone and tissue. 

Once the product is in a lower-moisture kind (round 10%), it can stay comparatively steady at room temperatures for months. Meat meals may be shipped and saved for a while, till the pet meals producer is able to make some meals. 

For these causes, the smaller the annual gross sales of a pet meals model, the much less continuously it will likely be made, the extra probably it’s that the product will likely be made with meat meals, slightly than contemporary meats. Meat from unique species which can be in restricted provide (maybe solely seasonally) is sort of at all times provided within the type of a rendered meal. 

Competent rendering corporations can produce meat meals with a spread of fats and “ash” content material, and pet meals corporations will stipulate how a lot fats and ash they need within the substances they purchase from the renderer. In basic, higher-fat substances will value greater than lower-fat substances. Lower-ash substances value greater than high-ash substances. 


There are corporations which have staked their complete reputations on the truth that they use solely meats, by no means meat meals, of their dry canine meals. Is this actually an indication of upper high quality? 

Actually, there’s one thing to look out for in these “meat only” (meal-free) dry canine meals: the inclusion (and continuously, the over-representation) of plant-sourced proteins, which have a much less fascinating amino acid profile than meat (for canines). 

Remember, substances are listed on the label so as of pre-processing weight within the meals’s formulation. Meat incorporates about 70% moisture and may be very heavy, so whether it is included in a big sufficient amount in order to look first or second on the ingredient listing, it might’t truly be supplying nearly all of the product’s protein. This is as a result of the meats which can be utilized in pet meals – which truly include fairly a little bit of pores and skin, fats, connective tissue, and bone – might include as little as 8% protein.

In meals that include each meat and meat meal excessive on the substances listing, it’s the meat meal that provides many of the protein within the product. If there isn’t any meat meal in a dry pet food, it has to have some plant protein sources to spice up the protein content material to satisfactory ranges. We couldn’t say, then, that we really feel these meat-only dry pet food formulations are higher. 


We’re sorry to say it, however the components that most have an effect on the standard of the meat substances in canine meals are completely unimaginable to verify. The supply of the substances, whether or not they’re stored chilled, the gap to the rendering plant or food-production facility, the period of time it takes for these substances to be processed . . . none of these items are verifiable by customers (or journalists, in case you have been questioning). 

Giant conglomerate meals corporations even have a bonus right here, in that many have rendering and/or pet meals manufacturing services adjoining to their human meals processing services, sparing the meat and meat by-products an extended journey on the native air temperature. 

That stated, there have to be smaller corporations which have positioned their manufacturing services conveniently near their animal-protein suppliers. And we all know that some pet meals makers do preserve their meat substances chilled all the best way between the slaughterhouse to their pet meals mixing and extrusion or canning tools. But these info are tough to confirm and topic to vary at a second’s discover. Consumers (us included) are caught with having to belief the repute of the corporate and efficiency of the merchandise themselves. 

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