If you study the ingredient list of your dog’s favorite food, you almost always come across ingredients you aren’t familiar with, and meat meals like Chicken Meal may be one of those.
While Chicken is well-known, many dog owners are unsure what Chicken Meal means and if it’s something their dog should be eating.
What Is Chicken Meal?
Chicken Meal is a concentrated form of Chicken meat and tissue that has been processed to remove most of its moisture content.
This process, known as rendering, is done on an industrial scale and produces other well-known animal by-products like Beef Tallow.
Many dog owners do not realize that whole meat ingredients like Turkey, Chicken, or Beef contain a very high portion of water or moisture, as much as 75%.
You can see a few examples in the below chart.
As you can see, Chicken has one of the highest proportions of moisture when compared to other meat ingredients at approximately 69%.
This high moisture content means that once this meat is cooked during the production process of dry dog food recipes, most of this moisture is lost, leaving a relatively small portion of meat remaining.
But the portion remains relatively stable due to meat meals like Chicken Meal having this moisture removed in advance.
Chicken Meal is an example of an accountable and transparent meat meal ingredient as it must be produced from Chicken -based ingredients.
This contrasts with other meat meals like Bone and Meat Meal, which are far less accountable and could be made from various ingredients.
You can learn more about Bone Meal in our dedicated discussion – Bone Meal In Dog Food.
Why Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food
As we touched on earlier, Chicken Meal has had most of its moisture removed, which means it is a very nutritionally dense ingredient packed with animal-based protein and fat.
This nutritional density allows pet food manufacturers to include a relatively small portion of Chicken Meal to provide nutrition compared to whole Chicken ingredients.
In contrast to red meat ingredients, Chicken contains a relatively high proportion of protein compared to some fattier meats, with a ratio of protein to fat of 80:20, although this can vary depending on the source.
It is also typically the case that meat meals like Chicken Meal are cheaper to purchase than whole Chicken ingredients.
This is because much of the Chicken used to produce Chicken Meal is scraps and less desirable cuts of meat rather than those you’d be familiar with in the grocery store.
Picture the remnants of chicken meat and tissues on the bones of a chicken carcass after it has been butchered into breasts, thighs, and wings.
While that may not sound appealing, those scraps and cuts are still very nutritionally dense, and dogs will not turn their nose up at them.
Storage & Safety
An often overlooked reason that meat meals like Chicken Meal are used in favor of whole meat ingredients is that they are far less prone to spoilage once they have undergone rendering.
This is an essential trait in the pet food manufacturing industry and reduces the risk of issues that could lead to recalls.
It also allows manufacturers to more easily transport and store the ingredients over a more extended period of time, enabling a more efficient supply chain.
Dog Food Brands That Use Chicken Meal
Chicken Meal is undoubtedly the most popular meat meal found in dog food recipes and is used by hundreds of brands across the industry.
Some of those brands you may have heard of include Blue Buffalo, Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, Taste of the Wild, Diamond, Iams, Victor, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Natural Balance, American Journey, Wellness, and Canidae.
In addition, while recently researching the use of ingredients in dog food, we found that of the 100 most popular dry dog food brands on Chewy.com, a whopping 37 of them contained Chicken Meal as an ingredient, which really emphasizes its popularity.
You can see a prime example of the use of Chicken Meal in a dog food recipe in the ingredient list of Victor’s Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Formula.
As you can see, Chicken Meal is the primary ingredient and is present in a large portion. Given its density, this means that there is a huge amount of Chicken present, providing an ample portion of animal-based protein and fat.
However, most dog food recipes that contain Chicken Meal tend to contain a mix of Chicken and Chicken Meal, and you can see an example of this in the ingredient list of Rachael Ray Nutrish’s Chicken & Veggies Recipe.
In this example, you can see the most abundant ingredient is actually Chicken, with Chicken Meal coming in second.
However, given Chicken Meal’s nutritional density, it’s likely that there is more Chicken in the smaller portion of Chicken Meal than in the larger portion of Chicken.
Regardless, the recipe still includes a large overall portion of Chicken which is what counts.