Grocery shopping for yourself is tricky enough, and sometimes it seems like shopping for dog food is even harder! At first glance, you might be surprised by all the terminology related to dog food. One term you might see is chicken meal, and maybe you’re wondering: what is chicken meal in dog food? It’s a great question and an easy one to answer.

Chicken Meal 101

What do you think of when you hear the word “meal”? A tasty dinner served by candlelight? That’s one definition, but in the case of chicken meal, we’re talking about a finely ground ingredient. Think of cornmeal or something similar; they’re almost powder-like. Chicken meal is just like the chicken you’d buy from your grocer but rendered. Most of the water and fat have been removed to make a concentrated ingredient high in protein and minerals.

The process works like this: selected portions of chicken—mostly cleaned flesh and skin—are separated and cooked to remove the water, kill pathogenic microorganisms, and separate the fat and oil. The meat is then ground into a fine powder. (Chicken meal won’t contain certain parts of the chicken, such as feathers). The creation of chicken meal in this manner is called rendering.

Is chicken meal good for dogs?

In a short answer, yes. Through the process of making chicken meal, the meat becomes more concentrated. Ordinary chicken meat contains a great deal of water—more than two-thirds of the meat is moisture. Once all of the water is dried out, what remains is still chicken; it’s just concentrated.

Chicken meal is a fantastic protein source for dogs; the protein content is 65 percent. By comparison, the protein content of regular chicken meat is just 18 percent.Chicken meal delivers more protein per pound to your pet. Quality chicken meal—not to be confused with chicken by-product meal—is an excellent ingredient for the kibble in your dog’s food dish.

Is chicken by-product meal the same?

Chicken by-product meal is not the same as chicken meal. Chicken by-product meal is made from the ground portions of the chicken that is not used in chicken meal, typically heads, neck, feet, and entrails. These are rendered down, then baked. Chicken by-product meal is often a less desirable ingredient—especially in high-end pet food—because of the parts of the chicken that are used.

Bottom line? While both chicken meal and chicken by-product meal are made from real chicken, chicken meal is a higher quality ingredient and is a perfectly healthy way for your dog to enjoy this tasty delight.

  1. Pet Central. “The Real Deal on Protein Meal.”