Animal By-Products in Dog Food

Animal By-Products in Dog Food

One of the biggest controversies in the dog food industry involves the presence of animal by-products in the food. There are some people that despise by-products, while others accept it, and actually prefer it. So, why is this? Let’s learn more about animal by-products in dog food and determine what’s best for your dog.

Common Animal By-Products in Dog Food


If you want to get down to the truth, animal by-products are actually the remaining parts of the animal once all of the other edible parts have been taken out. Generally, it is all of the parts that are not intended for consumption by humans, with a few exceptions.

Some of the by-products include:

  • Intestines
  • Stomachs
  • Kidneys
  • Spleen
  • Brains
  • Lungs
  • Livers
  • Back
  • Feet

While some of these are not fit for human consumption, some internal organs, including hearts, livers, necks and gizzards are often consumed by humans, and are also often found in dog food.

Unfit for Humans, OK for Dogs?

Many of the animal parts that are found in dog food are labeled as not safe for human consumption. This is because of how the parts are handled once they come from the slaughterhouse. For example, if organs are not refrigerated immediately, they are not able to be sold for humans, but legally they can be sold to make pet food.

What You Should Know About Animal By-Product Meal

There are actually two main uses of animal by-products. They are often used in canned pet food, and they are also used to make by-product meal. Any inedible by-products that are not used in canned pet food are often rendered and made into by-product meal. This is basically just a super concentrated protein powder that is used to make your pet’s food. So, is meat meal okay for your dog? This is a good question, and one that we are asked often. This is because many of the foods on the market, even super premium foods, have meat meal as their first ingredient.

There are basically two grades of by-product meal, and only one of them is suitable to feed your dog. These grades include:

  • pet food grade
  • feed grade

Pet food grade by-product meal has more protein content, less ash, and is also more consistent and more digestible than feed grade by-product.

Another factor that you need to consider when it comes to by-product meal is how it is sourced. Sometimes, you may see named animal by-product meals on the ingredient list, and they will read like this:

  • turkey by-product meal
  • beef by-product meal
  • chicken by-product meal

As you can see, it specifies the animal that it comes from. On the other hand, there are generic animal by-product meals sometimes as well. These may read as follows:

  • meat meal
  • animal by-product meal
  • meat/bone meal
  • meat by-product meal

With these ingredients, you never really know what to expect out of the meal, or what animal it came from, or even if it was made from fresh meat, rather than road kill. This is really just the harsh truth, so stick with named animal by-product meal if you decide against fresh meat.

The Pros of Animal By-Product Meal

There are actually a few benefits that come along with using animal by-product meal. First of all, you will find that fresh meat is actually a high percentage of water. With meat meal, the water is extracted, therefore your pup gets more protein out of the meal. This is why there are so many pet owners out there that insist that animal by-products in dog food aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

Shopping for the Best Dog Food for Your Pup

Now that you know more about animal by-products in dog food, it is time to take a look at your dog’s food label. If you are trying to determine whether or not you should buy foods that contain these by-products, here are 2 tips that will help you out:

  1. Don’t spend too much money on foods that contain animal byproducts (with the exception of organ meats)
  2. Don’t buy foods that don’t specify the identity of the animal by-products

So, while you may think that animal by-products should always be a no-go, it doesn’t always mean that it is bad. Just make sure that you read the label and stay knowledgeable when it comes to what you are feeding your pup.



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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

Latest posts by Shay Atik (see all)

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One thought on “Animal By-Products in Dog Food

  1. Most dog foods are a joke. The idea that they put all this filler in is just disgusting. I try to buy organic and natural dog foods, but even those sometimes aren’t good for dogs. I don’t get how they can feel it’s right to feed any animal this junk.

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