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Pet Blog

What is Chicken By-Product Meal in Dog & Cat Food?

Nutrition labels on animal food can be intimidating, but this guide can help you understand what they mean. On any food label, you’ll find a long list of items; food ingredients, vitamins/minerals, and probiotics.

Something you may see within the food ingredients are animal by-products, which are one of the most controversial ingredients in pet food. By-products are what’s leftover after the parts intended for human consumption have been removed. Chicken by-products are a common ingredient in pet food and can include chicken feet, livers, lungs, brains, etc. When choosing natural pet food, it's important to consider these components and their nutritional value to ensure a balanced diet for your pet.

What are by-products and what is by-product meal?

By-products in pet food are non-human-edible animal parts, while by-product meal is the dried and ground version, both providing a potent protein source for pet diets. Chicken byproduct meal in cat food are concentrated, ingredients used in pet food formulations for their high protein content and essential nutrients, as well as their super cheap cost for producers.

What is chicken by-product meal in dog food?

Unlike chicken meal, which is dried and rendered clean meat, skin, and bone, chicken by-products contain the “less desirable” parts of a chicken that remain after the meat is removed. This can include the lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys. The higher quality ingredient is chicken meal, which you can find in all of our natural pet foods, like our Baked + Saucy Chicken and Sweet Potato dog food.

Shop Baked & Saucy Dog Food


What is chicken by-product meal in cat food?

The same by-products that are used in dog food can also be used in cat food. As is true with dog food, chicken meal is the superior ingredient, which you can also find in our natural cat foods, like Naked Essentials Chicken + Duck cat food.


What’s the Difference Between Chicken By-product Meal and Chicken Meal?

Chicken meal, a high-quality ingredient in natural cat food, is rendered from clean, whole chicken parts and provides a dense protein source, superior to chicken by-product meal which includes less digestible parts like organs and bones. This distinction makes chicken meal a preferred protein in natural pet food for optimal pet health.


Are by-products dangerous to pets?

The raw ingredients used in rendering by-product meals are generally just leftovers of the meat, poultry, and fishing industries. High temperatures used in the rendering may alter or destroy natural enzymes and proteins found in these raw ingredients. Because of this, the nutritional quality of by-products often varies dramatically from batch to batch. 


These protein sources are often unappealing to pets, and many times artificial flavors or fats are sprayed on the food in order for it to be appealing to your dog or cat. While the by-products aren’t necessarily dangerous to your pet, the quality is questionable. I and Love and You never uses by-products in our natural pet food. When in doubt about nutrition standards for your pet, this handy guide can help! 


When choosing the best nutrition for your pets, it's important to understand the difference between chicken by-product meal and chicken meal. Chicken by-product meal, made from less digestible parts, offers variable nutrition, while chicken meal, found in high-quality natural pet foods, provides a more consistent and superior protein source. For the best natural pet foods, check out products like our Baked & Saucy Dog Food and Naked Essentials Chicken + Duck Cat Food, which feature high-quality chicken meal.


 Updated January 23, 2024