Dog Food Ingredients A to Z: Meat

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mixed meats



We now move to the letter “M” in our ingredient A to Z series and are featuring “Meat” as our ingredient of the day.


What is meat?

Seems like a trick question, doesn’t it? According to, the definition of meat is: the flesh of animals as used for food.  According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which establishes dog and cat food nutritional guidelines,  meat is defined as the “clean flesh of slaughtered mammals and is limited to…the striate muscle…with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh.”

Based on either of these definitions, it is not clear what protein source that “meat” is derived from. Which is the problem!

 Common names for meat

The most common dog food name variations for meat include meat meal and meat by-product, both of which are more processed forms of meat.

Why is meat included in dog food?

Meat is a cheap protein source that is include in lower quality dog food.  Because it is not a specific protein, manufacturers can pick and choose the cheapest and lowest quality protein scraps available.  We highly recommend that you choose a food with a named protein (like beef, pork, salmon) and avoid foods that use generic proteins like meat, poultry, or fish.

Is meat a commonly used ingredient in dog food?

Unfortunately, yes, meat is a very common dog food ingredient.  We found meat (including meat meal and meat byproduct) in 15% of all dog foods in our database.

Common benefits or risks of meat

As we have posted about in the past, dogs are descendants of the carnivore Wolf and thus, they thrive on a diet high in animal protein and fats.  Although non-specific, meat is a rich source in protein and fat.

There are several risks to using a food that includes “meat” as its protein source. First of all, it implies a lower quality ingredient. If the manufacturer can’t be more specific, it raises a huge red flag warning.  Second, without a named protein source, you have no way to know if a food is appropriate for your dog if they have allergies or other medical issues.

Miscellaneous facts about meat

The word meat comes from the Old English word mete, which referred to food in general.

Meat generally refers to the flesh of mammals and not poultry or fish flesh.

Archie Bunker called his son-in-law “meat head”.

Slimdoggy Ingredient Comfort Level (new!)

Because meat is a nondescript ingredient and the pet owner can not discern the meat source, we consider meat to be an ingredient to avoid. Hence, we award it the Slimdoggy frown.slimdoggy frown


Sources and further reading



We’re joining the Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop sponsored by Sugar, the Golden Retriever and Kolchak from Kol’s Notes:

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  1. Very interesting. We call my brother in law meat scrap. LOL Have a great day.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Tuesday’s Tails~SaraMy Profile

  2. We call Thunder a meat hunter. Does that count? lol But seriously, thanks for the info. We like to choose foods with the protein source called out. We just recently changed Freighter to bison. He was not doing as well as we would have liked on the salmon based food he was eating. The other two do great on the salmon. Different dogs, different foods I guess.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Fun Pheasant HuntMy Profile

    • Interesting – we have Jack on salmon for itching. He seems to be doing okay although he’s lost some more weight. The itching is better.
      mkob recently posted…Dog Food Ingredients A to Z: MeatMy Profile

      • Freighter just was not gaining enough on the salmon and his stools were not as firm as we like. Better on the bison which is a higher protein and higher fat food. Still he gets 4 cups of food a day!
        2 brown dawgs recently posted…Fun Pheasant HuntMy Profile

  3. Meat made us think of steak, which made us hungry!
    emma recently posted…Made in the USA #NudgesMoments | GBGVMy Profile

  4. Great post! A concern I always have about “meat” is – where is it from? What were those animals eating? Were they given antibiotics? Growth hormone? Not all meat is equal, imho.
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Adopt Henry a Senior Black Labrador Retriever Dog in MissouriMy Profile

    • You are right and just as we become more aware and cautious for ourselves, we should for our dogs too.
      mkob recently posted…Dog Food Ingredients A to Z: MeatMy Profile

  5. We feed raw. A combination of chicken necks and ground turkey, but on occasion I will pick up beef. They are definitely defined sources though!! It’s good to know if for some reason we switch back to kibble.
    Jodi recently posted…If You Love Pets, You MUST Follow a Pet BloggerMy Profile

  6. It’s the “meat bi-products” that always confuse/alarm us. When we try to read about them we lose our appetites.
    jan recently posted…Meet little MoeMy Profile

  7. No meat for just good protein like salmon. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    Sugar: Golden Woofs recently posted…Zuke’s #FuelTheLove Of A Senior DogMy Profile

  8. It never occurred to me that “meat” would be such a common dog food ingredient. I’m used to seeing “chicken meal” or something like that instead. I’m gonna have to keep my eyes peeled from now on!
    Nailah Bone recently posted…Holiday Foods – Doggy Don’ts!My Profile

  9. My dogs wish I would do this. I have a dehydrator, but honestly, raw meat bugs me too much. Yeah, I know, I feed raw. But, having to handle raw chicken long enough to slice it up into uniform slices that will dry evenly- that makes me shudder a bit.

  10. That is one of the first things I learned from you that really stuck with me…named meat sources only. I won’t buy that processed sandwich meat from the deli for myself, and the dogs deserve the same treatment!
    That AAFCO definition of meat really makes me want to become a vegetarian. Not the dogs of course, but myself. I just can’t quite give it up though.
    Jan K recently posted…Book Giveaway: Chaser (the Dog Who Knows 1000 Words) #Chaser1000My Profile

    • I hear you – I feel the same. I barely eat meat…a little chicken now and then.
      mkob recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 11-21-13My Profile

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