Protein in Dog Food: Common Unnamed Proteins

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In the first part of this series on dog food proteins, we discussed the primary sources of protein in commercially available dog food. Today we will use the SlimDoggy dog food database to determine the usage patterns of the lower quality, unnamed proteins source that are used in dog food.


Unnamed proteins- meat, poultry, and animal- have been included in dog food for as long as I can remember and probably since the origins of the commercial dog food industry. These will show up on the ingredient list as by-product, meal, digest, or a combination of these. The problem with unnamed meat sources is that you just don’t know what is included. This can be particularly problematic if your pet has a food allergy as you can’t tell which potential allergens are included in the dog food recipe.


AAFCO Definitions of Common Unnamed Proteins in Dog Food

For some insight into what these generic, unnamed proteins really are, let’s take a look at some AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) definitions of “meat” ingredients in dog food:

  • Meat and Bone Meal – the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.
  • Meat By-Products – the non rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hooves.
  • Meat Meal – the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.


Similar, vague definitions apply to “animal” and “poultry” products. The bottom line is that these unnamed proteins are the cheapest and lowest quality sources of non-plant, non-grain based proteins available. If your budget allows, you should choose foods devoid of these ingredients.


How Common are Unnamed Proteins in Dog Food?

Unfortunately, there are many dog foods that contain one or more unnamed protein sources as part of their recipe. As shown in the chart, meat is the most common of these followed by animal and then poultry products.


unnamed dog food proteins



Worse, is that almost 6 % of all dog foods contain more than one of these unnamed protein sources in the recipe! And we found four foods that contained all three! Needless to say, these are the foods to avoid if possible.


In the third part of this series, I will analyze the usage of the most common named animal proteins in dog food. For those who are interested, take the quiz below to see if you can correctly guess the order of most commonly used of the named proteins.


Rank the following common proteins – add your entry in the comments. You could win some Slimdoggy swag!

  1. Salmon
  2. Beef
  3. Pork
  4. Lamb
  5. Chicken
  6. Duck
  7. Turkey
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  1. 1. chicken 2.beef 3.lamb 4.salmon 6. turkey 7 pork.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Monday Mischief~RRRRRRRiiiiiiippppppppppMy Profile

  2. Good info. We tend to shy away from the unnamed proteins for the reason you state…you don’t know what it is.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Switching GearsMy Profile

  3. We try to stay clear of what we named in college as “mystery meat” – great information. Thanks so much….

  4. I feed Blue Buffalo and I am literally nauseous from reading what they put in dog food. Ranking:
    Chicken Turkey Lamb Beef Salmon Duck Pork

  5. We thought our college was the only one who served mystery meat. We don’t have fond memories of it.
    jan recently posted…Dogs prefer petting to praise, study findsMy Profile

  6. Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Salmon, Turkey, Duck, Pork. Here some proteines are called “meat-like products”, what sounds a little mystic, but the dogfood-guy said that’s the description for residue :o(
    easyweimaraner recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  7. Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, turkey, salmon, duck
    Flea recently posted…What Lola Wants …My Profile

  8. The worst part is that it leaves a lot of leeway, too: ” … except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” Yikes.

    My guess on ranking: Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Turkey, Salmon, Pork, Duck
    Lindsay recently posted…How do you move on when a dog dies?My Profile

  9. I have no clue on the order, but I always thought we needed protein but never paid attention to where it came from such as unnamed.
    Emma recently posted…Birthday Bakin’ With Bacon!My Profile

  10. Ugh…I could barely stand to read those “meat” ingredients!!
    I’ll take a guess!
    Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Lamb, Salmon, Pork, Duck
    Jan K recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Our New Friend DixieMy Profile

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