What Is Chicken Meal In Dog Food?
Chicken meal refers to ground lean chicken and skin. It doesn’t include bones or other chicken parts. It’s often a term used to describe the combination of chicken meat and skin in dog foods.
What is a chicken meal and why nobody knows much about it?
Chicken meal is a type of meat that goes through a tendering process, together with chicken skin. Free from bones, it’s similar to a stew-making process that results in a paste that is easy to consume and which is dry. This is why you will often find a chicken meal as an ingredient listed on dry dog foods.
But why doesn’t anybody truly know about it?
The process of turning the chicken into a chicken meal is also known as rendering. It basically takes all of the most out of the chicken, making it a meat/protein concentrate. By baking the chicken for longer most of the water content from the meat evaporates.
This turns a chicken with 70% moist into the chicken with 10% moist. The protein content also rises a few times as a result of the shrinking process from the rendering.
A similar concept is seen when making protein powder, where the removal of moist concentrates the protein. Yet, not many people know about it.
The protein is often confused with chicken that is made with other ingredients. But this is not a ‘meal’ per se, but rather a type of dried or concentrated meat that is high in protein.
Is chicken meal real chicken?
Yes, chicken meal is real chicken. The rendering and grinding process might affect how the meat looks, but the end result is still meat. The chicken meal tastes like real chicken and it gives your dog the ability to consume dry food long after its packing has been open. The dry food you see in the package is a form of meat and vegetables, mostly gone through a grinding process.
Will my dog like a chicken meal?
Chicken meal is not necessarily different from real chicken. In fact, you could safely eat it too. Since it maintains the same flavor profile, the dry ingredient is enjoyed by dogs.
Now, when faced with a choice between a real piece of chicken and raw chicken meals, dogs might think differently. Most hungry dogs will simply stop and whichever food is closest. But real chicken can offer the texture dogs love the most.
This is the main reason you rarely see chicken meal anywhere else than mixed with other ingredients that make up dog food.
Is chicken meal the same with chicken by-products?
If you read your dog’s food label closely, you might find another term such as chicken by-products in its list of ingredients. This refers to other parts of the chicken such as internal organs which can be part of the ingredients. This is not the same as a chicken meal.
The amount of protein in lean chicken is hard to match by chicken by-products. These tertiary chicken products such as the spline or the liver rarely have the same amount of protein which doesn’t place them at the same nutritional level as a chicken meal.
Then there are the products which contain both ingredients. Using only this ingredient doesn’t exclude the inclusion of chicken by-products in your dog’s food. Most of the time, the most expensive ingredient is a chicken meal and chicken by-products can be added to lower the final production cost.
Why is chicken meal used in dog food?
This is maybe the most important question you might have as a dog owner. Why is the ingredient used in the first place in your dog’s food? Why can’t all the food be made from lean chicken?
The answer to this question lies in the dog’s nutritional needs. Dog food is formulated specifically based on the daily caloric intake recommendation for most breeds. Broadly speaking, a dog needs roughly 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This means a dog of 20kg (44lbs) needs 40 grams of protein per day.
But 40 grams of protein from lean chicken and 40 grams of protein from a chicken meal doesn’t look the same. Chicken meal protein daily serving size is considerably smaller.
This is why brands such as Purina use a chicken meal to ensure the dog gets the amount of protein needed every day. There are sufficient reasons to believe this daily protein intake is mainly beneficial in the long term when it is consumed regularly. When the dog doesn’t get sufficient protein, muscles can suffer, as well as other functions of the body that are based on amino acids.
Should I replace chicken with a chicken meal?
In reality, no chicken-derived food can be better than real chicken. This is similar to the case of protein powder which can’t be better than cheese. Most of these foods are simply made in a concentrated form to serve a purpose and to be more practical to consume.
But in some areas, the chicken meal can be better than real chicken. For example, if you know your dog is suffering from bloating, eating smaller food quantities can help. Since the chicken meal is concentrated by its nature, it takes up less space in the stomach as well. This is why your dog can move a bit more freely when consuming the same amount of protein but in a smaller size.
What manufacturers don’t say about the chicken meal?
Almost all characteristics of the chicken meal are positive. But manufacturers rarely detail the process of making it, which is of high importance.
You may notice some say their ingredient is made by cooking techniques. But these techniques mainly require the chicken to be cooked at very high temperatures for long hours. The nutritional value starts to drop at a certain point for the protein in the chicken.
Rotating foods is important
Even if the chicken meal were to be this perfect ingredient ready to offer a protein punch, it would still not be advisable to feed it to your dog for the rest of its life. As with humans, dogs also need to have meals rotates.
The more you rely on a single type of food, the more your dog is exposed to a certain issue that food formulation can come with. Even simply feeding the dog dry food all the time is not the best choice as our pet should also eat wet canned dog food from time to time.
Cutting corners with dog supplies is possible. For example, you can purchase a lower quality toy or a cheaper dog harness if you’re on a budget. But you should never cut corners when it comes to your dog’s nutrition. Without a doubt, it’s worth investing in the right dog food.
But to make the right investment, you need to read more about the right ingredients. Furthermore, you should try to make dog food at home as it will give you a better perspective of how chicken looks when cooked and when mixed with other ingredients. Then there’s the entire issue of simply not relying on what the manufacturer uses for dog food but to look for wholesome ingredients you can instantly recognize. Chances are foods made with such ingredients that are also considerably more expensive.