Meat, poultry, byproduct, meal… 9 common ingredients in your pet’s food explained

In my last few posts, I’ve talked about food… Decoding the Dog Food Label and Digestibility and Dog Food.

But what’s really in those ingredients on the label? The terms are either vague or incomprehensible.

Well, this week I will give you the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) guidelines for what’s allowed to be included in each of the ingredients on your pet’s food label.

I have to warn you that the permissible ingredients will horrify you. It’s another argument for feeding your pet the highest quality food you can afford.

Premium pet foods have ingredients you can understand.

Here’s how AAFCO defines 9 of the most common ingredients found in your pet’s food.

Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that part which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Just like the meat we eat, the term meat on the label means mostly muscle tissue. It can also include fat and gristle just like when you buy meat for yourself.

But meat in pet food can also include some very unappealing things like heart muscle or the muscle that separates the heart and lungs from the other organs.

It doesn’t include bone. And because the muscle is mechanically separated from the bone, it has the consistency of paste.

The manufacturer can also name the species the meat comes from in the ingredient list like beef or pork. But if they use the term meat, it must come from cattle, pigs, sheep or goats. Any other mammal must be identified by name.

Poultry and fish wouldn’t fall in this category either. They have to be identified separately on the label.

Meat By-Products are 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 de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Rendering is the process of extracting proteins and minerals from the animal carcass using heat and pressure to remove water and fat. By-products are not rendered.

These parts have to come from cattle, pigs, sheep and goats just like meat.

By-products are scary. You want to avoid them in your pet’s food because they’re a very poor quality source of protein. They’re almost everything except the muscle tissue… including organs and bones.

Some of those organs may be organs we would eat, but many are not fit for human consumption. Like udders for instance. The USDA considers these parts to be safe for animals though. But does that mean you want to feed it to your beloved pet?

And remember too that lower quality ingredients may mean lower digestibility. So your pet’s body isn’t able to use the nutrients in those ingredients.

Poultry is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto. If the bone has been removed, the process may be so designated by use of the appropriate feed term.”

It’s basically the parts of the bird you’d find at the grocery store if you bought a chicken or turkey. Often it’s the parts that most people don’t want like backs and necks.

Poultry can also include bone, unlike meat which cannot include bone. If the processor removed the bone, it would say “deboned poultry”.

Pet food makers will often be more specific and list the poultry ingredient as chicken or turkey.

Poultry By-Products must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Similar to meat by-products, you don’t want your pet’s protein source to come from poultry by-products.

The next 5 ingredients are rendered ingredients.  Rendered ingredients are cooked to destroy harmful bacteria. They’re made up of the extracted proteins and minerals from animals and are called meals because they’re ground to a uniform sized particle.

Meat Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition… {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}… If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”

If the manufacturer doesn’t specify what mammal the meal came from, like beef meal for instance, it can come from any mammal. The maker is not required to specify the mammal. And it doesn’t have to come from cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats.

Meat and Bone Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition… {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}… If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin it must correspond thereto.”

This is similar to meat meal but it includes added bone, not just the amount of bone normally found on the whole carcass of the animal.

Animal By-Product Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. This ingredient definition is intended to cover those individual rendered animal tissues that cannot meet the criteria as set forth elsewhere in this section. This ingredient is not intended to be used to label a mixture of animal tissue products.”

Who the heck knows what this means. Seems like anything and everything that can’t be specifically identified. Yuck!

AAFCO says it can be the whole carcass, but it includes more by-products than you’d find in meat meal or meat and bone meal. Hmmm…

Poultry By-Product Meal consists of the ground, rendered clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices… {the definition goes on to include the required mineral specifications and required nutrient guarantees}… If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

This is the same as “poultry by-products,” but it’s rendered. Most of the water and fat has been removed to make a concentrated protein/mineral ingredient.

Poultry Meal is the dry rendered product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Again, poultry meal is like “poultry” but in rendered form to make a concentrated protein/mineral ingredient.

Beyond these 9 ingredients, there are lots of other things found in pet food. For instance,

animal and vegetable fats and oils for energy and added flavor;

plant ingredients such as corn, barley and peas for energy and to bind the kibble;

dried beet pulp, dried chicory root and powdered cellulose for fiber;

vitamins and minerals like cobalt, copper, iodine and selenium to name a few;

DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, and L-Threonine are amino acids;

and you’ll find preservatives, conditioning agents, thickeners and emulsifiers

If you’re interested in the details of these other ingredients, the AAFCO website is a great resource.

Next time you’re in the pet store, take a look at pet food labels and compare them to a Husse label. Now that you understand the specifics behind the vague ingredient names, you’ll see that Husse ingredients are exactly what you think they are.

Husse premium pet food is made with only the highest quality non-GMO human grade ingredients.

Are you surprised what’s allowed in pet food? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

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