Posted by: Amanda | August 17, 2008

Frequently asked questions about dog food – #1

This will be another series of posts, this time answering frequently asked questions regarding anything and everything to do with dog food. These will not be posted on any set schedule. Basically, a “FAQs About Dog Food” post will go up whenever I get an idea for one. These first few come straight from some of the “search engine terms” people have used to access this blog.

Q: What is the difference between all these types of chicken I see in dog food ingredient lists?

Chicken – Chicken, inclusive of all water/moisture content. Since the water adds to the weight, this ingredient usually belongs a bit farther down on the ingredient list than it actually appears.

Deboned Chicken – Chicken, minus the bones. Otherwise, it’s the same as “chicken” and includes all water content. As such, its place on the ingredient list is often not totally accurate.

Chicken Meal – Chicken meat that has had all moisture removed. Since Chicken Meal is chicken without any moisture content, you can be confident that the place it holds on the ingredient list is right where it should be.

Chicken By-products and Chicken By-product Meal – Essentially chicken “leftovers.” Feet, necks, intestines, undeveloped eggs, and so on. Basically, chicken by-products are almost everything except the actual chicken meat. The only thing they attempt to keep out is the feathers, but even a certain amount of these will usually end up in the mix.

Chicken feet, usually included in Chicken By-product Meal. While by-products are not harmful by themselves, they are a good indicator of a low-quality dog food, and in very low-quality foods, they are often the only meat content present.

Chicken feet, usually included in Chicken By-product Meal. While by-products are not harmful by themselves, they are a good indicator of a low-quality dog food, and in very low-quality foods, they are often the only meat content present.

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—Additional info on chicken in dog food—

While there is nothing at all wrong with “Chicken” and “Deboned Chicken,” in fact both are great ingredients, it’s important to keep in mind that these ingredients include a lot of moisture content. That, in itself, is harmless, but since ingredients are listed in order of weight, and that moisture content adds a lot of weight, these ingredients would actually be placed further down the list when that water is removed (as it has to be to be made into dog food). So if you see “Chicken” as the first ingredient, but there is no other or very little other meat in the food, there is very likely not enough meat in the food. If “Chicken” is the first ingredient, but accompanied by “Chicken Meal” or some other meats high on the ingredient list, then it’s much more likely that there is a good amount meat in the food (although still not certain!).

Lately, a lot of low-quality foods have started advertising the fact that “100% real chicken is the first ingredient!” to encourage consumers to buy, but they are obviously not going to tell you how little that statement really means if there is no other meat in the food. If the first ingredient is chicken, but the next 10 ingredients are corn, by-products, low-quality grains, and other fillers, then the food is still mostly made up of low-quality ingredients, especially after you take into account the fact that the chicken is only the #1 ingredient because of the weight of its water content.

All kinds of chicken, except chicken by-products, are a great thing to see in a dog food. Anytime you see the word “by-products” anywhere in an ingredient list, you are very likely looking at a low-quality dog food. By-products, all by themselves, are not going to harm your dog. However, the presence of by-products in a dog food is an almost certain indication that the dog food in question was produced using cheap ingredients, which in turn is an almost certain indication that it does not contain enough meat, and is likely full of low-quality fillers. This will be true 99% of the time.

Many people understandably confuse “Chicken Meal” and “Chicken By-product Meal” because of their similar names, but they could not be more different! Chicken meal is real chicken meat with the moisture removed, and is a nutritious and high-quality ingredient, but chicken by-product meal is a low-quality ingredient, and is only included in dog food because it can be purchased cheaply by dog food companies. Unfortunately, in many very low-quality foods, chicken by-products are the only “meat” included in the food (and I use the term “meat” loosely here).

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Do you have a specific question regarding dog food or dog nutrition? Feel free to ask in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future installment of “Frequently asked questions about dog food.”

More FAQs about dog food:
Frequently asked questions about dog food – #2

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