Health & Wellness Facts


Categories: Nutrition

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It is rare that we humans think of the word ‘meal’ beyond what we see on our plates and put in our pet’s bowl.  However, understanding the word ‘meal’ within the ingredient list on a dog food bag can bewilder even the most astute pet parents – with little wonder.

The ingredients of pet foods that are labeled as meals can consist of many things including the meat of animals and poultry along with bone, animal by-products or a combination thereof.  In order to better understand the meal in our dog’s food, we need to understand the regulations of the pet food industry.

First, it is the job of the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate that pet foods are “safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.” Since this administration regulates our food as well as our pets, the FDA works with state and local authorities committed to safeguarding the animal feed industry.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is made up of both state and federal regulatory officials who are committed to the animal feed industry. This organization states they offer “a forum for these regulatory officials to come together and create model guidance to ensure that the regulation of animal feeds as uniform as possible from state to state.” AAFCO collaborates with the FDA to ensure equity and protection. That said, dog food companies (along with other regulations) must label their contents with the first ingredient containing the most weight and all other ingredients in descending order, based on weight.

Second, we need to see how AAFCO defines ‘meal.’ The meal is a created product rich in protein and minerals.  This happens when animal parts are cooked.  This process of heat and pressure eliminates fat, water, and dangerous bacteria from the final product. This product is then ground into standardized particles.  It should be pointed out that all meals are not permitted to contain hair, horns, beaks, teeth, hoofs or manure.

Meal falls into three basic categories and here is a quick overview:

  • Meat/Poultry Meal: This is meat from animals with “no extraneous materials.” Meat and poultry meals are higher in protein and contain less ash than other types of meal.
  • Meat and Bone Meal: This is the same as meat meal with the addition of bones. It is important to note; this product is usually below 24% ash which comes from bone material. This unavoidably occurs in the course of good processing.  AAFCO controls the amount of bone material found in meat meal by setting a ratio between calcium and phosphorus. They also set a maximum limit of below 4.0% phosphorus.
  • Animal/Poultry By-Product Meal: This also is the same as rendered meat but can consist of other parts of the animal. This can include but is not limited to organ tissues such as lungs, kidneys, spleens, brain, blood, bone and by-products. Keep in mind; Webster defines by-products as “something produced in a usually industrial or biological process in addition to the principal product.”

With this knowledge (and our own common sense) we can surmise that any food less processed must be the healthiest alternative.  However, consider, when a manufacturer’s ingredient list says, ‘meat meal’ or ‘poultry meal’ they can utilize various proteins and not acknowledge said use.  For example, ‘meat meal’ can contain beef, pig, goat, and sheep meats.  What if your dog is allergic to pork?

More confused?  Don’t be.  The key to dog meal is the quality of both the processing and the protein source.  At Dog Only Good Certified Pet Nutrition, we are committed to a single-protein, rotational feeding system for dogs.  All our meal comes directly from the identical protein source.  Our beef kibble contains beef meal – not pig, goat, or sheep – just beef.  Furthermore, we are all about ingredient transparency which allows you to know where we source the ingredients in our foods which gives you the peace of mind that you are feeding your dog an ultra-premium food to safeguard their health and well-being.

If you want to learn more about AAFCO and the part they play in the animal feed industry, visit their website at


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