Chicken meal includes the flesh, skin, and bones of a chicken that’s been dried and ground down into a powder in a process called rendering. Chicken meal doesn’t include feathers, heads, feet, and entrails. Because chicken meal is rendered to remove fat and water, it is ideal for making kibble dog food.


Meanwhile, chicken by-product is the parts of the carcass, including the feet, neck, unborn eggs, and organs. Chicken by-products can vary from brand to brand, so even seeing it listed as an ingredient on a dog food label doesn’t clarify what it contains. It’s safe to assume that chicken by-product contains everything but chicken meat. 


Chicken by-product meal is the ground, rendered parts of the poultry carcass. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), chicken by-product meal includes “the necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” Basically, chicken by-product meal is similar to chicken by-product, except the parts are ground and rendered.

How Is Chicken Meal Made?

Making chicken meal is done in a manufacturing plant. Chicken skin, bones, neck, and flesh are ground down, dehydrated, and cooked for many hours until they become a powder that resembles corn meal. 


Known as rendering, this process cooks the parts at a very high temperature to separate the fat, remove any water, and kill off any bacteria, viruses, or harmful organisms.

Why Do Pet Food Manufacturers Use Chicken Meal in Dog Food?

Two reasons: it’s convenient and cost-effective. 

If manufacturers receive a meat meal instead of the wet version of the chicken, it saves them money since they do not need to convert the wet meat into a dry ingredient to use for making kibble. 

Without the water and fat content, the chicken meal has a longer shelf life, making it more convenient to store and transport. 

The downside is that during rendering, cooking the chicken in high temperatures not only eliminates bacteria or contaminants but also strips off the nutrients and vitamins in the process. 

To combat this and meet AAFCO food requirements, manufacturers usually fortify their dog food with synthetic nutrients. 

Is Chicken Meal Good for My Dog?

Yes and no. While chicken meal is packed with great protein for dogs, scientists are learning that digestible protein is even more important for a dog’s overall health and nutrition. Chicken meat contains roughly 18% protein, while chicken meal has 65%. However, As opposed to chicken meal or chicken by-products, freshly cooked chicken meat has a higher protein digestibility and is a better indicator of proper nutrition for dogs. 

Chicken meal isn’t necessarily bad for your dog and is an excellent source of protein. It provides a convenient and cost-effective way for dog owners to feed their pets a high-protein diet. But healthier options are certainly available in pet food that can help your animal companion have a better quality of life. 

Healthy Alternative Meats to Chicken Meal 

If you’re concerned about what’s in the pet food you’ve been buying and looking for alternatives that don’t sound so bizarre and fake, there are plenty of options for you. 

Fortunately, an assortment of healthy proteins is available for dogs to maintain a healthy weight and even shed some extra pounds as part of a healthy weight plan. Healthy alternatives to chicken meal include the following:

  1. Chicken

Nope, not chicken meal, but the actual meat itself, including the neck and liver. Unlike chicken meal, which loses most of its vitamins and minerals during rendering, chicken is an excellent source of digestible protein for your pup’s healthy diet.  


  1. Beef

Beef is rich in protein and micronutrients, including iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins B12, B3, and B6. All of these vitamins and minerals contribute to keeping your dog healthy, helping support strong bones, heart health, and fat metabolization.


  1. Rabbit

Rabbit is an excellent source of protein for dogs, with more protein than veal, lamb, and many others. It is full of vitamins B12 and niacin, which help with energy production and strong bones.


  1. Turkey

Turkey is easily digestible and lean. It is also a high-quality source of protein for dogs. The lean meat from turkey is ideal for pups that need to lose weight since consuming less fat and leaner meats will help work toward that goal. Turkey is chock full of vitamin B, zinc, and phosphorus.


Feeding Your Dog a High-Quality Diet

These days, pet owners have plenty of options to give their dogs a high-quality diet. From fresh dog food to raw meat, there are a number of ways to provide your pet with food that’s more in line with their needs. 

At A Pup Above, we make fresh dog food made from human-grade ingredients that are cooked to preserve their natural flavors and nutritional value. Pet owners can choose from different high-quality protein sources (e.g., fresh chicken, beef, pork, and turkey) to fit every dog’s tastes and needs. We’ve even added dry food formulas to offer convenience while still getting your pup the benefits of fresh food.

Your pet’s food greatly impacts their health. That's why it's crucial to give your dog the best food you can afford. Consider it an investment in giving them the life they deserve.


Final Thoughts

Many pet parents strive to provide their fur babies with the best quality of life, and this usually starts with giving them food that fits their needs. That’s because their diet can dictate their health and quality of life. Pet owners should know what’s in the food they feed their animal companions to ensure they’re feeding them the right diet that will help them live longer and fuller lives.