Whole Meat vs. Meat Meal: How to Spot the Difference in Ingredients

Whole Meat vs. Meat Meal: How to Spot the Difference in Ingredients

What’s in a name? Does it matter? Yes!

有很多方法可以为宠物提供必要的营养素,包括各种蛋白质来源。大多数狗和猫粮含有来自其他动物的肉 - 通常是鸡,火鸡,牛,猪或鱼,但也可以使用许多其他更多的异国动物。


In the USA, pet foods are regulated by an agency called the Association of American Feed Control Officials; you may be familiar with seeing them referenced asAAFCO. Even the ingredients used in pet food are defined by AAFCO. They have a loose categorization of ingredients as being ‘major’ or ‘minor’. Meat is considered a major ingredient and often it will bear an animal name – this means if a product lists ‘pork meat’ on the label, it must contain flesh from a pig. If an ingredient list doesn’t include the animal name and just says ‘meat’, it can only come from cattle, pigs, sheep or goats. All other animals (e.g.: chicken, bison, venison), must be specified. This makes the ingredient easily recognizable to consumers. In comparison, minor ingredients are primary sources of minerals, vitamins or other nutrients and may not have a recognizable name. For example, alpha-tocopherol, a minor ingredient, is added to diets as a natural anti-oxidant and to provide the essential nutrient vitamin E.

By the AAFCO definition,“肉”is:

The clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and 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.

AAFCO 2012.

This description may sound familiar to the type of meat humans consume; this is the whole meat that Halo uses in their meat formulas. Meat as used in pet food cannot contain any bone, meaning it is most often mechanically separated from the bone, resulting in a finely-ground paste-like product, just like what is used in processed meats for human consumption (like hot dogs).

In comparison,“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.

AAFCO 2012.

Meat byproducts are raw ingredients and include only ‘non-rendered’ parts of an animal. The qualifier ‘byproduct’ means that it is not a part of the animal that is consumed by humans in the USA, and thus it is a byproduct resulting from the production of muscle flesh. Rendered products are those that have undergone a cooking process. Rendered ingredients are treated with high heat and pressure to remove most of the water and fat, leaving primarily the protein and minerals from the raw ingredients. Rendered products that are ground up into a powder include the term “meal”. Meat meals are not deemed fit for human consumption in the USA.

Thus, by AAFCO definition,“Meat Meal”is:

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 unavoidable in good processing practices. It shall not contain extraneous materials not provided for by this definition.

AAFCO 2012.




So, if you’re looking to spot the difference in ingredients on a pet food label, you can look for the word ‘meat’ and determine what species it is from. You can also determine what sort of processing it has undergone, with the presence or lack of the word ‘meal’. Meat meals have undergone heat and pressure processing resulting in a meat powder prior to being incorporated into pet food, while whole meats have not. Be sure to check your pet food labels!

Best wishes and tail wags,

Dr. Sarah Dodd

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