What’s the Deal with Chicken Meal?

By the staff at Petagogy

    At Petagogy, we only carry foods that we’d be comfortable feeding to our own pets. While there are some ingredients that are strict no-no’s, such as corn and by-products, the foods we carry have different high quality ingredient mixes based on different nutritional and feeding philosophies. One of the first differences you’ll see when looking at the label on a bag of kibble is the inclusion of either protein meal or the straight whole protein as the main ingredient. Many folks believe that the inclusion of a protein meal as a main ingredient (first or second in the list of ingredients) is a bad thing (or that simply including one animal protein in an ingredients list automatically makes a food high in protein). The truth is that using a meal as a protein source is a safe and nutritious kibble component that helps boost the amount of animal protein included in our dogs’ and cats’ food. 

    The main advantage of using meal is that the water has been removed from the meat before the kibble is cooked. Removing the water from the meat in the creation of the meal guarantees a higher protein percentage in the kibble. Simply put, meals are a more concentrated protein source than straight raw meat. The ingredient panels on pet foods are listed by weight BEFORE the cooking process, whether it’s baking or extruding. During the cooking process, water is lost and the kibble’s ingredients are condensed, both nutritionally and in size. So, a raw meat ingredient would not remain in the same position on the ingredient panel since about 70% of its total weight is lost when the water is cooked out.  If a meal is used as a protein source, either as the main protein or to boost a raw protein, the process of removing the water in the meat has already taken place so the protein percentage stays consistent after the cooking process. The general rule is, before cooking, raw meat contains about 70% water and 12% protein, compared to a meat meal, which contains about 5% moisture and 70% protein. Comparing the same weight of raw meat and meat meal, it’s clear that meal has a much higher protein content.    

Here is an example of a pet food that advertises the fact that it lists chicken as the first ingredient and therefore is rich in protein:

Purina One SmartBlend Chicken & Rice
Chicken (natural source of glucosamine), brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), whole grain wheat, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), soy flakes, soybean meal, animal digest, glycerin, calcium phosphate, caramel color, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, Vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, ferrous sulfate, sulfur, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

However, the chicken (which is 70% water) is followed by several grains, which are not digestible sources of protein but are used by pet food companies to boost the amount of protein in pet food.

Compare that with a high quality pet food that incorporates both raw protein and meat meals to increase the amount of animal protein in the food:

Acana Wild Prairie
Deboned chicken, chicken meal, green peas, turkey meal, chicken liver oil, field beans, red lentils, whole potato, deboned turkey, whole egg, deboned walleye, sun-cured alfalfa, pea fiber, chicken liver, herring oil, whole apples, whole pears, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach greens, cranberries, blueberries, kelp, chicory root, juniper berries, angelica root, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, lavender, rosemary.

Since Acana uses several meals in addition to raw chicken, it contains a much higher percentage of animal protein, which is best for our pets’ diets.

    Of course, whether picking kibble that uses a straight raw protein or a protein meal, the sourcing is crucial to the quality of the kibble. All proteins should be named. For example, look for chicken meal, beef meal, lamb meal, and so on, and always stay away from foods containing “animal meal,” “protein meal,” “meat meal” and other generic labels. Additionally, knowing the quality of the manufacturer and its sourcing helps us feel confident that we are feeding safe and nutritious food to our furkids.

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at www.petagogypgh.com.

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