Learn the Truth About Pet Food Ingredients: Meat

Flickr - Dog Food - Sh4rp_iSusan Thixton, Guest
Waking Times

Understanding the definitions of common pet food ingredients is significant to understanding what your pet is consuming. Let’s define “meat.”

Meat. AAFCO defines meat as “flesh” sourced from slaughtered mammals and is listed on pet food labels with the descriptive term such as Turkey, Lamb, Venison, Beef. ‘Meat’ is muscle and can include diaphragm, heart, and esophagus. AAFCO does not require this ingredient to be USDA inspected and approved; specifically stated in the definition as “suitable for use in animal food”.

Meat ingredients would be a quality ingredient if sourced from a USDA inspected and approved animal.

Questions to ask the pet food manufacturer about meat ingredients:

1. Is the meat ingredient used in the pet food USDA inspected and approved? (Make certain they respond to ‘approved’ – many manufacturers will state something like ‘Our venison comes from USDA inspected facilities’. This does not answer your question. Venison that is rejected for use in human food ‘comes from USDA inspected facilities’.

Meat Meal. AAFCO defines meat meal significantly different than meat. Though the ingredient name implies it should be ‘meat’ moisture removed and the definition of ‘meat’ is muscle tissue – meat meal can include almost any part of mammal tissue excluding blood, hair, hide, manure, stomach and contents of. As well, ‘meat’ by definition is sourced from slaughtered mammals, meat meal does not have this specification. In other words, by its official definition, this ingredient can include animals that have died prior to slaughter (illegal per federal law for human and animal foods – such as euthanized animals and/or animals that have died in the field). This ingredient is listed on pet food labels with the species descriptor – such as beef meal, venison meal, and so on.


  • This ingredient could consist of a high level of bone. There is some science that links high levels of bone in meat meal ingredients to bone cancer. Click Here to learn more.

    Meat meal ingredients would be a quality ingredient if sourced from a USDA inspected and approved animal.

    Questions to ask the pet food manufacturer about their meat meal ingredients:

    1. Is the meat used in the meal ingredient USDA inspected and approved? (Make certain they respond to ‘approved’ – many manufacturers will state something like ‘Our chicken comes from USDA inspected facilities’. This does not answer your question. Rejected for use in human food chicken ‘comes from USDA inspected facilities’.)

    2. Does the meal include bone?

    Meat by-products. AAFCO defines Meat by-products as non-rendered “parts other than meat” sourced from slaughtered mammals. Just about any ‘part other than meat’ of the animal can be included in this ingredient excluding hair, horns, teeth and hooves. This ingredient is listed on a pet food label with the species descriptor – if it is known (or if the by-products are sourced from one species); example being beef by-products. If the ingredient is listed on the label as the generic meat by-products then multiple species of animals by-products are included. AAFCO does not require this ingredient to be USDA inspected and approved; specifically stated in the definition as “suitable for use in animal food”.

    It is questionable if this ingredient could be considered quality as per its definition it can include numerous (and unknown) parts of an animal that could or could not be USDA inspected and approved.

    It is significant that…

    1. This ingredient is not meat – per the official definition.

    2. Certain by-products provide quality nutrition to pets – such as healthy internal organ meats. This ingredient provides no guarantee of exactly what ‘parts’ of a slaughtered animal is used – thus it is unknown to what nutrition is provided to the pet from this ingredient. It is unlikely the pet food manufacturer knows exactly what ‘parts’ are used in their pet food and it is unlikely there would be any consistency to this ingredient. The preference would be specific internal organ ingredients (sourced from healthy USDA inspected and approved animals) such as liver, kidney, tripe and so on.

    3. If the by-products are not USDA inspected and approved, concerns exist. As example, the function of the liver is to filter toxins from the body. If liver from a drugged or diseased animal is included in this ingredient, it would be concerning as to what toxins the pet would be consuming in the food.

    Questions to ask the pet food manufacturer about meat by-product ingredients:

    1. Is the meat by-product ingredient used in the pet food USDA inspected and approved? (Make certain they respond to ‘approved’ – many manufacturers will state something like ‘Our by-products comes from USDA inspected facilities’. This does not answer your question. Rejected for use in human food by-products ‘comes from USDA inspected facilities’.)

    Animal by-product meal. AAFCO defines animal by-product meal as rendered (cooked prior to manufacturing of pet food) product from animal tissues. This ingredient can include any part from any animal excluding hair, hoof, hide, manure, stomach and its contents. The official definition does not include the requirement of sourcing from slaughtered animals (can include animals that have died prior to slaughter – illegal per federal law for human and animal foods – such as euthanized animals and/or animals that have died in the field) and does not state “suitable for use in animal food”.The official definition does state this ingredient cannot be “a mixture of animal tissue products.” In other words although it is not clearly defined, animal by-product meal would be sourced from one specific species of animal – example: beef by-product meal, venison by-product meal, and so on.

    This ingredient could consist of a high level of bone. There is some science that links high levels of bone in meal ingredients to bone cancer. Click Here to learn more.

    It is questionable if this ingredient could be considered quality as per its definition it can include numerous (and unknown) parts of an animal that could or could not be USDA inspected and approved.

    Meat and Bone Meal. The AAFCO definition of this ingredient is almost word for word to that of ‘Animal by-product meal’, with exception this ingredient definition requires it to be sourced from mammals. This ingredient can be a combination of several (parts) of species of animals. This ingredient can include any part from any mammal excluding hair, hoof, hide, manure, stomach and its contents. The official definition does not include the requirement of sourcing from slaughtered animals (can include animals that have died prior to slaughter – illegal per federal law for human and animal foods – such as euthanized animals and/or animals that have died in the field) and does not state “suitable for use in animal food”.

    This ingredient could consist of a high level of bone. There is some science that links high levels of bone in meal ingredients to bone cancer. Click Here to learn more. FDA testing found this ingredient to be likely to contain euthanized animals. Click here to learn more.

    It is questionable if this ingredient could be considered quality as per its definition it can include numerous (and unknown) parts of an animal that could or could not be USDA inspected and approved.

    About the Author

    Like so many pet owners, Susan Thixton learned the ‘truth’ about pet foods the hard way. When her best friend, Sam, died from bone cancer – her vet said chemical preservatives in Sam’s food caused her death. This changed Susan’s life. Now, Susan, the Caped Crusader for Safe Pet Food, produces the monthly Petsumer Report which details safety information for over 2600 pet foods. Often the first to know of a pet food recall, Susan understands industry secrets and shares them in her book Buyer Beware. She is co-author of Dinner PAWsible, a pet food cookbook written to feed pets safely.

    Learn more:
    TruthAboutPetFood.com
    Twitter/TAPF
    on Facebook – Truth-About-Pet-Food

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