A pile of diced chicken and a pile of diced beef lying on a white background.

Beef Meal and Chicken Meal: What Are They Really Made From?

Beef meal and chicken meal are common ingredients in many pet foods, but what they actually are is a popular question of many pet parents. We help dispel some of the myths associated with beef meal and chicken meal and explain what they really are.

Why Are Beef Meal and Chicken Meal Used in Pet Food?

First, it tastes great — well, to our pets it does. But perhaps more importantly, beef meal and chicken meal are easily digestible, nutrient-rich sources of protein and minerals that help your pets stay active and fit. Also, because beef meal and chicken meal are dried and ground to uniform sized particles, they can be easily incorporated into dry pet foods.

AAFCO Guidelines Define Chicken Meal and Beef Meal

The definition of what beef meal and chicken meal are and how they are processed and labeled come from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Although AAFCO itself has no regulatory authority, the members of AAFCO are government employees who are responsible for enforcing animal feed regulations within their jurisdictions, including those related to pet foods.

Beef Meal Defined

If a product is labeled as containing “meat meal,” then the meal can come from any mammalian species (or a combination of mammalian species). But if the product label says “beef meal,” the meal comes only from cattle. The general AAFCO definition for meat meal (which also covers beef meal) is rendered product from mammalian tissues. These tissues may include meat considered unfit for people to eat but acceptable for pets. The other sources are the animal parts that many people won’t eat. These include organ meat like the spleen, liver, kidneys, and the stomach and intestines with the contents removed.

Chicken Meal Defined

AAFCO defines poultry meal as dry rendered product from clean poultry flesh and skin that’s suitable for use in animal food. It may contain bone. If the product is labeled “chicken meal,” then the meal comes only from chicken and not any other poultry species (e.g., turkey or duck).

What’s NOT in Beef and Chicken Meal

Some people may think that beef meal or chicken meal is the whole animal ground up, but this is not true. Meat meal does not contain blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach contents or rumen contents, except for unavoidable amounts that may occur during good processing practices. Similarly, poultry meal does not contain feathers, heads, feet or entrails.

How Are Beef and Chicken Meal Made?

The contents of beef meal or chicken meal are ground, mixed and cooked to separate protein from fat. This process also kills any microorganisms that are present. The separated fat is further processed and purified for other purposes, including being used as a pet food ingredient. The protein mixture is dried and ground into a fine consistency to form the meal.


While they don’t sound appetizing to us, beef meal and chicken meal are tasty ingredients for our pets. And they have high nutritional value to help keep pets healthy, too.


RELATED POST: Debarking Pet Myths: Is Pet Food “Barely regulated”?


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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