What Are By-Products in Dog Food?

What are you really feeding your best friend?
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Maybe there has been a time or two when you've wondered what's really in Max's dog chow. Healthy cuts of chicken, beef and lamb aren't always the things that dog food is made of. Your buddy deserves only the best in nutrition. You may be surprised to learn what you're really feeding him each day.

Examples of Animal By-Products

Animal by-products consist of some pretty icky things that you probably wouldn't consider edible. In fact, animal by-products absolutely are not meant for human consumption. The wide array of animal by-products include stock on farms that becomes diseased and dies for a number of reasons, including cancer, and fish, milk and eggs that are not fit for human consumption. When animals slaughtered for meat are butchered, certain parts may be put to the side that are not meant for consumption. These parts, such as blood, hides, bones, hooves, feathers, udders, and intestines also can be used for by-products.


Simply reading the front packaging of dog food won't give you the full scoop. All pet food products must abide by specific labeling standards, but some tricky wording can take place. Pet food labeling may contain different words that can make you scratch your head. For example, "chicken dinner" means that the product contains 25% chicken. Labeling also may have the word "with," such as "with real salmon." This means that the delicious dog chow contains at least 3% of salmon.

Ingredient Labels

To really get an idea of what's going on inside your buddy's food, reading the label is a must. As a rule of thumb, ingredient labeling must be listed in descending order, starting with the highest-contained ingredient first. All ingredients must be listed legally on the label, so this means no words, such as "dinner" or "with" should appear. This is where the word "by-product" may present itself. The word "meat" on labels refers to cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. Also, it can be used only for certain muscle tissues. "Meal" also can be used to describe a meat that is not made fresh and has been rendered. Various animal parts that are considered nonedible for human consumption are melted down and turned into dog food in this case. The animal parts literally are dumped into a vat and left to boil for several hours.

Choosing Foods Without By-Products

As a consumer, it's important to make educated decisions when making purchases, especially when it comes to the health of that wonderful furry guy who brings so much joy into your life. Natural and holistic pet foods are available, and their products are sans by-products. The labels on these foods usually will start with one or more meats. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for the meats in these products still to consist of the leftover scraps, such as the backs and frames of chicken instead of actual quality chicken meat. There usually is a small amount of meat left on the bones, but in dog food, bones still are allowed in the product.