Deciphering a Dog Food Label - dummies

By M. Christine Zink

Part of Dog Health & Nutrition For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The dog food label is the first place to look when trying to decide on a food for your four-legged friend. Reading a dog food label isn’t terribly different than a nutritional label on your cereal box. Generally, a good-quality dog food will have two quality animal protein sources listed in the first few ingredients.

To make sense of the label, go over these definitions for the food terms you’ll see in the ingredient list:

  • Animal by-product meal: This consists of rendered animal tissues that don’t fit any of the other ingredient definitions. It still can’t contain hair, horns, hoofs, hide trimmings, manure, or intestinal contents or extraneous materials.

  • By-products: Meat by-products are non-human-grade proteins obtained from animal carcasses. They can vary greatly in their digestibility.

  • Meat: This is the clean flesh of slaughtered cattle, swine, sheep, or goats. It must come from muscle, tongue, diaphragm, heart, or esophagus.

  • Meat and bone meal: This is rendered from mammal tissues, including bone. Other than that, it is similar to meat meal.

  • Meat by-products: This consists of fresh, non-rendered, clean parts of slaughtered mammals. It does not include meat but does include lungs, spleens, kidneys, brains, livers, blood, bones, fat, stomachs, and intestines. It cannot include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs.

  • Meat meal: This is a rendered meal made from animal tissues. It cannot contain blood, hair, hoofs, horns, hide trimmings, manure, intestinal contents, or extraneous materials. It may not contain more than14 percent indigestible materials. Lamb meal is made from lamb parts. Meat meal is made from cattle, swine, sheep, or goats.

  • Poultry (or chicken or turkey) by-product meal: This consists of ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines. It cannot contain beaks or feathers.

  • Poultry (or chicken or turkey) by-products: This consists of non-rendered clean parts of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, and guts. It must not contain feces or foreign matter.