Dog Foods Without Chicken Byproducts
What Are Chicken Byproducts in Dog Food?
When you read the word "chicken or poultry" on the label of dog food, you may think about juicy, white breast meat with nice wings and thighs. However, if the word chicken or poultry is followed by the term "byproduct" or "byproduct meal," things may be a tad bit different. This is important to know because nowadays lots of dog foods are loaded with chicken byproducts, especially those that are on the cheaper side. Yes, byproducts make dog foods less expensive, but they're really not that good for Rover.
That bag of dog food containing chicken byproducts may look quite appetizing from your dog's perspective. Indeed, Rover will gulp it down like there's no tomorrow. However, you owe it to your pal to learn what those byproducts really mean. For starters, byproducts are not types of meat you would normally eat yourself. Which is fine, since Rover is a dog and you are a human, but there's more to that.
The official definition of byproducts comes from the the Association of American Feed Control Officials, an organization that sets the standards for the quality and safety of the pet food industry in the United States. According to AAFCO, "chicken byproduct meal consists of the ground rendered parts of a slaughtered chicken's carcass including necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines along with the occasional feather."
In simpler words, those chicken byproducts are simply anything "other than the meat". Once the breasts, thighs, wings and all the other goodies are removed and used for human consumption, all the rest is tossed together for Rover's delight. You may think "yuck!" after you read this. However, as disgusting as chicken byproduct meal may sound, consider though that Scruffy evolved to hunt and eat animal carcasses including cartilage and entrails. In the old days before commercial dog food arrived in our homes, this is what likely dogs were fed, and as scavengers, they eagerly ate all of this. Yet, it's important to point out there a big difference between surviving and thriving.
The Problems With Chicken Byproducts in Dog Food
With a past as a scavenger, you would assume it won't hurt if Rover ate chicken byproducts. Unfortunately, the label won't do much in telling you what you're actually getting. Let's take a look at some problems with dog foods containing chicken byproducts.
- Less Nutritious
Chicken byproducts are most likely not very nutritious and they're also less digestible then chicken muscle meat explains Dr. Karen Becker. Yes, the occasional heart, liver, kidney and gizzard may be nutrient, but don't expect much of that in that bag of cheap dog food. Most likely you'll be getting more feet and other poorly nutrient parts such as wattles, beaks and combs than anything else. Yes, the bones and cartilage are a good source of glucosomine and chondroitin, calcium and phosphorus, but rest assured, that if there were really loads of good stuff in there, they wouldn't be labeled under byproducts according to the Dog Food Project. This explains why Rover will wolf down that cheap bag of dog food like there's no tomorrow; it's because his dietary needs are not being met. This explains why you need to feed much more of that food compared to a wholesome premium food that is rich in nutrients. And while at the end, you do seem to save some money with a cheap bag of store brought dog food, but most likely you're feeding twice as much.
- Undigested Proteins
So what happens when you feed a bag of food loaded with undigested components and with little digestible protein? The food goes literally down the drain and directly into Rover's waste. If you ever wondered why some dogs have large poops almost requesting an elephant-sized pooper scooper, blame the food. What you're seeing with those large poops is the virtual representation of tossed money.
Let's precise though that there are some exceptions to the rule though. You may occasionally stumble on a pet food company that uses only high quality byproducts. These companies screen their chicken byproducts in search of high quality stuff. They make sure there's more meat than bones to by measuring the ash content and check for sufficient protein levels, explains veterinarian Marie Haynes. Expect a significantly higher price tag though.
So yes, with chicken byproducts, you're most likely wasting your money. When I worked for a pet store, we were told to explain to customers that cheap dog food most likely results in a poor coat, large poops and little nutrients for the dog.
Dog Foods With No Chicken Byproducts
By now, you should be wondering what dogs foods are on the market that don't contain chicken byproducts. Well, gladly there are many. Here are a few. Please notice that this is only a list of dog foods free of chicken byproducts. For nutritional advice tailored to your dog, please seek the advice of a veterinary nutritionist.
- Blue Buffalo
Blue Buffalo contains real chicken, fish, or lamb as the first ingredients. Add on top of that there are also some healthy garden veggies, whole grains and fruit. Best of all, not only doesn't the Life Protection Formula contain no chicken or poultry byproduct meals, it's also free of corn, wheat, soy and artificial ingredients.
Nutro produces a line of lip-smacking dog food made of high-quality, natural ingredients evaluated by a team of experts including researchers, veterinarians and animal nutritionists. If dog food made of U.S. farm-raised chicken and pasture-fed lamb sounds attractive, you and your dog will both love Natural Choice dog food. Forget about chicken byproduct meals, corn, corn gluten meal, wheat, rice flour soy protein, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; these are all not part of the deal.
- Flint River Ranch
When you see the word "byproduct"on your dog's bag of food, you're basically dealing with all the odds and ends remaining after all the good stuff have been harvested from the chicken and used for the human food industry. When you purchase a dog food with no rendered byproducts, you may assume you're feeding Scruffy human-grade meats fit for human consumption.
*Warning: While Flint River Ranch makes claims of its food being "human grade", consider that the Association of American Feed Control Officials considers the term misleading, unless all the ingredients along with the processing methods, meet the strict FDA and USDA requirements. For more on this read " Natural, Human Grade, Organic Dog Food: Really?"
- IVET Dog Food
If you're feeding your dog food containing chicken byproduct meal, most likely your dog is getting less digestible sources of protein. Ivet Healthy Gourmet Canine Formulas promises to use only whole chicken meat that is free of any chicken or poultry byproducts. Feeding better digestible proteins often translates into less cleaning up after Scruffy since those proteins are no longer going down the drain and directly into the dog's waste. This means you can finally give up that industrial size pooper scooper used to clean up those bulky stools.
- Other Foods
Several other foods are free of chicken byproduct meals. Orijen, for instance, contains fresh meats such as chicken, fish and turkey meals obtained from animals certified fit for human consumption by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Acana also fits the bill, but the company precises that even though certain meats can be truly human grade, they automatically lose their human grade classification once they enter the pet food processing plant. However, if you're really looking for humane-grade food free of byproducts consider The Honest Kitchen, the only pet food company that claims to use 100 percent human grade meats.
Disclaimer: this is just a list of dog foods without chicken byproducts.Always check product labels as ingredients in dog food may change. In no way is this information a recommendation or a replacement for the advice of a dog veterinary nutritionist. A dog food free of chicken byproducts doesn't necessarily make it a healthy, safe food for your dog. There's more into that and you should do more research. Each dog is an individual and as such, some may do well on one food and others may do better with another food. Always switch foods gradually to prevent a doggy upset stomach. For nutritional advice, consult with a veterinary nutritionist. By reading this article you accept this disclaimer.
Dr. Karen Becker Explains How to Read Dog Food Labels
Questions & Answers
Is there a dog food for adult labradors without any chicken?
There are many novel, limited-ingredient diets nowadays that contain meats from other animals.