Understanding Fresh Meat, Meals, and By-products in Pet Food Manufacturing

Choosing the right pet food can be a daunting task, especially when faced with a variety of ingredients listed on the packaging. Terms such as "fresh meat," "meat meals," and "by-products" frequently appear on labels, but their implications for quality, nutrition, and cost can be unclear. This essay aims to clarify the differences between these ingredients and explain how each affects pet food.

Fresh Meat

Fresh meat refers to the muscle tissue from animals such as chicken, beef, lamb, or fish, used in its natural state with minimal processing. Fresh meat is highly valued in pet food for several reasons. Firstly, its high moisture content, typically around 70-80%, helps keep pets hydrated. This is particularly beneficial for pets that do not drink enough water. Secondly, fresh meat is naturally flavorful, making pet food more palatable. Pets are more likely to enjoy their meals, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy appetite and overall well-being. Lastly, fresh meat is rich in high-quality protein and essential nutrients, contributing to muscle development and general health.

Meat Meals

Meat meals are produced by cooking fresh meat to remove most of the water and fat, resulting in a concentrated protein powder. This process yields a product that is about 65-70% protein by weight. Meat meals are a staple in many commercial pet foods due to their high protein concentration, stability, and cost efficiency. The drying process enhances the shelf stability of meat meals, reducing the risk of spoilage and making them easier to store and transport. This efficiency translates to cost savings, which can be passed on to consumers, making pet food more affordable.


By-products in pet food include parts of the animal that remain after the primary cuts of meat have been removed, such as organs (liver, kidneys), bones, and sometimes less desirable parts like beaks and feet in poultry. Despite some consumer skepticism, by-products can be highly nutritious when sourced and processed responsibly. They are rich in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which are crucial for a pet's health. Utilizing by-products also promotes sustainability by reducing waste and making full use of the animal. Additionally, by-products are more cost-effective than prime cuts of meat, which helps keep pet food affordable.

22 May 2024