What is the Difference Between Chicken Meal and Whole Chicken Meat?


Dog food manufacturers rely on chicken meals as an economical source of protein for their pet food products. However, pet parents must understand the difference between chicken meal and whole chicken meat: poultry meal comprises ground-up clean chicken parts such as feet, necks, and internal organs – though no feathers – while real chicken meat includes all components including feathers. Furthermore, 4D meat (from Dead, Dying, Diseased, or Disabled animals) could also be included in chicken meal products.

Nutro’s Chompin’ Chicken & Brown Rice formula provides your pet with high-quality proteins for maximum benefit.


Protein is an integral part of your dog’s diet. It is essential in building and maintaining lean muscles while supporting digestive health and immune defenses. Diamond Naturals’ recipe features quality proteins, including chicken as its first ingredient and duck necks, which contain rich calcium, chondroitin, and glucosamine to support joint, skin, and cell health while maintaining proper bone and tooth development.

Chicken meals can be a highly palatable source of protein for your dog. However, it should not be confused with chicken by-product meal, consisting of ground and rendered clean animal parts (including skin, feet, intestines, and undeveloped eggs) that are unfit for human consumption and should not be fed directly. Chicken by-product meal typically features reduced amino acid profiles and digestibility compared to whole chicken meat.

Some manufacturers use chicken meals as an economical substitute for real chicken because it is cheaper. However, this can result in pet foods containing 4D meat that should not be suitable for human consumption.


Chicken meal contains protein and fat that provide energy for active dogs. Amino acids are broken down into glucose, while fats are broken down into ATP for long-lasting energy for their active lifestyles. Due to the high concentrations of both these energy sources in chicken meals, performance dog food manufacturers frequently utilize them. Unfortunately, not all meat meals are created equal: some use 4D meats (the feet, heads, organs, and necks of deceased, diseased, or disabled animals that contain lower quality proteins with an altered amino acid profile and less digestibility), which contain inferior proteins with altered amino acid profiles and reduced digestibility compared with their counterparts in animal flesh products such as those found in chicken meals containing four D meats (the feet heads head internal organs and necks from animals that were deceased, diseased or disabled animals having 4D cores containing lower quality proteins but not everyone agrees ).

Real chicken meat should always be the first ingredient in pet food; however, many dog foods also use poultry meal as a source of protein and other minerals due to the rendering process allowing more cost-effective protein sources with no batch-to-batch variation in protein levels. When looking at poultry meal ingredient lists for products with these characteristics, make sure the words “chicken meal” or “chicken, dried” appear so you know you are receiving high-quality animal fat sources.


Chicken meal is an ideal source of complete protein for pet foods that provide complete nutrition, including calcium, phosphorus, and essential fatty acids. It provides essential amino acids needed for growth as well as essential vitamins like B6.

Chicken meal is a form of rendered chicken meat produced through a lengthy cooking process to remove liquids and microorganisms, followed by grinding to make a powder that can then be dried at high temperatures to create a highly concentrated food product that can be used in various applications – including pet food.

Although chicken meat may sound unpalatable to humans, it is an ideal food source for dogs. While not as appealing as whole fresh meats, poultry meals can still offer high levels of proteins and other essential nutrients that may otherwise be lacking from processed pet food products.

Chicken by-product meal is another common variant of this ingredient. This food product consists of all the clean parts from slaughtered chickens not used for human consumption, such as feet, heads, necks, undeveloped eggs, and intestinal contents that cannot be consumed raw or processed into poultry flesh. Rendering processes may then render this meal with variable quality depending on its content; additionally, pharmaceutical drugs or contaminants not typically found in chicken flesh may also be present.


Chicken meal is an integral component of many premium pet food formulations. Produced from rendering and dehydrating clean chicken meat that doesn’t include feathers, feet, or organs, ground into powder form that can be added directly into kibble for use.

This high-quality meat concentrate provides roughly three times more protein than a raw, whole chicken, making it much cheaper for pet food manufacturers than fresh poultry products.

Unfortunately, not all pet foods containing chicken meal contain the highest-grade ingredients. Sometimes, this ingredient may even have “4D meats” (meat from dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals). Such mixes may contain potentially hazardous pharmaceutical drugs used to treat sick animals.

To avoid this problem, look for food formulated using high-quality, whole-muscle chicken. It will be more digestible and contain more excellent nutritional value. Pork meal and rabbit meal may provide alternative protein sources, which could provide an appropriate alternative source for dogs with sensitivities to other sources.


Chicken meal provides dogs with essential proteins to help them maintain a healthy weight while providing energy-packed fats to fuel activity. A protein diet may also aid muscle building; however, allergy sufferers might benefit more from switching to one with hydrolyzed proteins instead.

Pet food manufacturers often opt for chicken meals as it’s less costly than using whole chicken as an ingredient. Once prepared, this processed poultry product is dried and ground into powder form before being stored and shipped commercially for sale.

Chicken meal protein quality varies significantly; some brands use real chicken and its meal, while others primarily rely on animal by-products, commonly known as meat meal, for their source. Animal by-products tend to lack essential nutrition or purity compared with whole muscle proteins like those sourced from poultry; additionally, they often contain 4D meat made up of dead, diseased, or disabled animals that may have harmful levels of pharmaceuticals.