What is Beef Meal in Dog Food? The Actual Truth

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Pet parents, especially dog lovers, tend to be very cautious when finding good food for their dogs. They scan store shelves and carefully scrutinize the labels of every brand of dog food they wish to buy. 

One of the most common reasons for this is they check the nutritional facts on the label to ensure that the product offers the right amount of essential nutrients such as protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

If you’re one of them, you are perhaps concerned with a particular nutrient.

Since fats and carbohydrates are commonly present in most dog foods, you are more likely to be interested in the protein content, and the fact that you are reading this article confirms your interest.

Most dog food manufacturers produce meat meals as an alternative to fresh meat to prolong shelf life and avoid bacterial formation caused by moisture.

There are several ingredients of meat meals, such as fish, chicken, and beef.

The latter is the most popular. Beef meals are a good protein source for omnivorous animals such as dogs.

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What is Beef Meal in Dog Food?

A beef meal in dog food is a specific ingredient for meat meals processed in manufacturing plants.

From a slaughterhouse, fresh meat is cooked at high temperatures to separate the water from raw meat.

Then, the raw flesh is rendered, dehydrated, dried to become a powder form added to kibble.

Beef Vs. Beef Meal

The difference between a beef meal and fresh beef meat is the amount of water content.

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Beef meals have less moisture, so they can be used as stable ingredients to meat meals that you can buy as finished products.

The advantage of beef is its freshness. You can cook it your way and determine the taste. However, much of its content is water which has no nutritional value.

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What is Beef Meal Made of?

Beef meal is simply made of crude meat with little water, fats, and minerals.

It is similar to other meat meal ingredients like a chicken meal made of 65% protein, 10% water, and 25% fats and minerals. Such proportion is a common practice for meat rendering if not standard. 

Contrary to what critics of meat meals say, it is not true that manufacturers count the weight of unprocessed meat when determining the exact number on labels of finished products.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, unprocessed meat contains 75% water, 20% protein, and 5% of the combination of fats, carbohydrates, and minerals. 

Therefore, beef meals flip the nutritional proportion of fresh beef. So when a product label shows 65% protein, it automatically carries the weight of 10% water, 25% fats, and minerals combined.

There is no such thing as 100% protein beef meals because the process of rendering and dehydration only removes the excessive water, fats, and minerals.

It does not remove the moisture that binds the protein tissues and the essential fats needed to carry the protein through the bloodstream. 

In addition, less than 5% of beef meals contain minerals, including ash residue but not a significant amount to cause an alarm.

Related: What is Taurine in Dog Food?

Is Beef Meal Bad for Dogs?

Beef meal is safe for dogs as long as the label shows beef meal is the source. Some brands are tricky.

You can notice it when the only thing you see among the ingredients is a meat meal. Nonetheless, you can spot those that are probably low quality. 

They are the ones with anonymous ingredient sources. If the labels do not specify the source or do not see beef meal among the ingredients, stop buying them.

Don’t take a risk. The company likely knows you’re not going to like the product if you find out what it is.

Dog food ingredients

So What are the Ingredients You Should Avoid?

Avoid when the label says:

  • Meat and Bone Meal
  • Chicken By-Product Meal
  • Meat Meal
  • Meat By-Product Meal
  • Animal Meal
  • Animal By-Product Meal

Why Should You Avoid Them?

Ingredients such as animal meals and meat meals are generic. You wouldn’t know what they are made of.

You’re lucky if the source is a beef meal, but that is more likely impossible because the manufacturer would have been confident to show that it is the ingredient if that is true. 

So why should you be convinced with a manufacturer that is not confident with its ultimate source? And what is the problem with by-product meals? 

By-product meals are not crude meat. Instead, they are composed of the heart, bones, internal organs, head parts, skin, and other considered waste.

If these are the ingredients, your dog might be eating contaminated food. 

Also, by-product meals may include non-essential fatty acids that are harmful to your dog’s health.

What Should You Look For?

  • Duck Meal
  • Lamb Meal
  • Venison Meal
  • Chicken Meal

These ingredients are all crude meat.

They all go through the same process of rendering and dehydration, which means that they are similarly made of 65% meat, 10% moisture, and 25% combination of fats and minerals. 

As a result, they don’t have bones that may choke your dog or liquid contaminants that may cause bacterial infection. The moisture and fats that remain are all essential.

Nevertheless, when you only see meat meal as one of the ingredients in dog food, it doesn’t mean it is made of by-product meals.

The above ingredients that you should look for are all meat meals as well. 

But for the sake of trust, it’s better to look for the more specific one.


Meat meals are not bad for dogs as long as you know what kind of meals they are. There is also no hierarchy of quality among various meat meals.

Whether you choose a beef meal or chicken meal, they provide more or less the same amount of protein.

In choosing the right dog food, do not immediately succumb to a company’s advertisement.

Keep in mind that there are more than a thousand pet food products in the U.S., but only less than 50 manufacturers are registered. 

Therefore, be careful not only in looking at the label but also in choosing a brand. You might merely be dealing with a dishonest marketing company.

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