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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in 2024

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Ma. Leonor Dollisen

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chicken meal in dog food

When shopping for a high-quality dog food, pet parents need to pay special attention to the information provided on the package. Don’t be lured in by lofty health claims or pretty pictures—the important information is located at the back of the bag.

When evaluating the nutritional quality of a product for your pets, check out the ingredients list—this is where you will see exactly what goes into your pet’s food and some information about the cooking process.

The label will list down the proper nutrition levels of each ingredient and what life stage the product is approved for according to the nutrient profiles set by the American Feed Control Officials.

Most of the best commercial pet foods will usually start with a meaty product because ingredients are listed in order of weight. And since chicken meat is a favorite among canines, you might have come across the words “chicken meal” in many of these dog food recipes. 

In case you’re wondering, “is chicken meal bad?” or “what is chicken meal in dog food?”, we’ll discuss it in-depth below. 

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What Kind of Chicken Meat is In Your Dog’s Pet Food?

Your pet’s favorite dog food flavor is chicken, but there are so many kinds of chicken ingredients that it can be a little confusing. What’s considered good, and what is not for pets? What does the possible inclusion of chicken meal do for your dog’s health? 

And how does real chicken or fresh chicken differ from other chicken ingredients like chicken meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meals, and other animal protein ingredients? We’ll explain each one below.

Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 1

Excellent Chicken Ingredients 

Fresh chicken – Real chicken flesh is, of course, considered premium. These are the muscle parts of a chicken, and what humans usually eat. It is an easily digestible lean protein that can contain as much as 80% moisture by volume.

Deboned chicken – Deboned chicken is fresh meat. Specifically, a clean combination of flesh and skin without the accompanying bone derived from chickens.

Chicken meal – This is one of the best chicken ingredients you can give your pet. Basically, it’s chicken that has gone through a rendering process (cooked using either low or high temperatures) to remove the moisture in it and get rid of all infectious agents. 

Remember that fresh contains as much as 80% water? Chicken meal has this water removed so you get a more concentrated source of protein. 

So let’s say that you have 30 grams of chicken meal versus the same amount of fresh. The chicken meal will have denser nutrition in it than its fresh version. 

Sometimes, the chicken meal is not the main star of the recipe. In this case, it’s mixed in to add more nutrients into the recipe and raise the protein level higher.

OUR TOP 3 PICKS FOR DOG FOODS WITH CHICKEN MEAL

Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 3
  • Real salmon fuels much of the protein
  • Nourishes the skin and coat
  • With phytonutrients from superfoods
VIEW LATEST PRICE →See Customer Reviews →
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 5
  • Focused on providing pets wholesome food
  • Protein content of up to 26%
  • Topped with prebiotics for a heathy gut
VIEW LATEST PRICE →See Customer Reviews →
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 3
  • The recipe starts with a novel protein
  • With roasted bison and venison
  • Suitable for sensitive pals
VIEW LATEST PRICE →See Customer Reviews →

Not Recommended Meat Ingredients

When you are reading the ingredients list for dog food, there are certain buzz words to look for. 

Anything with the word “by-product” in it is not considered a premium recipe. In simple terms, by-products from animals are the parts that are considered unfit for human consumption. These are what’s left over after all the lean muscle from whole carcasses of animals or a slaughtered chicken is removed. 

Chicken by-products can include accompanying bone and organs. While bone and organs can be amazingly rich in nutrients, consider this: Chicken by-products can also refer to chicken necks, feathers, blood, beaks, hair, undeveloped eggs (or unborn eggs), and feet. Chicken by-product is an agonizingly vague term for covering up a lot of stuff that might shock someone faint of heart. 

A good dog food recipe that includes organs will usually label them as chicken heart, chicken liver, and so on.

Other Ingredients to Be Wary Of

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Chicken by-product meal – It’s the same as a chicken by-product ingredient except that it has gone through a process to have most or all of the moisture it contains removed.

Poultry Meal – Poultry meal is not necessarily bad, but the label makes it impossible to determine exactly what kind of poultry was used in the dog food you give your pooch. This becomes problematic if your pet is allergic to one type of poultry included in the formula.

The same goes for other unnamed meat meals. Meat meal is another vague term referring to animal flesh. The bad thing about this is that since it’s not specified, the flesh it’s referring to could come from a single kind of animal or be a blend of several animals, which your pup might be sensitive to.

Key takeaway is this: If these do not sound good to you and they are unfit for human consumption, why would you give them to your pets?

Also read: Can Dogs Eat Chicken Nuggets?

Our Top Choices for Dog Foods Made with Chicken Meal

IMAGE PRODUCT  
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 8
Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Chicken & Veggies Recipe
  • Focused on providing pets wholesome food
  • Protein content of up to 26%
  • Topped with prebiotics for heathy gut
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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 9
American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Real salmon fuels much of the protein
  • Nourishes the skin and coat
  • With phytonutrients from superfoods
Check Price on Chewy
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 10
Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dry Dog Food
  • The recipe starts with a novel protein
  • With roasted bison and venison
  • Keeps it suitable for sensitive ones
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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 11
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe
  • Supplies grain-free, high-protein diet
  • Main protein is deboned turkey
  • Believes in holistic approach in feeding your pet
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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 12
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
  • Carefully formulated through science
  • Provides the healthiest nourishment possible
  • Each recipe starts with real meat
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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 13
Under the Sun Grain-Free Adult with Chicken
  • Starts with protein-rich chicken meal
  • Contains natural sources for key nutrients
  • It fulfill your dog's appetite
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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 14
Whole Earth Farms Chicken & Turkey Recipe
  • Wholesome meals at a great value
  • Contains alfalfa and blueberries for fiber
  • Developed by vets and experts
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Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 15
Instinct Be Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
  • Flavorful meat for leaner muscles
  • Recipe is minimally processed
  • With brown rice for carbohydrates
Check Price on ChewyCheck Price on Amazon

What makes chicken meal good as an added ingredient in dog food is that it’s an affordable natural source of highly digestible protein and in such amounts that would make it excellent as part of a healthy and well-balanced diet.

But just because a recipe contains chicken meal as the main ingredient doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good choice for your dog—you still have to go through the steps of evaluating the quality of the product based on the other ingredients used.

If you think that a recipe with chicken meal might be the right product for your pup, we recommend one of the brands reviewed below:

  1. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Chicken & Veggies Recipe
  2. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
  3. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free
  4. Wellness CORE Original Deboned Turkey & Chicken Meal
  5. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken & Brown Rice
  6. Under the Sun Grain-Free with Chicken
  7. Whole Earth Farms Chicken & Turkey Recipe
  8. Instinct Be Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
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1. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Chicken & Veggies Recipe

First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Soybean Meal, Grain Sorghum, Dried Peas

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 16
Contains real chicken along with real, organic antioxidant-rich ingredients. What's more is that every purchase from them will allow you help an animal in need via their foundation.

Nutrish is the pet food line of celebrity cook Rachael Ray. It features recipes for cats and dogs inspired by Rachael’s kitchen and comes with the tagline of, “Real Recipes. Real Ingredients. Real food.”

The Nutrish line focuses on providing pets wholesome food with real chicken as the first ingredient balanced by veggies and rounded off by prebiotics for a healthy digestive system.

For this particular recipe, chicken has the starring role. Chicken is supported by chicken meal to get the protein content up to 26%. It relies on soybean meal for a high dose of folic acid, lysine (an amino acid), fiber, and potassium.

Because whole corn isn’t that digestible, the brand instead put ground-up corn in the mixture for digestibility and to provide the formulation with the carbs they need for energy.

For insulation, energy, and cushioning, Nutrish added chicken fat. This ingredient also adds an aroma component to the food, which makes pups more eager to eat.

What We Like

  • Promotes mental alertness
  • Omega fatty acids from fish oil
  • Precise blend of antioxidants
  • Helps maintain balanced energy levels
  • Part of sales donated to help animals in need

What We Don't Like

  • Not gluten free
  • Contains peas (potential allergen)

2. American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe

First 5 ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 17
Made from real, deboned Salmon. This grain free formula is also rich in fiber and healthy fats making it a well-rounded meal that boosts your little trooper's overall health.

The house brand of Chewy.com, American Journey is known for its steadfast promise of using only natural ingredients and never including wheat, poultry by-products, fillers, or soy in its recipes for pets.

Real deboned salmon fuels most of the protein content in this formula and is also an excellent source of DHA, a crucial element in the neural development of canines. DHA also plays a role in the development of a canine’s retinal function and central nervous system.

The salmon also gives a healthy dose of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, with both working to make healthy skin and a beautiful and shiny coat for your dog.

Chicken meal only plays a supporting role here, but it delivers a lot of protein into the mix. The crude protein in this recipe is at a high 32%, much higher than the content of plenty of other dry dog food brands.

Keeping it wholesome, American Journey has turned to superfoods like dried kelp, blueberries and carrots to keep the phytonutrients and antioxidant levels in this formulation at a high level.

What We Like

  • No soy, wheat or corn
  • Omegas for skin and coat health
  • Rich in antioxidants for better immunity
  • Premium proteins for lean muscles
  • With DHA to support eyes and brain

What We Don't Like

  • Recipe change
  • Bag issues (easily torn)

3. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Formula

First 5 ingredients: Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 18
A grain free formula specifically made for canine buddies, this boasts a number of protein sources: bison, water buffalo, venisonm lamb, chicken and beef! This oh-so-meaty recipe is also fortified with the essential nutrients your pet needs.

Taste of the Wild is a premium dog food brand made by Diamond Pet Foods, a big pet food manufacturer that also makes Diamond Naturals, Kirkland, and more.

The focus of the brand is to give dogs a high protein meal from unique animal meat based on the diet of ancestral canines.

Each of the recipes in the range start off with a novel protein. In this case, it’s buffalo. Supported by lamb meal, chicken meal, roasted bison, roasted venison, and ocean fish meal, each serving is a complicated yet tasty treat for flesh-loving doggies. Because there’s plenty of animal sources in this mixture, the protein content is quite high at 32%.

Since it’s supposed to mimic the diet of dogs in the wild and keep it suitable for food-sensitive pups, Taste of the Wild cut out the grain, gluten, corn, or wheat from the recipe. 

Fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes deliver all the vitamins and minerals that your pup needs to support his overall health.

The dried chicory root provides prebiotics that promote the growth of helpful bacteria in the gut, while the K9 proprietary blend of probiotics further support the development of a healthy digestive system.

What We Like

  • Free from any grains
  • Features novel protein sources
  • Helps maintain good health
  • Supports shiny coat and healthy skin
  • Prebiotic fiber from dried chicory root

What We Don't Like

  • Caused bad breath
  • Gave some dogs diarrhea

4. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe

First 5 ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes, Lentils

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 19
This protein-packed kibble is thoroughly crafted using premium, hand-picked ingredients. This is designed to encourage healthier systems from nose to tail.

Wellness is a company that believes in utilizing a simple and holistic approach when it comes to dog food. For 100 years, the company has been crafting natural pet food that is founded on superior nutrients and ingredients and the use of probiotics for overall canine health.

The CORE dog food range, in particular, focuses on delivering high-protein meals that are grain-free but big on flavor. It’s based on the nutritional philosophy that dogs thrive on a natural diet that is composed mostly of meat, so each CORE recipe contains a healthy amount of protein along with superfoods and supplements.

For this CORE Original recipe, deboned turkey is the main star. To make the meal’s protein content (pegged at 34%) even better and to boost the flavor, Wellness added turkey meal, chicken meal, and turkey liver into the mix.

Because digestive health is crucial, each kibble is coated with probiotics to promote the growth of good bacteria that helps your dog digest food, absorb nutrients, and keep bad bacteria down which may make your pet sick.

Plus, the food is enriched with fruits and veggies like kale, broccoli, apples, spinach, and blueberries for a truly healthy feast.

What We Like

  • Vet approved
  • Made in USA
  • Designed to boost overall health
  • Promotes vitality and better digestion
  • Crafted using globally-sourced ingredients

What We Don't Like

  • Makes some dogs gassy
  • Several pets didn't like it

5. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

First 5 ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 20
Carefully formulated by animal nutritionists and veterinarians. Each recipe contains the trademark LifeSource Bits, a precise blend of essential nutrients enhanced with the Super 7 antioxidant ingredients.

Carefully formulated by veterinarians and animal nutritionists, the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula contains all the ingredients you need to give your dog the healthiest possible nourishment.

Each recipe contains the trademark LifeSource Bits that is a holistic blend of 7 carefully selected vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support a healthy immune system for all life stages.

Every formula starts with animal protein (in this case, chicken), then enhanced by whole foods that are known for their nutrient content.

The two sources of animal protein here are chicken and chicken meal. The two, combined with peas, help the crude protein content reach 24%—a good enough amount that is about average the content of dry dog foods for most brands.

There’s a healthy amount of calories for each cup of this formulation courtesy of the brown rice. At 378 kcal/cup, each feeding should support your dog in gaining weight and maintaining it. 

What We Like

  • With wholesome grains
  • Meets life stage requirements
  • Optimal balance of Omegas 3 & 6
  • Glucosamine to support mobility
  • Precise blend of phosphorus and calcium for better teeth and bones

What We Don't Like

  • Makes dogs smelly
  • Diarrhea and vomiting noted

6. Under the Sun Grain-Free Adult with Chicken

First 5 ingredients: Chicken Meal, Green Peas, Garbanzo Beans, Yellow Peas, Chicken Fat

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 21
This formula this 100% potato-free and it is rich in antioxidants from organic fruits and veggies. This also features a single animal protein source making it ideal for sensitive pets.

The Under the Sun brand is manufactured by Canidae, one of the top brands of natural pet food. It’s a line designed to offer quality nutrition for dogs at a more affordable price point.

This formula features protein-rich chicken meal at the top of the ingredients list with gluten-free, grain-free carbohydrates to follow. 

Green peas, chickpeas, and yellow peas provide carbohydrate energy and dietary fiber as well as essential nutrients. The main source of fat in this formula is nutrient-rich chicken fat, supplemented with flaxseed for a balance of skin- and coat-supporting omega fatty acids.

This recipe is supplemented with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient uptake and it contains a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for key nutrients. All in all, it is a high-quality formula made with chicken meal.

What We Like

  • Promotes heart health
  • Single animal protein recipe
  • Features farm grown fruits and veggies
  • Zero red meat, fish, potatoes or grains
  • Contains Omegas, prebiotics and antioxidants

What We Don't Like

  • Recipe change
  • Too much powder in it

7. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe

First 5 ingredients: Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Canola Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 22
Carefully made by experts using the finest ingredients nature has to offer. This fiber-filled and protein-rich formula features turkey and chicken as top ingredients making it a yummy one!

The Whole Earth Farms is a more moderately priced member of the Merrick Pet Care family. It follows the tagline, “Feed goodness from the earth,” and it is a brand dedicated to providing wholesome, naturally nutritious foods for pets at a great value.

If you’re in the market for an affordable recipe made with chicken meal, try this Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe. This formula features protein-rich chicken meal as the main ingredient with turkey meal right behind and chicken flesh later in the list.

This formula offers a crude protein content of 26% and a crude fat level of 13%. For carbohydrate energy and dietary fiber, this recipe relies on whole grains like oatmeal, pearled barley, and brown rice, all of which offer excellent digestibility for most dogs.

There are also supplementary sources of fiber like alfalfa and dried blueberries. If you take a look at the ingredients list, you’ll find that this recipe is made with a select number of key ingredients plus healthy supplements to ensure nutritional balance. Many of these supplements consist of chelated minerals and probiotics.

What We Like

  • Protein-rich formula
  • Zero fillers, wheat or soy
  • Supports overall immunity
  • With real veggies and fruits
  • Developed by Vets and pet nutrition experts

What We Don't Like

  • Shrinking kibble size

8. Instinct Be Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 23
A holistic nutrition that is designed for dogs of all ages. Every kibble is raw coated and minimally processed for that real meaty flavor.

Instinct believes in real food and the power of raw nutrition. It’s known as the Raw Brand, and it works on delivering the superior benefits of raw food to pets in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

The Be Natural range by Instinct is focused on giving your dog meals made with natural ingredients, high animal protein, no fillers or by-product meal, and freeze-dried coating on every piece. Every recipe starts with two real meats followed by hearty grains.

The kibbles are freeze-dried and are as minimally-processed as possible to keep all the goodness in. So your pet only gets flavorful meat and pure nutrition to support lean muscles.

The first ingredient in this particular recipe is cage-free chicken followed by chicken meal in a bid to boost the protein content of this recipe.

It succeeds at 25% minimum crude protein, just a little bit higher than the average amount usually found in dry dog foods. The hearty grain in this recipe is brown rice.

Not only does brown rice provide lots of carbohydrates to energize an active doggy, it is also an excellent source of fiber for digestive health and Vitamins B and D for a properly functioning heart.

Because super foods provide the daily vitamin and mineral needs of pups, there are also cranberries, apples, blueberries, and carrots included.

A menhaden fish meal ingredient assures that there will be an ample supply of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in the formulation, which are essential to healthy joints.

What We Like

  • Made from real chicken
  • Minerals and vitamins added
  • Freeze-dried, raw coated kibbles
  • Ingredients are globally sourced
  • Zero fillers, soy, corn, wheat or preservatives

What We Don't Like

  • Caused some bloat
  • New formula contains peas
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Nutritional Benefits of Chicken Meal in Dog Food

Now that you know the truth about chicken meal, you may be wondering about its nutrient profile. Chicken meal generally contains about 10% moisture and about 12% fat—the protein content is a whopping 65%. Compare that to unrendered chicken and you’re looking at something closer to 70% to 80% moisture with about 18% protein and about 5% fat.

Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Is It A Good Ingredient? 8 Recipes we Recommend in [year] 24

It’s also loaded with chicken fat, which is one of the most nutritious sources of fat available to canines—not only is it a concentrated source of energy, but it is loaded with linoleic acid, an important nutritional element for your dog’s skin and coat health.

Chicken meal also contains concentrated levels of selenium, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. All in all, it’s a pretty great ingredient for your dog.

Not only is chicken meal one of the most meat-rich and nutritious sources of protein for dogs, but it is also one of the less expensive proteins so you can find an affordable product that offers decent quality.

If you are looking for a quality food made with chicken meal as the main protein, consider one of our top-rated brands reviewed above.

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