Meat Byproducts in Cat Food

Most cat experts recommend premium cat food brands that avoid ingredients like meat byproducts and chicken meal. However, wild cats will eat whole rodents or whole birds. Sometimes they will leave things like feathers or the head behind, but otherwise the cat will consume the whole body of an animal. It seems that the cheaper brands, as long as they don’t contain excessive carbohydrate fillers, are closer to a natural diet than the premium brands. Why isn’t that the case?

Byproducts in Cat Food

Meat byproducts can include clean and nutrient-rich organs such as lungs, spleen, liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines that have been cleaned of their contents. They must not contain skin, hooves, horn or teeth. Meat meal is further cooked (rendered) to kill any bacterial contaminants and then dried.

meat byproducts in cat food

While it is true that cats in the wild eat the entire body of their prey (including the head in some cases), the term “meat byproduct” has become a dirty word for many cat experts because of its abuse by some members of the cat food industry. For this reason, experts have traditionally advised their readers to avoid all byproducts.

The founders of the Feline Future website analyzed the ingredients and nutritional values ​​of foods that cats eat in the wild over a period of a decade or more, and the result was their “recipe” for the Feline Future raw cat diet – a recipe that has set the standards for raw feeding to this day. In fact, they use a larger proportion of meat than internal organs. Additionally, chicken hearts and livers (which are excellent sources of taurine) are added in limited amounts because of the risk of “overdosing” on vitamin A.

In short, a named byproduct (such as “chicken byproduct meal”) may be acceptable, but it should not be listed as the first ingredient in cat food. Unfortunately, there is no way to know the exact percentage of individual ingredients by weight. Although the label may list 30 percent protein of the product weight, this protein includes meat, byproducts, eggs, certain grains, and other forms of protein in the can or bag of cat food. Therefore, it is better to see the byproducts mentioned relatively low on the label.

Carbohydrate Fillers

Many cheaper brands of dry cat food contain large amounts of carbohydrate fillers. This is usually in the form of corn, which can be difficult for cats to digest, and some cats have food allergies to corn.

meat byproducts in cat food

However, many premium brands of dry cat food also contain large amounts of carbohydrate fillers. The manufacturing process of extrusion (a heat-based process) requires these dry ingredients to effectively form the dry food nuggets. Some brands of dry cat food do not use grain fillers, although some of these foods are not carbohydrate-free.

Complete and balanced cat food

The most important part of any pet food label is the nutritional adequacy statement. Look for the statement that the food is “complete and balanced.” This means the food contains all the nutrients your cat needs and that they are present in the right proportions. If it says “complete and balanced,” the product does not contain excess carbohydrates.