The Truth About Dog Food Ingredients

The Truth about Dog Food Ingredients
Is Turkey Better Than Turkey Meal?

Turkey Meal and Turkey have the same nutritional components if they are both sourced from the same quality Turkey.

High quality Turkey and Turkey meal are both sourced from a whole, healthy turkey and not just the carcass and organs that are left after the muscle meat is removed.

AAFCO has made it illegal for a manufacturer to make any claims as to the quality of the meat they use, which is beneficial for the mass producers of dog food and not so much for the concerned dog owner. Ultimately you must make a decision about the integrity of the company you buy your dog food from to source high quality animal protein since they are not allowed to make any claims regarding that quality on the dog food label.

Brothers Dog Food uses 'low ash' Turkey and Chicken which means the amount of Calcium to Phosphorus is within normal parameters as is the ratio of meat to bone which implies that the whole turkey was used. I know this is a convoluted and confusing way to represent the quality of dog food ingredients, rather than just stating the facts, but that is how the system is set up and it is not likely to change. It's a 60 billion dollar a year industry and the big players like it just the way it is. 

What determines whether the ingredients are listed as Turkey or Turkey Meal, is essentially the amount of water they contain when they are added to the formula before cooking.

Turkey is 70% water and 18% protein when it is added to the formula.

Turkey Meal is 10% water and 65% protein when it is added to the formula.

Turkey Meal is Turkey that has been precooked to lower the water content from 70% to 10%. It comes to the production plant as a dry granular source of high protein that is 10% moisture and 65% protein.

Turkey comes to the processing plant as a ground up liquid slurry that has been frozen into a large block of ice.

To transform Turkey into kibble dog food, the block of ice must be thawed and cooked until the water content is reduced from 70% to 10% and at that point it is Turkey Meal.

If you didn't reduce the water content of Turkey to 10% and make it the same as Turkey Meal, you would not be able to make kibble. You would have a bag of liquid slurry instead of kibble dog food.

Turkey Meal has the water reduced to 10% before it is added to the dog food and Turkey has the water reduced to 10% after it is added to the dog food.

Claims that the Turkey is more nutritious because it is 'fresh or whole turkey' are ridiculous since the dog does not eat the frozen block of turkey slurry. The Turkey is cooked with the Turkey Meal at the same temperature and goes through the exact same process.

Claims that cooking food destroys its nutritional value are interesting since the age expectancy of Americans has been going up and to my knowledge they have been eating cooked food almost exclusively. Cooking may indeed reduce the nutritional value to some degree but it is minimal and Brothers Dog Food adds those nutrients back in to ensure completely balanced nutrition. We also add back the enzymes that are reduced by cooking.

This leaves us with the question of why do some manufacturers list Turkey instead of Turkey Meal when making kibble? Others list both Turkey and Turkey Meal in their ingredient list.

AAFCO has dictated that the ingredient list shall be determined from first to last by the weight of the ingredients, without adjusting for water weight. This is highly questionable, not to mention extremely misleading to consumers, since water provides no nutritional value at all and the average consumer would logically assume the intent of the Ingredient List is to provide an accurate comparison of the nutritional value of the ingredients that make up the product, with the most nutritious items listed first.

For instance, an Ingredient list that has Turkey and Turkey Meal as the first two ingredients, in that order, would lead you to think that there is more 'fresh' Turkey than Turkey Meal.

This is totally false and misleading on two accounts. There is no such thing as 'fresh' Turkey in kibble, since it is all cooked as previously discussed, and the second ingredient (Turkey Meal) has 3.6 times more protein than the first ingredient (Turkey).

Any company listing Turkey in addition to Turkey Meal is well aware of this misleading misrepresentation of the facts where the ingredient list is concerned and engages in this misrepresentation deliberately, although one cannot blame them entirely for taking advantage of an AAFCO regulation that is misleading.

It's hard to decipher the difference between fact and fiction in the confusing world of dog food and in the final analysis it is not always completely possible given the existing vague standards set up by AAFCO but ultimately it comes down to trusting the company that makes your dog food. Healthy food produces healthy dogs. Read the reviews and you will get an overall sense of the results, and therefore the quality of the food, although you will need to develop the ability to differentiate between fake reviews placed by the company, or a jealous competitor, versus those placed by real customers. After awhile it becomes easy to tell the difference.

If you have other concerns contact the dog food company and talk to the owners, or executives running the company to get answers. If you can’t access the people making the decisions then think about finding a company that you can talk to.

Written by Richard Dalington

August 2022


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