What is Mechanically Separated Meat?  

Most dogs and cats will do best on a diet that is high in meat-based protein, which is why more and more pet parents are feeding food that includes an abundance of meat.  But, the meat in pet food may not be what you think.  What comes to mind when you think of chicken or beef? Probably a plump chicken breast like you’d eat for dinner, or maybe a nice juicy steak.  However, the meat that is in most pet food is actually pretty disgusting – it’s something you would never eat and you wouldn’t want your pet to eat it either.  

There are several processes that pet food manufacturers often use to include inferior, cheap meat in their formulas.  One of these processes is mechanically deboned or mechanically separated meat.   This is meat that is extracted from carcasses that have already had the best meat removed. According to the USDA, mechanically separated meat is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve to separate the bone from the meat tissue.  Artificial ingredients are then added in to give the mixture flavor and color.  

Mechanically separated beef is considered inedible and prohibited for use as human food. Mechanically separated pork or poultry is allowed to be used as an ingredient in human food, but this must be clearly stated on the ingredients label.  However, there is no such requirement for pet food.  Therefore, while the pet food label may say “chicken” or “beef”, the label will not tell you how the meat was processed or the source of the meat - which could be from condemned animal carcasses, diseased animals and/or decomposing non-slaughtered animal carcasses.   

Meat protein is important because it naturally contains all ten essential amino acids that dogs require. While mechanically separated meat is considered safe, it doesn’t provide enough of these basic nutrients for pets to thrive.  Mechanically separated meat is also a much fattier product and has greater bacterial risks due to increased surface contact and processing.   

So how do you know what kind of meat is used for your pet’s food?  Price is a good indicator.  Cheap food is most certainly made with inferior ingredients and processing. However, the most expensive food is no guarantee of quality either.  Even the “fresh,” refrigerated pet foods found at the grocery store and some of the food delivery services use low quality meat. Be aware of meaningless marketing terms such as “human grade” or “all natural” which have no real legal definition when it comes to pet food.  Don’t be misled by the pictures on the front of the bag.  

If you really want to be assured of quality food, know how to read the ingredients label, and ask questions.  The best companies welcome your questions and will be eager to tell you about their manufacturing processes.  Choosing what to feed your dog or cat can seem overwhelming.  At Nilla’s Tub, we have done the research and only carry food from companies that meet our own high standards.  Give us a call or stop in and we will be happy to help.  

For more in-depth information, check out the following articles.