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Dog food is a big business. Almost half of the households in America have at least one dog, and sales of dog food have been increasing every year for the last two decades. In fact, sales of commercial dog food reached 14.4 billion dollars in 2014, and are projected to continue its growth over the next two years.

But you already know this. When you walk into any grocery store, there is usually an entire aisle stocked with a dizzying array of dog food choices. There’s cheap dog food, expensive dog food, kibble, canned, and more brands than you can possibly keep track of.

You may be tempted to just pick the cheapest one to save money or the most expensive one assuming price indicates quality, but it is important to learn to identify the best dog foods from the standpoint of dog nutrition.’s dog nutrition experts review all the major dog food brands. Our site can equip you with all the information you need to pick the best dog food.

What Should I Look For In A Dog Food

The most important thing to know about dog nutrition is that your dog is a carnivore. Yes, your dog probably eats just about anything it can get it get between its jaws, but biologically, it is not that far removed from its wolf ancestors.

Your dog’s teeth are sharp and pointed to slice and shred through tough muscle fibers. Its digestive tract is designed to break down animal proteins and fat with large amounts of acid. It lacks the necessary enzymes to efficiently break down carbohydrates.

Ingredients are always listed in order of quantity by weight. So a good dog food from the standpoint of dog nutrition should list some type of meat among its top five ingredients.

But all meat is not the same. Commercial dog food is big business, and companies that manufacture it have tremendous incentive to procure the cheapest sources of animal protein they can. Lackadaisical labeling standards allow the companies to obscure the nature of their protein sources, passing off low quality products as nutritional dog food.

There are generally three ways of labeling meat on an ingredient list that will give a rough indication of the quality of the meat in the dog food.

Whole Or Fresh Meats

Whole or fresh meats are exactly what they sound like—cuts of fresh meat that are cooked and then processed with other ingredients into wet or dry dog food. You can easily recognize them on an ingredient list because they will be single words that indicate the type of meat (i.e., chicken, beef, lamb, salmon).

Whole meats are the best quality meats you can find on an ingredient list, but they will generally be more expensive than other dog foods. Fresh meats are nearly 70% water by weight, so a lot of meat by weight must be used to achieve an adequate protein content.

Meat Meal

Most dog foods contain meat meal, and that’s not a bad thing. Meat meal content for an ingredient list is measured by dry weight, so meat meal will contain significantly more protein per pound than whole meat, which is mostly water. Good quality meat meal is an excellent source of protein and great for dog nutrition.

So what is meat meal? Meat meal is made from a process called rendering. There are a variety of methods that can be used to render meat, but it generally involves cooking down a protein source until all the water is removed, and then grinding down the product into a powdery meal. The powder contains all the protein and nutrients of the original meat source.

Unfortunately, manufactures are not required to identify their protein sources when using meat meal. It may be rather shocking, but this is the case even if they use undesirable parts of animals, diseased or dying animals, or even carcasses. Generically labeled meat meals (i.e., meat meal, animal meal, meat and bone meal) are usually indicative of low quality protein sources.

Meat meal that is preceded by a specific source designation (i.e., chicken meal, beef meal, lamb meal) is more likely to contain higher quality sources of protein. Still, because manufacturers do not have to specify the quality of their protein sources, choosing a dog food with meat meal comes down to making a judgment call about the trustworthiness of the brand.

Meat By-Products

Meat by-products are the parts of an animal that are left over after the edible parts have been removed at a slaughterhouse. Ideally, you want to avoid dog foods with meat by-products at or near the top of the ingredient list.

Find Out More About Dog Nutrition At has even more information about dog nutrition and dog food reviews written by dog nutrition experts that can help you make informed decisions about what to feed your dogs.

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