🐱 NEW!

Introducing the Cat Food Advisor!

Independent, unbiased reviews without influence from pet food companies

What Are the Best Meats for Dogs?

Nuala McHugh


Nuala McHugh
Nuala McHugh

Nuala McHugh

Content Writer

Nuala began her writing career when she studied English at Queen’s University Belfast and later earned a Master's degree in PR and Communications.

Read more

Updated: April 26, 2024

Verified by Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens


Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster with 20 years in journalism. He’s created compelling content on film and television, travel, food and drink, physical and mental health, business, sport, technology and politics. And, of course, dog food.

Read more

Andrew Dickens

Dog food comes in many varieties. Indeed, diet rotation is a good thing, providing a range of nutrients. Most good dog foods have meat as their main ingredient (although there are good plant-based alternatives) but not all meats are the same. A chicken is not a cow. A fish is not a pig. 

So what do the different meats provide for our dogs, nutritionally?

We asked board-certified nutritionist Sally Perea, DVM, MS, DACVIM, from 5-star-rated fresh dog food company Nom Nom, to provide her expert view on the most commonly used meats in dog food, and what makes them so beneficial for our canine pals.

What makes meat good for dogs?

“High-quality meat is an excellent source of protein,” says Perea. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth, and maintaining overall health. 

“Additionally, meats provide all the essential amino acids that dogs cannot produce on their own, making them necessary components of a balanced diet. Moreover, meats serve as a good source for various vitamins and minerals crucial for a dog’s well-being, such as B vitamins, iron, zinc, and selenium. 

“These nutrients support metabolism, immune function, and skin and coat health. Plus, meats are highly palatable for dogs, helping to enhance enjoyment at meal times, even for a typically fussy eater.”

Although dogs are omnivores and rely on more than just meat to meet their dietary requirements, opting for dog food with high-quality meat (like Nom Nom) is half the battle.


Chicken is a staple ingredient in many dog foods for good reason. 

“It’s a lean source of protein, essential for your dog’s energy and muscle health,” explains Perea. “Additionally, chicken provides omega-6 fatty acids, promoting healthy skin and a glossy coat.” 

“Not only that, but chicken provides vitamins and minerals like vitamins B6 and B12, crucial for glucose production, red blood cell formation, and nervous system function. 

“Chicken also contains zinc, vital for immune system support and thyroid function in dogs along with selenium which is important for metabolism function.” 

If you wish to prepare chicken yourself, ensure it is cooked through before giving it to your dog. Feeding your dog raw or uncooked chicken can lead to salmonella or bacterial infections — just like humans! Additionally, if preparing yourself, take care to work with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that the overall diet is well-balanced.


Much like chicken, beef is readily available which makes for a delicious, affordable dog food option.

“Beef is an excellent source of protein and has a wide variety of nutrients including vitamin B12 and B6, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, and sodium,” says Perea. “With similar benefits to chicken, beef protein will give your dog energy, maintain their healthy coat, and support their immune system.”

Although grass-fed, lean beef like Nom Nom’s beef mash is a great dinner option for your dog, some commercial foods may use rendered beef.

Rendering beef is a high-pressure and high-temperature process to ensure the safety of the final meat meal. The AAFCO definition is a dry rendered product from (beef) tissues, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen contents. 1 

The protein digestibility of meat meals (rendered) can be variable, but this type of meat still offers a valuable ingredient to provide proteins, fats, and minerals in a dog food diet.

On the other hand, it’s best to avoid feeding your dog fatty cuts of beef such as ribeye or T-bone steak, as these can cause gastrointestinal issues. It’s also important to avoid feeding your dog any beef bones, or corned beef, and try to avoid sharing your hamburger or BBQ with your furry friend – it’s in their best interest.


“Turkey is an excellent protein source for dogs. It is a lean meat that can be gentler on digestion than fatty red meats. It’s also packed with protein, low in fat, and rich in essential amino acids and omega-6 fatty acids.” says Perea.

If you’re giving turkey as a tasty treat, ensure it is cooked and completely unseasoned. The turkey skin and some ground turkey varieties can also contain a higher fat content, so it is always important to check the label and select a lean version. As always, bones are a no-go, and any home-prepared diet should be balanced with the help of a veterinary nutritionist.


“Lamb like any other meat mentioned is a great source of protein and a tasty option for dogs with intolerances to chicken, or with sensitive stomachs,” says Perea.


“Duck, similar to other poultry is rich in omega-6, which can be good for maintaining a healthy skin and coat,” says Perea.

Again, if your furry friend isn’t fond of chicken or has an intolerance, duck can be a great alternative. Like all meats, it’s a good source of iron and protein, and most dogs find it delicious. 

“Duck is a lean source of protein that is low in saturated fat and contains healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which provides your dog with energy,” says Perea.


High in protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon or tuna can be a tasty option for your dog.

“Fish provides a great source of protein, is relatively low in saturated fats, and is easily digestible as a cooked product. Fish is considered a novel protein in many commercial diets, which may be beneficial to dogs with food intolerances, allergies or other dietary sensitivities,” says Perea.

“Fish is also a good source of several key vitamins and minerals that play important roles in maintaining your dog’s health throughout her life.”


Venison is not as common, but an equally nutritious natural, lean meat found in some dog foods.

“Venison offers a dual benefit for your dog’s well-being,” says Perea. “Firstly, venison is highly digestible and lean protein source, making it gentle on your dog’s digestive system.”

Again, venison is a novel protein, so less likely to trigger ingredient sensitivities. 


Your pet rabbit may want to cover their long ears for this!

“Rabbit is rich in protein and leaner than many other protein sources such as beef, pork, dark meat chicken, or lamb,” says Perea. “This is a good protein source for dogs needing a nutritious treat that is lower in calories and fat.”


Offal, or organ meat is an underrated ingredient for both humans and their dogs. 

“Compared to regular cuts of muscle meat, offal is packed with a range of essential nutrients like vitamins A, B, and D, as well as vital minerals such as iron, zinc, and selenium,” says Perea. “These nutrients provide benefits for your dog’s overall health and well-being.

“It’s common for pet food to contain offal.”

So what meat should you choose?

Generally, if you opt for lean, nutritious, meat-based dog food, your furry friend will reap the benefits of the meat as well as the other essential ingredients needed for a balanced diet. 

However, there are some do’s and don’t of feeding your dog meat:

  • Don’t feed your dog cooked bones from meat as they can be a choking hazard.
  • Don’t feed your dog table scraps that include seasoning as certain seasonings such as garlic or onion can be toxic for dogs.
  • Don’t give your dog highly processed meats such as bacon or sausages as they are high in fat and salt.
  • Do speak to your vet if you’re trying a new food or concerned about any food allergies.
  • Do feed your dog nutritious dog food with a high-quality protein source.
  • Don’t only feed your dog meat, as dogs need a complete and balanced diet. Work with a veterinary nutritionist when home-cooking for your dog.
Article reviewed by

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster with 20 years in journalism. He’s created compelling content on film and television, travel, food and drink, physical and mental health, business, sport, technology and politics. And, of course, dog food.

Share via
Copy link