How to Judge the Quality of Animal Fat in Any Dog Food

If you could choose between olive oil and kitchen grease, which would you rather have on your salad?
Dog Food Companies Hide the Truth About the Source of Fat
Unfortunately, any time you shop for dog food, you’re making a similar choice — like the “oil-or-grease” example here.

That’s because most dog foods typically contain added fat.

Yet it’s the source of that fat that can make a significant difference in the quality of the dog food you buy.

What Is Animal Fat?

Here’s the pet food industry’s official definition1 of animal fat:

Animal fat is obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial process of rendering…”

More precisely, animal fat is a by-product of rendering, the same high temperature process that’s also used to make meat meal.

However, the quality of any added fat can be judged by the way it’s described on an ingredient list.

Better Sources of Fat
for Dog Food

As long as the ingredient bears a name descriptive of the animal from which it is sourced, the item can probably be considered a quality ingredient.

For example, all of the following fats are clearly identified. So, they can be considered better quality items:

  • Fish oil
  • Beef fat
  • Salmon oil
  • Chicken fat

By the way, even though it’s not an animal fat, flax seed oil should be considered a better quality ingredient than the more generic “vegetable” oil.

In any case, good fats can be costly — too costly for use in many budget-minded products.

Low Quality Animal Fats

Unfortunately, many lower quality animal fats are generic and can come from almost anywhere.

These anonymous unidentified sources can include…

  • Dead, dying, diseased, or disabled farm animals
  • Out-of-date grocery meats
  • Generic by-products
  • Dead zoo animals
  • Road kill

What’s worse, there’s disturbing evidence rendered fats could even be sourced from euthanized cats and dogs.

The Bottom Line

For this reason, we do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.

So, when you see anonymous fats like these on a dog food label, you may wish to consider purchasing another product.


  1. Official Publication, American Association of Feed Control Officials, 2012 Edition, Section 9.3, p. 288