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  • Out-of-date grocery meats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
  • mahoraner

    could be,
    we will never know
    thats what makes it almost scary, not knowing (or even having the freedom to know) whats really in your dogs food.
    Thats why i try not to buy food from companies that also make crappy foods, (like big heart pet brands, purina, mars, etc)

    on the side, am i the only one who thinks its strange that a partially pet food company is also the worlds number one producer of chocolate (dog poison)?

    i know they probably manufacture it in separate factories, but come on,

    they are one of the many companies that are making our human children obese, and now they’re trying to do it to our pet children too


  • mahoraner

    when will we learn what?
    if your going to say “learn that purina is the worst dog “food” on this planet” then you dont need too, i already know from my experience of my dog almost dying from dog chow

  • Storm’s Mom

    It may be that the “animal fat” that they were using at the time of your inquiry was “beef fat”, but they don’t want to put that kind of specificity on the label because they want the freedom to put whatever fat is cheapest to source at the time in their formula πŸ™

  • bojangles

    Hi mahoraner,

    When will WE ever learn!

  • mahoraner

    about a year ago i was curious about what they would say, so i emailed purina asking what the animal fat in their products was from,
    they responded that it was just beef fat, also they said something like “people like to make purina look bad, but we…(on and on explaining everything they do to make their “food”)
    first of all, i know the thing about beef fat is a complete lie, How do i know that?

    second, i hate how they try to make THEM SELF look like the victim in this all.


    purina makes me sick,
    when will they ever learn

  • adfasdfadfs

    I’ve got no problems with kitchen grease(dogs love kitchen grease, not so much olive oil), slaughterhouse byproducts(oh no, i’m giving my pet carnivore blood and organs. how ever will he survive), culled non wolf zoo animals(why waste thousands of pounds of good meat?), nonrotten roadkill(always thought it was a waste to make it illegal to keep the deer I just accidentally killed. i mean its fresh, its meat, that raccoon had nice fur, I’m out money to fix my car…*I’d* eat roadkill)

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  • Shawna

    EbonyKnight — you can feed your dog however you want and whats makes the most sense for you. I totally get buying in bulk when on sale and “processing”.. No reason you have to stop. But, you can keep out a few days worth and feed raw while processing the rest. I get free deer heart from friends and coworkers that hunt and store in my freezer til I need for the dogs (heart can be fed as a muscle or an organ — it is both). Tongue can also be fed as a muscle but from what I could find is pretty high in fat so an off and on thing.

    My main concern was the calcium and high carb content. Carbohydrates (and too much fat) displace protein from the diet.. Protein (the amino acids from protein) is needed for EVERY aspect of health — cellular turnover, healing, the bodies ability to fight cancer etc..

    Organs are a tiny portion of the diet BUT they are where the vitamins are. Without them your pup could become chroinicall deficient in vitamin A or D etc. In humans at least, vitamin D is a necessary part of the immune systems ability to fight infections… It’s believed by many that flu shots would not be necessary if one had ample vitamin D from a utilizable source.. Vitamin A is necessary for eye health.

    Don’t feed just chicken or just red meats.. Chicken is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids but deficient in saturated fatty acids. Red meat doesn’t supply PUFA’s. The amino acid profile of both is different as well..

    Eggs are another good source of VERY high quality protein. Either feed raw or cook the whites only (lightly) and feed the yolk raw. Farm fresh are best but not a must. Eggs are fatty so limit to a couple feeding per week.

  • GFETE AND @@ (eye roll)

  • Gordon

    Ahhh yes, when all else fails, there’s good ol’ Google.

  • sandy

    I had to google it myself – Grinning from ear to ear.

  • Gordon

    Toxed – Excuse my dumbness on this, but what does ‘GFETE’ stand for?

  • Gordon

    Fair enough, DFN. One doesn’t really need to literally, return their dog to Nature, but at least to closely mimic it, if it is feasible for them, and their family, given whatever the circumstances are, and weighing up what’s best for all involved, via compromise…i.e. kids play at evening with dog, hence feed them raw in the mornings or you get my drift, I think.

  • Gordon, you know, I rather expected you to say that very thing. GFETE

  • Gordon

    You know, that’s so true, Toxed. I’m also no exception to that. In fact, I feel like going shortly to a nearby 24 hours McDonalds and getting some of their junk food in me. I’m thinking that a Big Mac, would go down well, right now, lol.

  • Gordon, I missed your earlier response. Squirrels are about 1-1.5 pounds, skin and all. They are less than half the size of a rabbit. I know it was a good meal for her, but I really was concerned about disease that the squirrel may harbor… not so much for Sadie, who is equipped to deal with such, but for my family. Not something I’ll be doing often.

  • Ebonyknight, I also think it is ironic that soooo many people feed their pets better quality food than they are eating! I read these posts as they weigh the value of one brand over another and then wonder how many grab a meal at a fast food place or zap a frozen or prepared tray meal in the microwave, regularly?

    Don’t get me wrong, I respect them for being so careful with their pets. I just wish they cared enough about themselves (et al) and their diets.

  • Gordon

    Ebonyknight – If you’re willing to read what my current and now, to stay…feeding regime for my dogs are,….stay tuned, because it will take up a page or more. I can’t be bothered writing it all down now, but will, and if you check back, in say 24 hours, have a read of it. It will be at least one detailed example of what one (myself) does and I will also give you ideas on where to buy as well as tips to hopefully save you some money. If you’re not interested, and continue with your own, or another feeding regime, that’s OK too. I just enjoy sharing my knowledge and what I do, as my 2 cents worth.

  • Ebonyknight

    Okay, thanks for the ‘real deal’ info. I will try bumping the meat to 50% and 25% for vege and starch.

    I am still not completely convinced as the dog’s stool is always firm and doesn’t show undigested food (except for when i fed them corn) and rarely have soft stools.

    Every time I look up a raw food diet. BARF shows up and they seem just as interested as anyone else at selling their food as what dogs should have. Not to mention the way meat prices are rising (just two years ago, I could get london broil at 1.99 a pound. Now AT BEST, it’s 30% more at it’s cheapest), getting raw food (IE meat) is expensive, and since offal is only a small part of their diet, that’s not a better alternative. Not to mention, it can spoil a lot faster than processing the meat.

    As much as I would like to give them an ‘ideal’ diet, it’s just not feasible. So how do you guys do it? Chicken is cheap, so maybe I can supplement that for raw food……

    I think it’s ironic. All this time I have been thinking (and it’s true) that my dogs eat better than I do, and I should just give them some more cut up meat.

    But they do seem very happy when I am cutting meat to scarf up what I give them (red meat, that is).

  • Gordon

    DFN – Yeah, I thought your Brothers post just then was in response to my last post above under this thread, and hence I re-responded here. Didn’t you read my take on your squirrel story?

    BTW, to clarify the confusion, I’m trying not to comment on Brothers thread anymore. No big deal, and nothing against anyone, but I know myself and I know I won’t be able to control my sarcastic or blunt ways on occasion under the Brothers thread, if I get comfortable posting there. And so I first responded to your squirrel story several posts above now.

  • Gordon, was the above actually in response to me from the Brother’s thread? What is your take on my feeding Sadie a whole squirrel?

  • Gordon

    That’s right, she didn’t need to chow down on kibble that night, but also don’t forget that eating is a dog’s favourite pass time, aside necessity, and along with walking or running, hunting, scavenging. And so most healthy dogs will continue eating irrespective of fullness if they like the taste and more importantly, smell, of what they’re eating. Especially anything resurfaced with say liver coating.

  • Gordon

    Ebonyknight – The “domesticated” dog is so, on a psychological basis, and not a biological one. Every domesticated dog, big and small have 99.82% of the exact same dietary requirements as every species of wild dog on Earth, especially the wolf.

    Many vets, mainstream kibble manufacturers, and anyone basically set to gain a profit on selling kibble or canned foods (The term ‘dog food; being a man made concept), are mostly likely the ones who will advise you of that ridiculous 33% ratio division on protein/carb/starch, or worse! Nothing, could be further from the truth!!!!

    Kibbles are the most unnatural forms of food for dogs, and starch, the most unnatural form of carbohydrates, for dogs.

    It is only needed to bind kibble together, and that’s all! As such, they tell you that ridiculous and untrue information, so that you feel better about buying processed foods and to depart your money, buying same, and or even consider making same yourself (As you said), equipped with that incorrect information.

  • Shawna

    Wow, tons of grammatical errors in that last post — sorry about that.

  • Shawna


    Awesome on the calcium… That is a big one that many many miss… Obviously you did your homework. And, depending who you read — carbs can be recommended. Pitcairn as an example is heavy in carbs. Thomason, Bloomer, Goldstein, Becker, Lonsdale, Billinghurst, Brown, Taylor, Olson (all of the above are vets or nutritionists) and more recommend NO carbs in the form of grains, potato, pasta etc. However you can find many that do recommend grains Volhard, Segal (I think), Straus, McKinnan.. SO, I’m not saying you are wrong and I am right but rather that there are lines of thinking.

    I don’t think any of the above recommend 2/3 of the diet consist of carbs however (from grains and veggies).

    Here’s info from my fave vet Dr. Karen Becker on carbs
    “Grains are not a natural part of a wild dog or cat’s diet. Dogs and cats do not have dietary requirements for complex carbohydrates…. Grains foster an inflammatory response, which exacecerbates chronic skin problems, allergies, degenerative joint disease and gastrointestinal problems (Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic diarrhea, mucus stools, vomiting and excessive smelly gas, to name a few). It creates an alkaline urine pH which fosters urinary tract infections, crystals and bladder stones. We know that cancer feeds off carbohydrates so pets with cancer should consume little to no grains. Grains overwork the pancreas, making it difficult to produce enough digestive enzymes (amylase), which can lead to pancreatitis.”

    Also, dogs digestive tracts have not evolved to eat grains or large amounts of carbs. In fact – humans make the carb digesting enzyme amylase when they eat carbs. Dog do not — so cooked carbs, it is believed, put an add stress on the pancreas to make all the amylase necessary for digestion. Some vets feel that dogs are still not capable of making much amylase – speculation though.

    Also, dogs digestive tract is total opposite form humans — we eat and food stays in the stomach short term then remains in the intestines for a much longer period of time for digestion. With dogs the food stays in the stomach much longer and shoots through the intestines.

    The PH of a dogs stomache is still much more acidic then that of a human. Both dogs and humans can use egg shell as a source of calcium. However, in order to be utilizable for humans, it has to be soaked in an acidic medium for a period of time (like lemon juice — there are recipes online). A dogs stomache is so acidic that a healthy dog can digest egg shell without the acidic soak..

    As much as we’ve been told that they have “evolved”, their digestive tracts and teeth just don’t support that statement.. Just another point of view… πŸ™‚

  • Hey, Ebonyknight, your willingness to make your dog’s food is admirable! But in the ratio you mention, starch is unnecessary. The dog kibble manufacturing industry has spent the last 70 years making people think that carbohydrates are necessary in a dog’s diet, but there are NO essential carbohydrates, and wild dogs, such as wolves, eat NO carbohydrates what-so-ever.

  • Ebonyknight

    I also found that some of those raw ratios are not as strictly needed as posed. Since dogs are domesticated and have been living with humans for thousands of years, they have adapted a little more to a human diet than the wild diet.

    Of course there are differences. They require bones (for the calcium), and can’t eat garlic, onions, and grapes, in any significant quantity (despite Racheal Ray’s dog recipes). They do eat more meat than we do. But to eat more of a diet like us, they need more vitamins.

    Remember for thousands of years, dogs basically ate scraps from their masters tables or whatever leftover food they had. I know its not that simple or black and white as that, but there is a little give in their diets, unlike feral animals, like lions, coyotes, wolves, etc.

  • Ebonyknight


    I neglected to add, that when I warm up the food, I add vitamin powder and bone meal (bought from specialty pet stores) and mix it in.

    I was led to believe (in my research) that 1/3 meat (a little heavier on the meat), 1/3 vege and 1/3 starch was good. I will have to look into the ratio some more.

  • Gordon

    DFN – I read your squirrel story on the Brothers thread just then, and am impressed. I’d like to convey that you don’t really need to be so concerned with calories too much. I’m not sure what the size of a squirrel is? I mean I know what they look like, but I think they’re equivalent to chicken in body mass. I’m happy to be stood corrected on that (With out me actually Googling comparisons). To be honest, IMO, you didn’t even need to give your lab kibble that night. Dogs, like wolves, don’t need to be kept full all the time, every day. It is more natural and actually suited to their biology that they have their hunger levels and feelings of fullness, fluctuate.

    That also said, your lab got more nutrients, minerals and vitamins, including enzymes than any kibble you fed, could have provided that day!! The thing is, I know that you know this!

    Dave M – The dog you have that is repulsed by raw, is just so used to the extreme of the other end of the spectrum and has its inner wolf switched off, lying dormant. I think with certain training and transitioning tactics, your dog’s natural 99.82% wolf, could resurface.

  • Dave M


    I tried to put my dogs on raw but one of my hounds is repulsed by it – he won’t go near the bowl. I have a rule of feeding both dogs the same – too much work otherwise. They both love ziwipeak canned and dehydrated and they love K9 and Addiction Freeze dried both of which I add water to. So that is my compromise – they are very healthy and coats look great. So far no illnesses at all (5 and 7 years). I also add in some meat from dinner – steak or turkey once in a while. They get sardines once a week and love them. It is just raw beef and chicken he will not touch.

  • Shawna

    Hi EbonyKnight,

    Sounds yummy!!! My mouth is truly watering.. Quick question though — do you add a source of calcium? All the phosphorus in the meat MUST be offset by a little more calcium or bit problems can happen before symptoms show up.

    I’m also not fond of complex carbs like grains in the diet. It is well established that they are not “required”. Grains are high in omega 6 fatty acids and if feeding both grains and chicken it is likely necessary to add in some omega 3 to balance the 6. Omega 6 (LA) is awesome for the coat and skin but if fed out of ratio with omega 3 it is quite inflammatory to the body and cells.

    The “general” rule that is used by a lot of raw feeders is 65 to 70% of the diet as meat, 5% liver (for vitamins A and D), 5% other organs (kidneys, heart (great source of taurine), 15 to 20% veggies and 5% fruit. Most of the vitamins in a home made diet will come from organs..

    I’m a raw feeder by the way.

  • Ebonyknight

    When my wife decided to get a dog (now we have two) I decided to do some research on how to take care of the dogs. I came across this, during my research.

    I cook for my dogs. I wait until meat goes on sale at the supermarket, then I can it (using a canning process, so I have ground meat in jars). It keeps well. I will buy 20 pounds at a go. If it’s chicken, I make broth from the bones and skin, to add during the dog food cooking and keep the rendered chicken fat to add as well when I cook.

    Then when the dogs need food i grab a canning jar of meat. cook it for a couple of minutes and add vegetables (usually frozen green beans or fresh carrots and celery used for making the broth) and then add a starch. Usually oatmeal, but I’ve used pasta and potatoes. If it’s a poultry meat, a scoop of the chicken fat and boom. I have a couple days worth of dog food for the dog.

    Healthier and cheaper than any other dog food. The vet is impress with how healthy they are. And despite adding the chicken fat, they are both lean and mean. I add the three ingredients in roughly thirds, with NO seasoning, except for my canned broth.

  • Hi PedigreePete… Unfortunately, without knowing the total weight of the food you’re feeding as well as the weight of the oil per unit of volume, determining a mathematical percentage would be impossible. Wish I could be more help.

  • pedigreepete

    Most dog food label give the protein/fat rating such as 26-18. That being said, how much fish oil for example (1 tsp, 1 tbsp, 1 cup etc. ) per feeding will increase the fat value aprox. 2 points? Pete

  • Hi Rookie Corley… Most dog food labels do actually name the source of the fat that was used in the recipe. Only the lowest quality foods use generic (anonymous) ingredients like “animal fat”.

  • Rookie corley


  • Rookie corley

    I need a dog food that does not contain lamb, chicken,wheat,or milk. Most dog food labels include animal fat.How do you know what animal was used? My dog is allergic to the above ingredients. She is scratching and seems to be uncomfortable.

  • Meagan

    Just yesterday I started adding Grizzly Salmon Oil to my pups’ food. Can’t wait to see the results. I know it will take a few weeks, but I will update. They seem to like the flavor, I was a little worried they might reject it. The cat is also getting half a squirt on his food. Really hope it does him good. His fur feels so dry.

  • Greaseman… Since recycled restaurant grease is frequently used by “profits-first” dog food companies as a source of low-quality animal fat for their products… and because your company appears to supply grease traps to the restaurant industry… I have elected to remove the link to your company’s website from your comment.