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Judging the Quality of Animal Fat in Dog Food

Mike Sagman

By Mike Sagman

Updated: September 27, 2023

Grease and fat in dog food

Olive oil or kitchen grease… which would you rather have on your salad?

Unfortunately, any time you shop for dog food, you’re making a similar choice.

That’s because most dog foods contain added fat… which can be a good thing.

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.

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

Better Sources of Dog Food Fat

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

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

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

Lower Quality Animal Fats

Generic animal fat is typically derived from lower quality, rendered sources, such as…

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  • Out-of-date grocery meats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

The Bottom Line

Even though some anonymous ingredients can be obtained from acceptable but unidentified sources…

We do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.

So, if it’s important for you to know (with certainty) the source of each ingredient in your pet’s food…

And you find animal fat on the label, you may wish to consider purchasing a different product.


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

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