What is “beefcheek”? In the cooking world, beefcheek is the masseter muscle, the main chewing muscle from the cheek of the cow. Beefcheek rolls for dogs are obviously not muscle, the rolls are white, muscle is red, so what are they made from? Beef cheek rolls may differ slightly from brand to brand, but generally speaking they are the full thickness hide and fat from the face and possibly the neck of the cow. They are untanned cattle skin, AKA rawhide.
The fact that beefcheek is a type of rawhide seems to be information that the pet industry is trying to hide. One store owner told me the roll was muscle, the customer service dept. of the imported chew, in response to an e-mail inquiry, said the same. But the chew was labeled collagen, the protein in skin, When I asked customer service to explain the discrepancy, they stopped responding. At a different store, I was told beefcheek was the inside lining of a cow’s mouth, but when informed that this portion of the cow was relatively small, thin and frondlike, they said they really did not know what it was. Another said it was the “entire” cheek, but when asked if there was bone, muscle, fat and skin in the product, said they were unsure. One thing clerks from stores claiming not to sell rawhide, yet selling beefcheek, agreed upon was that there was no hide/skin in the chew. They would be wrong on that point. It appears they have been misinformed by marketing geared towards selling the product.
So how can beefcheek rolls be marketed as “hide free” or “rawhide free”? I looked to my state feed control official for answers, this is how I understand it, The FDA regulates consumable chews, including rawhide, as food, but states usually do not regulate the labeling of chews. With no regulation of the label, and no AAFCO definition for the word “rawhide”, it appears manufacturers define words like “hide” or “rawhide” in such a way as to allow them to claim their product, made from hide, is not hide/rawhide. For example, “rawhide” is partial thickness skin and “beefcheek” is full thickness skin, therefore beefcheek is not rawhide.” This seems to be a common tactic in the pet industry and why other chews made from rawhide, like collagen chews or corium chews also claim to be hide/rawhide free. And while most beefcheek brands seem unwilling to disclose that the product is skin, some do. Lennox, for example, lists the ingredient in their beefcheek rolls as “beefcheek skin” HydeOut brand reports it is made of “skin above the neck”
Knowing what happens at the slaughterhouse and tannery is the key to understanding beefcheek. The hide is removed at the slaughterhouse and sent to the tannery. At this point the hide has hair on it and a fat layer attached to the bottom of it. At the tannery, the hide is cut, leaving two flaps, one at each end of the shoulder area. These flaps are called the “cheeks” of the hide. Some tanneries trim the “cheeks” off the main hide before tanning. If these pieces are trimmed before hair removal, the beefcheek roll manufacturer may dehair with a different method than a tannery would use. If they are trimmed after dehairing, which I suspect is more common, beefcheeks may receive the same treatments as other rawhide chews. In either case it seems this is usually done before the fat layer is removed. Therefore, most beefcheeks are full thickness skin with attached fat. You can find an explanation of beefcheek sourcing in the comments section of this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0A8PpBrdcQ Taking a look at so called Rawhide Alternatives – today:Cheek Rolls
It has been claimed that beefcheek rawhide chews are more digestible than traditional rawhide chews This appears to be marketing based on wishful thinking for the purpose of making a sale. Rawhide digestion models in the lab have reported “digestibility” up to 99.5% for rawhide, but it can vary based on the digestion model used and the size of the pieces tested. After inquiries to multiple companies, I only found one that actually tested the digestibility of their product in dogs. That company said they would expect traditional rawhide to have the same digestibility as their product. I’d agree! And because beefcheek skin, like other skin-based chews will not fall apart when swallowed it would be expected to have the same risk of choking and obstruction as any other rawhide chew.
Bottom Line: Beefcheek rolls are made of untanned cattle skin and are a form of rawhide with the same pros and cons of other rawhide chews. They are marketed as a rawhide free product, which in my opinion is a shameful misrepresentation by the pet industry. Pet parents deserve to know what it is they are offering their dog.crazy4catsParticipant
Interesting, who knew? It’s too bad that companies will lie to the customer to make a sale when it could cause harm to our pups!
I was at Walmart the other day looking for dog chews. I saw a bag of “Pork Chomps” that stated they were rawhide – free. When I looked at the ingredients, the first one was pigskin, then chicken and bacon flavoring. Does pig skin not fall under the definition of raw hide? Is pig skin safer for dogs?
Thanks for your information on this subject. I know you are trying to help us all get to the truth concerning raw hide.
I remember your posts about the the class action lawsuit against the Earth Animal no-hide company. Any word on that yet?aimeeParticipant
I think this again can relate to the fact that there is no legal definition for the word “rawhide” as it applies to pet food ingredients and chews. In a very broad sense, rawhide means untanned skin and pig skin would fall into that definition.
Merriam Webster defines rawhide as untanned cattle skin, and while I’ve seen in common use the term rawhide applied to hides of elk, deer, bison and cattle, I have not seen it applied to describe pig skin.
For me personally, I wouldn’t “ding” the manufacturer for the rawhide free claim especially because they disclose that the product is skin.
Is pig skin “safer”? IMO no, because I think one of biggest concerns with skin-based chews is attempting to swallow a large piece leading to choking or swallowing a large piece and having it stuck in the esophagus. I do not see a difference between the two in that regard.
Since it will be 2 years since the filing of the lawsuit. I plan on posting an update on what
I know. and don’t know.
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