I was watching a television commercial about a cat food that touts it's lack of meat byproducts and it's inclusion of "real chicken meat" presumably this is mostly lean muscle tissue. A related question Is there benefit to feeding my cats cat food that incorporates fruits and vegetables? addresses other ingredients in the product.

In the the wild a cat would eat the feathers, internal organs, etc; presumably these meet some of the cats nutritional needs.

What is the value of meat byproducts in cat food?

  • 1
    Check the definition of "meat by-product". The processing on these to obtain nutritional value is more than just cooking feathers into the food, to increase bioavailability. Personally, I would focus more on whether the brand is one your vet is happy with.
    – keshlam
    Mar 28, 2016 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


I'm sorry to say, but the pet food industry very much preys on owner perception.

The thing that concerns me by this type of advertising is, what is YOUR perception about meat byproducts? I know my girlfriend for example despises it and she will never buy those foods for her cats.

Cats are VERY different from humans (and dogs for that matter) when it comes to their nutritional needs. Not all meat by-products are bad for cats, but most cat owners don't have the ability to judge correctly. As was pointed out, the control of the quality and types of byproducts used are also questionable.

One thing I do believe in is science. That's all we as humans have that can guide us in the right direction. There are animal scientists and often veterinarians working on pet food formulations. Is that the truth or perception you get from the brand? - i.e. their reputation? Then I would say their claim about not using by-products carries weight. Although not always the case, but most often, the cost of the food is an indication of quality of ingredients and research value.


Sadly this is a giant grey area in any place like the US where labeling laws are abysmal.

Meat by-products may be ok, good, great, bad, or even terrible because the term catches anything that isn't a standard cut of meat.

Offal (organs etc) from a given animal are probably actually beneficial to a cat (provided they don't get too much of one kind, for instance, liver is good in the right amount but too much can actually cause vitamin poisoning).

Heavily reprocessed cuts (especially if it has been chemically processed like "pink slime" often is) are probably inherently bad for a cat.

So is pure meat better than by-products? That's a good question with no "right answer" because "by-products" is a catch all.

And the beneficial vegetables and fruits, sure those things are good for primates like us... but frankly I'd take great pains to avoid them for cats. Sadly all kinds of pet food companies are putting whacky junk in cat food (corn, oats, wheat, rice, sweet potatoes, cranberries.....). I wish I could say "don't give me any of that crazy stuff, and I don't mind offal but lets drop 'pink-slime' and the like" but pet food companies largely don't seem to care one tiny bit. They just want to convince you their product is good even if it isn't.

  • 4
    Meat byproducts is not a catch-all, it needs to be suitable for human consumption to be labelled as such. See here: law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/9/301.2
    – Joanne C
    Jul 27, 2014 at 4:29
  • I'm not buying that. First the USDA already lacks the manpower and budget to adequately police human food, let alone pet food. So what the law says has very little relevance when it is not being enforced. One of many examples of that is the fact that adulterated pet food is found out AFTER the fact (from pets dying) rather than any preemptive testing. Secondly, yes by definition it is a catch all, offal and "pink slime" are very different. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_slime the companies that make this are obviously putting it in foodstuffs, they aren't making it to loose money
    – Dan S
    Jul 28, 2014 at 22:50

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