What Is Chicken Meal?

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Chicken Meal

What Is Chicken Meal?

I get this question a lot actually, what is chicken meal? Chicken meal is basically the leftovers of the chicken after processing. See, as humans, we don’t eat all the parts of the chicken. When we go to the store, we look for specific cuts. Some people only eat the breast of the chicken. Others only eat the thighs.

The problem with the chicken, is once it’s been processed to be sold in stores, there’s still more left. The food companies can’t necessarily just dump the remains either. Decomposing meat and flesh emits a lot of gas. That’s not good for the environment.

In order to understand how it goes from a chicken to chicken meal, we should first understand the processing.

First, the Chicken.

Chicken farms are everywhere down in the states. Not so much in Alaska. It’s too cold up here for the chicken farms to do really well. That is, unless they want to heat the large units that are made to hold the birds. Not terribly feasible up here.

Down in the states though, you have very large chicken farms. Long, rectangular buildings that house the thousands of chickens needed to supply the stores with their meat. From my understanding, it’s quite a gross job, too. Wading through the muck of their poo to feed them and such.

Moving on from the poo, the chickens, once grown, are ready for slaughter. They go through a somewhat humane process (somewhat) of being killed. Once they’re dead, then they get de-feathered. No one wants a full on dead bird wrapped in plastic, right? After this, different cuts are processed.

The Processing of Meat.

This is where the grocery stores get the cuts that people buy. There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to the chicken. First, you have the whole chicken. Then, you have the leg quarters. That’s where the drumstick is still attached to the thigh.

Don’t forget the wings, especially the full wing. Some chicken processing plants will cut the wings up. So instead of that useless tip, they cut that off and leave you with the meaty parts.

Then, there’re the thighs and drumsticks. Let’s not forget about the breasts either. Some of these cuts come with the bones still in them, others with the skin. But this isn’t all that’s sold at the stores.

The gizzards, the hearts and the feet are also sold at stores. In some places, people will also eat the liver, but that’s not everywhere. Only in certain states that I’ve been to, do I see chicken livers for sale. So, our bird has been processed for human consumption.

What about the rest of the body? Where does it go?

There is More to the Chicken.

I know it might be gross to think about this, but there is blood and other stuff in that chicken. In fact, there are a lot of organs leftover after the slaughter and processing. I mean, have you forgotten about the lungs, the intestines, the bones? Well, I haven’t.

There are about 300 chicken meal processing plants in the US that make something out of the other “stuff”. While many might think it’s gross, it’s actually used to make up a composite that is used as a feed for animals. Some goes to dog food companies. Others are used in farm animal feed.

It’s not just discarded after the human parts are done. We know that we can’t throw it in the dumps. Imagine, thousands and thousands of decomposing chicken bodies. No, thank you.

Now, the “stuff” is ready to be processed into chicken meal.

Making Chicken Meal.

Now we know that the “stuff” is ready to be further processed into chicken meal. The purpose of this, is so that the other stuff can be sanitized. I mean, they’re going to grind up the intestines and other organs. You don’t want feces to get mixed into the chicken meal that’s about to be made.

I would also like to point out that not all chicken meal processing plants are created equally. Meaning, some plants are better at cleaning than others. This is how it’s determined whether there is too much ash in the meal. Too much calcium. Ash? Calcium?

In order for the meal to be created, it’s heated up. This is what makes the meal turn to a dry powder. Too much ash isn’t good for the quality of the chicken meal. If the chicken meals contains too much calcium, that means there was more bone than meat to make the chicken meal.

Testing is done by the company that decides to buy the chicken meal. This is how they ensure that the product they’re getting is quality. Sounds weird, right?

Chicken Meal is Finally a Powder.

After all is said and done in the plant, the chicken meal is finally just a powder. Almost like protein powder in a sense. Used in a ton of products, especially dog food. But, it’s also used in other animal feed, so let’s not forget about the cow eating his chicken friend. Okay, too far.

While many might be wary of chicken meal, it’s really a protein packed product. A good way to use the rest of the carcass of the chicken and not be wasteful. As it is, there’s a shortage in the food supply. So, we want the remaining “stuff” to be used however it can be.

I will note, that the processing plants claim that the intestines don’t go into making the chicken meal. However, I’ve seen some plants that do a cleansing of the intestines, and yes, it gets thrown in the mix. I mean, the sausage we buy, when natural, has an intestinal wrap. How else would you get a sausage skin. Think about that for a second.

When I buy dog food, I’m not opposed to seeing Chicken Meal included in the food. What I don’t like to see is the By-Product Meal. This means, it can be whatever the heck it wants to be. I kind of like to know what the meat/protein source is. It’s like to going to KFC and you get that weird mystery chicken. Only, it doesn’t taste like chicken. We’ve all had that experience, I’m sure.

So, now you know what chicken meal is. Are you opposed to seeing it in your dog food? What protein source do you look for specifically?

4 thoughts on “What Is Chicken Meal?

  1. Thank you for shedding light on this subject.

    I have found a lot of people these days have no idea where their food comes from and not just the meat either.

    A few years ago I had a bumper crop of veggies in my garden. There was more than we could eat up. Anyways, I offered some fresh organic veggies to a girl at work and she accepted.

    So the next morning before work I ran out to the garden and picked some lettuce, beans, peas, carrots and cucumbers then quickly rinsed them off and put them in a bag to take to work.

    When I gave them to her she was appalled that they weren’t spotlessly cleaned and wrapped in supermarket packaging.

    It was quite an eye-opener. to realize she had never seen peas still in their pods or carrots with the tops still on. Oh and I almost forgot about the slug on an outer lettuce leaf.

    She had absolutely no idea where any of her food came from. Needless to say, I never gave her more and I am not certain she even used what I did give her.

    Can you imagine her reaction if I had explained where her beef, pork or chicken came from?

    Thanks for explaining the chicken meal so well. I also feel more comfortable seeing that on the dog food label.

    1. Deb,

      Yes, a lot of young people especially don’t know where their food comes from. Your story actually reminds me of my son when I first came into his life. He was 13 at the time. We were sitting around talking about meat bought at the store and I had mentioned something about, “Oh, so you like cow?” He looked at me wide-eyed, and said, “No, I like hamburger.” I realized then that he didn’t know burger was from a cow. So, when I asked him if he knew that his burger came from the cow, he didn’t. Then I asked him about the steaks that I had bought. Where did he think those came from? He said he thought they grew at the store.

      When I said, no, your burgers, steaks, all that meat, it comes from cows. Then you have ham and bacon that comes from pigs, and chicken legs from the chicken, etc. He said he never knew that the meat from animals. I looked at his Dad, my loving husband, and said, “Babe, your son seriously doesn’t know where meat comes from.” He was as astonished as I was. So, with our young girls, I make sure they know where every meat comes from. I’ll even mention that their eating a good piece of ______ pig or some such. Just to make sure they know where that type of meat came from.

      In Alaska, we really don’t have a lot of gardening time, and most of the farms are in another city about an hour away. So, it can be difficult up here to teach kids about growing things, but I’ve tried over the years. My daughter had an avocado tree growing once, but it died from lack of water. Not too feasible to have an avocado tree up here anyways. Winter is going on 6 months now, so, it’s pretty cold still.

      Thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed this one!


  2. I eat a lot of chicken meat but I’d never given any thought to what happens to all the bits that go into the human food chain. A typical example of “out of sight, out of mind”.

    So reading your post was a bit of an eye-opener on what happens with chicken “stuff”. I am dubious about chicken meal being fed to herbivores like cows since they’re not designed to digest meat/animal food. Do you know if it’s done to bulk up cattle so they’ll provide more meat in their own right?

    And what about the anti-biotics in the food chain problem? Humans probably get some by consuming meat of all types because those drugs are used in farming to quell disease and help prevent a farmer from potentially going out of business.

    They’re probably used even more in battery farms because diseases there could spread like wildfire. I imagine meat entering the direct-to-human food chain is cleaned to certain standards to remove antibiotic residue. But what about the stuff that’s turned into chicken meal? Is it cleaned to a human consumption standard?

    And, if not, cows and other animals eat that meal and antibiotics enter their systems which leads in part to the antibiotic resistance we’re seeing all around the world.

    Presumably cattle cracasses are treated in the same way as chickens’ and ground up into cow meal?

    1. Gary,

      I think a lot of us are in the same boat as you, we simply don’t think about what happens to the animals after we buy our products we want/need. However, it still raises the concern on the stuff being added into foods that we, and our pets consume.

      Let me answer some of your questions – first, yes, farm raised animals get feed that comes from a variety of different places and contains a lot of “stuff” that honestly, if you owned that cow on your personal property, you would never think to give the cow the feed they do on farms. Here’s the thing though, humans around the world consume too much meat. Because of this, farmers that rely on this as their sole money maker, will do anything to supply the best cows. If that means feeding them a hodgepodge of stuff to get them to grow, so be it. You’d actually be surprised to know that a lot of the bone meal (cattle, pig and other animals like lamb and such) is in a lot of the food fed to the animals on farms. It’s not all that’s in the food of course. Corn is in a lot of it as well. But yes, they’re getting the full Goolash meals when they eat.

      As for the anti-biotics added, yes, in all foods fed to these animals. I do believe it is why we are becoming sensitive to the antibiotics that our docs give us. These are in every form of meat we consume, dairy, eggs, etc. It’s simply passed along into the meat and other products that we consume. As it stands now, I am allergic to every antibiotic there is except the Zpac. Docs love to dish out antibiotics for every illness there is, and I’m no exception. Given every kind there is until I’m allergic, the docs can’t answer why I’m developing these allergies. I stopped taking them at some point unless it was dire need, and today, I’m healthy and haven’t been sick in a long time. Not everyone is so lucky though.

      As for the battery farms – I know that animal rights are trying to ban these style of farms across the UK and US, but they’re still prevalent. No doubt the eggs that stem from these aren’t exactly great for us, simply because the birds that are having them are confined in such a small cage, and not allowed to move. Everything they’re fed goes right through them to produce eggs. And that means, even the antibiotics are passing through.

      And no, they can’t really clean the residue of chemicals out of the meat or the eggs I’m afraid. As for the meal that’s produced, some production facilities are ethical and clean the “stuff” really well, as well as not throw in things that are deemed unfit for consumption. That’s not all of them though. Many people will slide things under the radar to make a profit, and meal production plants are no different.

      Finally, yes, cow carcasses, lamb, pig, and any other animal that we consume outside of the birds are sent to meal processing plants as well. The birds are segregated from other meats because they have to be handled differently. More possible contaminants in Turkeys, Hens and Chickens. We all know that bird in the fridge doesn’t last near as long as red meat. So, they go different ways to be cooked down into meal.

      Hope this answers some of your questions! Thanks for stopping by!


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