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What Is Turkey Meal in Dog Food? Is It Safe for Dogs?

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

labrador retriever dog eating its food from a bowl

What Is Turkey Meal in Dog Food? Is It Safe for Dogs?


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You might be concerned about how safe turkey meal is and why pet food companies don’t just use more real turkey meat. Turkey meal and other meat meals are common ingredients found in dog food. The majority of dog food companies will put meat meals in their dry dog food recipes to add more protein, vitamins, and minerals into their formulas. Here’s what you need to know about this ingredient and how to avoid feeding your dog low-quality ingredients that may be incorporated into dog food. In short, turkey meal is safe. Read on to learn more.


Is Turkey Meal Safe for Dogs to Eat?

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Turkey meal is completely safe for dogs. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), “Meat Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.”

In other words, you don’t have to worry about any unsanitary or unwholesome turkey parts being incorporated into your dog’s food. Turkey meal only consists of meat tissue. To meet the AAFCO’s standards of meat meal, turkey meal must also be processed in a way that destroys harmful bacteria and has an end product with a high protein content.

Dog food recipes containing a specified meat meal, like turkey meal, beef meal, or salmon meal, all contain just the parts of the specified meat. So, turkey meal is clean and free of other sources of meat.

Animal By-Product Meals

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While turkey meal is safe for dogs to eat, you do want to be wary of unspecified meat meals and by-product meals. Some dog food ingredient lists will contain “meat meal,” and it’s unclear as to what sources of meat are inside it. For example, it could be a mixture of beef and chicken. So, if your dog has any food allergies, it’s best to avoid food containing unspecified meat meals.

You may also encounter dog food that contains animal by-product meals. The contents of animal by-product meals can contain animal meat along with organs, fatty tissue, and bone. Poultry by-product meals can also contain necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines.

Animal by-product meal is a cheaper alternative that dog food companies may use to raise the food’s protein content with low-quality ingredients. Since more parts are included in animal by-product meals, it’s unclear as to what exactly goes inside of them. It’s best to avoid this ingredient, especially if your dog has food allergies or sensitivities.

Why Turkey Meal Is in Dog Food

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Image By: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

Turkey meal is in dog food to ensure that the food contains enough protein for dogs to eat. Dogs are omnivores, but their diet must consist of an adequate amount of protein. The average adult dog needs its diet to consist of a minimum of 18% protein and a maximum of 30% protein.

Many dog food companies will use real turkey in their food. While whole turkey is the cleanest ingredient, it consists mostly of water. So, once manufacturers dehydrate the meat, they’re left with a low volume of meat.

In contrast, turkey meal is cooked through a rendering process that evaporates the water in the turkey meat. Then, it’s cooked and ground up to a protein-rich powder that can get incorporated into dog food.

Turkey meat can consist of about 70% water and 18% protein, while turkey meal can consist of 90% protein and just 10% water. So, turkey meal is a more efficient way to add high-quality protein to dog food.

Why Dogs May Get Sick Eating Dog Food with Turkey Meal

If you’re feeding your dog food containing turkey meal and it keeps getting sick, there may be several reasons why it can’t digest the food properly.

Meat Allergies

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Image By: 9gifts, Shutterstock

First, your dog may have food allergies or health issues in its digestive tract. If your dog keeps getting sick from eating food, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical causes.

Next, check the ingredient list to make sure that no other types of meat are included in it. Sometimes, dog food companies will have other types of meat meals incorporated into the formula to add more flavor and protein. Also, remember that dogs with chicken allergies can also be allergic to turkey, as the two types of meat are very similar to each other.

Grain Allergies

Some dogs can also have difficulty digesting certain grains. For example, rice is a common ingredient found in dog food, and certain types of rice can help with digestion due to its fiber content. However, dogs with gastrointestinal issues might need to avoid eating rice because they have difficulty processing and digesting all the components.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you may want to consider switching to a limited-ingredient dog food or food with a sensitive skin and stomach formula. These types of dog food recipes typically only contain a single source of meat, have short ingredient lists, and use ingredients known to be easily digestible for dogs.divider-dog


Turkey meal is a completely safe and nutritious ingredient for dogs to eat. So, if you see it listed as one of the main ingredients in your dog’s food, you can rest assured in knowing that the food contains a high-quality source of protein.

If your dog keeps getting sick from eating its food, consult with your veterinarian to determine if it has any food allergies, sensitivities, or gastrointestinal illnesses. Your veterinarian can also help you find the right diet for your dog that’s both nutritious and palatable.

Featured Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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