When looking over the ingredient list on our cat or dog’s food, it isn’t uncommon to come across “meat and animal derivatives”. As unappetizing as that might sound, they can make up an important part of a nutritious meal. They aren’t “fillers” or dangerous in any way… so in this blog we’re going to explore what they are and why they’re used!

What are meat and animal derivatives?

Raw ingredients which are classified as “meat and animal derivatives” include the cuts from veterinary-inspected animals that are not commonly consumed by people. Organs such as kidneys, liver, heart, and lungs rarely find their way onto British tables because of the cultural preference for skeletal muscle meats. However, they contain a great mix of nutrients which make them perfect for our less-picky, four-legged friends. 

Other animal derivatives that fit into this category come from the dairy and egg industries. Milk and egg products that are used in pet food will only ever come from healthy animals under veterinary care. Some examples of these include the by-products from milk separation and cracked eggs. Again, these are highly nutritious ingredients which can make up a valuable part of our pet’s food.

Are meat and animal derivatives in pet food safe for my pet?

Absolutely! In the United Kingdom, meat and animal derivatives are strictly regulated. The by-products of abattoirs will only come from animals which have passed veterinary inspection. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has strict guidelines set for both their transport and storage. Additionally, the APHA will have to give approval to any facility looking to use animal by-products in their manufacturing process. 

What is a category 3 animal by-product (ABP)?

Any animal by-products (ABPs) produced in the UK are graded according to the risk they pose to human or animal health. There are three different categories. Category 1 and 2 products are classified as high risk and category 3 products are suitable for animal consumption. Each category of animal by-product will have its own rules for processing and disposal, as determined by the APHA. 

Category 1 and 2 ABPs are never allowed to be included in pet food. Some examples of category 1 and 2 products are carcasses of wild animals suspected of carrying a transmissible disease and diseased livestock.

Category 3 ABPs can be used in pet food. These products will come from healthy animals under veterinary care or veterinary-inspected animals at the abattoir. There are strict rules surrounding how they are collected and stored to ensure that they are safe for consumption.  Category 3 ABPs are graded for animal use because they are nutritious products that people typically don’t eat.

Why do meat and animal derivatives end up on the ingredients list?

Pet food manufacturers must choose the right mix of ingredients to meet the nutritional needs of our pets. Proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals must be included in just the right proportions for a diet to qualify as “complete and balanced”. Animal by-products provide many of these essential nutrients, which make them incredibly helpful ingredients in the recipe.

Can my pet with allergies eat a food with meat and animal derivatives?

You may find that some food labels may not specify exactly which animal derivatives are used. This could mean that the exact source of the ingredients changes based on availability. Although the diet will still contain the required nutrients, if your cat or dog is allergic or sensitive to a certain type of animal protein it is best to choose a different diet where the ingredients are more specifically outlined.


Meat and animal derivatives may be unappealing to us, but they are very useful ingredients in pet food. With all the guidelines and regulations in place for their use, they are a safe and nutritious addition to our pets’ daily meals.

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