Lamb and lamb meal became popular in the ‘80s and ’90s with the development of elimination diets to treat food allergies. In the mid ‘90s lamb and rice diets became the fastest growing segment of the market. Today many of the novel protein diets have moved to other protein sources, but lamb and lamb meal are still widely used in dry dog food. Cats prefer other meats over lamb, so it has almost no use in cat food.

We used the Ingredient Search tool of this database to examine how widely used lamb and lamb meal are in today’s market. We also looked at how recipes containing lamb and lamb meal are labeled.

A note on our terminology. The database is organized by brand, product line and what we call formula. As an example, a product that’s returned as “Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal and Rice” has “Diamond” as the brand, “Naturals” as the product line and “Lamb Meal and Rice” as the formula name. When we refer to formula in this analysis, it is part of the branding of the label or bag.

Lamb's usage

In dry dog food, lamb meal is included in 255, or 12 percent of the recipes, with lamb listed in 129, or 6 percent of the recipes.

We first analyzed the 129 dry dog food recipes with lamb -- 67 of those also included lamb meal. In that group of 67 lamb or lamb meal were overwhelmingly the leading products in the ingredient deck, and most were branded as lamb in the formula name.

By excluding lamb meal from our search of recipes with lamb, we get 62 recipes that do not contain lamb meal.

After exporting the list of 62 recipes with lamb and no lamb meal recipes, we did a further search and found 42 of those recipes had “lamb” in their formula name.

lamb in dog food
Analysis of the 167 dry dog food recipies with lamb shows that the majority of the products that use lamb, and have no lamb meal, have lamb in their product's complete name.

Lamb meal in more recipes

For further analysis of the 255 companies with lamb meal, we excluded lamb, deboned lamb, and boneless lamb. That yielded 161 products, or 7 percent of our sample.

To look at how these formulas with lamb meal and no lamb are labeled, we exported the list of 161 products and found:

  • 54 of those had lamb meal in their formula name and
  • 17 had lamb in their formula name
  • 90 had no mention of lamb or lamb meal in their formula name

lamb meal in dog food
The majority of recipes with lamb meal, but no other forms of lamb have no mention of lamb or lamb meal in their formula name, but about a third refer to lamb meal in the formula name.

For more on lamb meal's popularity read this Ingredient Issues column Ingredient Issues column.