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Beef vs Chicken Dog Food: What Should I Choose?

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

Beef vs Chicken Dog Food

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

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

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Beef and chicken are the most popular types of meat found in dog food. Both have their own pros and cons, and it’s important to understand how each meat can benefit your dog’s lifestyle.

Most dogs will do well with chicken dog food because it contains high amounts of protein and less fat than beef. It’s the better option for dogs that need to lose weight, and it’s also more affordable. However, some dogs will benefit more from a beef diet. These dogs are typically more active or athletic or need to put on weight.

Since the answer depends heavily on the type of dog you have, it’s important to understand both the good and the bad of each type of meat. Here’s what you need to know about beef and chicken dog food before deciding on which one to buy for your dog.

    Divider 7At a Glance

Let’s look at the key points of each product.

Beef Dog Food
  • High in protein
  • High in fat
  • Excellent source of amino acids
  • Rich in B vitamins and iron
Chicken Dog Food
  • High in protein
  • Low saturated fat
  • Easily digestible
  • Excellent source of omega-6 fatty acids

Overview of Beef:

Beef is a common protein in dog food, and most dogs enjoy the flavor. Dog food containing beef is more expensive than dog food with other sources of meat. So, if your dog isn’t a high-energy animal, you may save money by choosing dog food without beef.

Cooked ground beef_shutterstock_Vezzani Photography
Image Credit By: Vezzani Photography, shutterstock

Nutritional Benefits

Beef is packed with protein and is an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, and essential amino acids. Beef liver is also extremely nutritious. It contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which support healthy skin and coat and joint health.

Some cuts of beef are high in cholesterol and saturated fats, and it’s important to choose dog food that contains lean cuts of beef. Lean beef is healthier and can help dogs build and maintain lean muscle mass.

Dogs Well-Suited for Beef Dog Food

Many high-performance dog foods will contain beef because it contains more calories and a sustainable amount of protein that dogs can rely on as an energy source. So, if you have an active sporting dog, service dog, or search and rescue dog, beef dog food will probably be more suitable than chicken.

Dogs that need to gain weight can also benefit from beef dog food, and those that need to lose weight will most likely have an easier time shedding weight with food containing a different protein. One of the downsides of beef is that it has a large carbon footprint and is the least sustainable protein source.

  • Excellent source of B vitamins, iron, and amino acids
  • Lean beef helps build lean muscle mass
  • Well-suited for active dogs
  • Good for weight gain
  • Relatively expensive
  • Some cuts are high in cholesterol and saturated fats
  • Large carbon footprint

Overview of Chicken:

Chicken is one of the most popular meats to include in dog food. It’s also more affordable than beef. However, it’s one of the most common food allergens for dogs. So, if your dog’s having a reaction to its food or itchy skin, it may be due to a chicken allergy.

nom nom now cat food fresh chicken
Image Credit: Nom Nom Cat Food

Nutritional Benefits

Chicken is an excellent protein source packed with essential amino acids that help build muscle tissue. It’s also a good source of Vitamin B12, choline, zinc, iron, niacin, and copper. Chicken is also lower in calories than beef, so it’s the ideal meat to include in weight management dog food.

Dogs Well-Suited for Chicken Dog Food

Since chicken has fewer calories, it’s better for dogs that need to lose weight. It’s also a more affordable option for adult dogs that don’t have any particular dietary restrictions or need a high-calorie diet.

Active and athletic dogs will need to eat more protein and fats. Since chicken is leaner than beef, it may not be the most energy-efficient food to feed these types of dogs.

  • Good source of Vitamin B12, choline, zinc, iron, niacin, and copper
  • Low-calorie
  • Good for weight loss
  • Affordable
  • Is a common allergen
  • May not sustain active dogs

What Are the Differences Between Them?

Nutritional Value

  • Edge: Chicken

Both beef and chicken are excellent sources of protein, and they contain essential nutrients that dogs rely on for daily functioning. Beef has more fat, which is an important energy source for dogs. However, chicken has more vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6, than beef.

Cooked chicken with fresh herbs
Image Credit: graphicshod21, Pixabay


  • Edge: Chicken

Chicken is often more affordable than beef. The price of beef dog food can also vary significantly depending on the cut of meat inside the recipe. If you find a beef dog food that’s cheaper than chicken dog food, it’s good to be wary because there’s a good chance that the recipe uses low-quality cuts of beef.


  • Edge: Beef

Beef has more calories and fat than chicken, so you don’t have to feed your dog as much beef to replenish its energy. Along with being a more sustainable main meal, beef snacks and treats can help active dogs build and repair muscle tissue after exercising or working strenuously.

Baked chicken balls in a deep serving dish
Image Credit: Giorgos Karagiannis, Shutterstock

Health Risks

  • Edge: Chicken

Both beef and chicken are common food allergens. Good-quality chicken in dog food will be lean and contain less fat and cholesterol than beef. Since beef has higher levels of cholesterol and fat, it can lead to getting overweight and secondary health issues.

raw beef meat
Image By: PDPhotos, Pixabay


  • Edge: Chicken

Beef has a large carbon footprint, and livestock is responsible for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Beef requires more natural resources such as water, food, and land for its production. Compared to chicken, beef requires six times the amount of food to produce 1 pound of protein.


Divider 7 Conclusion

In general, chicken is the better choice for average dogs. It helps them maintain a healthy weight while supplying plenty of protein and other nutrients to the body. It’s also more affordable and a more sustainable option than beef.

There are some special cases in which beef is the better option for dogs. Dogs with chicken allergies and active dogs will benefit more from a beef diet.

Overall, both beef and chicken are great ingredients to include in dog food. So, make sure to be familiar with your dog’s nutritional needs and select the meat that can best support its lifestyle.

Featured Image credit: beef, webandi, Pixabay; chicken, Piqsels

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