Merrick Dog Food Review (Dry): Evidence-based Analysis

Merrick Dog Food ReviewMerrick dog food review has evaluated this brand for an excellent A rating. It scored 90/100 points on our scale.

Highly recommended brand.

The below NextGen Dog’s Merrick dog food review analyzes product’s ingredients and nutrition, sourcing and manufacturing, any certifications and marketing claims used.

This dog food review was hand-written by a certified veterinarian and used an evidence-based evaluation approach for accuracy.

Merrick dog food is manufactured in the state of Texas, USA. Most of the ingredients are sourced from USA.

The following Merrick dry dog food recipes are available:

  • Merrick Classic Small Breed Recipe
  • Merrick Classic Large Breed Recipe
  • Merrick Classic Senior Recipe
  • Merrick Classic Real Beef and Green Peas Recipe with Ancient Grains
  • Merrick Grain-free Real Lamb and Sweet Potato recipe
  • Merrick Grain-Free Real Rabbit and Chickpeas Recipe
  • Merrick Grain-free Real Salmon and Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Merrick Grain-free Real Texas Beef and Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Merrick Back Country Raw Infused Big Game Recipe
  • Merrick Back Country Raw Infused Game Bird recipe
  • Merrick Back Country Raw Infused Great Plains Red Meat Recipe
  • Merrick Back Country Raw Infused Pacific Catch Recipe
  • Merrick Back Country Freeze Dried Meal Mixer Real Beef Recipe
  • Merrick Back Country Freeze Dried Meal Mixer Real Chicken Recipe
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Duck and Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Lamb and Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Salmon and Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey and Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Chicken Recipe

For this NGD Merrick dog food review, company’s Merrick Classic Small Breed Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food formula has been chosen to represent their line of dry dog foods.

Ingredients

Merrick dog food meets AAFCO nutrient profile requirements, which ensures adequate nutritional value for canines.

Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice, Peas, Barley, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Salmon Meal (source of Omega 3 fatty acids), Oats, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrots, Apples, Flaxseed Oil, Blueberries, Organic Alfalfa, Salmon Oil, Salt, Minerals (Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate), Choline Chloride, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.

Most Important Ingredients

Chicken: Defined as clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, exclusive of feathers.

Chicken meat is an excellent source of protein for dogs.

Since ingredients are listed by weight and raw chicken contains up to 80% water, this ingredient contributes much less to overall nutrition when cooked.

Chicken Meal: This refers to chicken that has been ground or reduced in particle size.

Meat meal is a dried product made through rendering. It can be a highly nutritious and concentrated source of protein that improves the amino acid profile of dog food [1, 2, 3, 4].

Rendering is the process of separating the components that make up chicken, allowing the protein portion to be more concentrated. It’s considered a good source of protein [5, 6, 7].

Turkey Meal: Turkey meal is produced by the same process as chicken meal (above).

The meat product is cooked down to a dry concentrate in the process of rendering.

Meat meals contain much higher levels of protein than fresh meat [8, 9, 10].

Brown Rice: This is unpolished rice after kernels have been removed.

Brown rice is a highly nutritious complex carbohydrate source that’s high in vitamin E and fiber [11, 12].

Peas: Peas are a source of protein and carbohydrates.

Peas contain fiber and vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin C as well as minerals.

Peas have a low glycemic index and may improve insulin response in canines [13, 14, 15].

Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols): The definition of poultry fat is fat obtained from poultry tissue during rendering. Only the fatty matter natural to the product should be present.

No added free fatty acids or other materials obtained from fat should be added. If an anti-oxidant is used, as it is in this case, the common name must be listed along with the term ‘preservative,’ or ‘preserved with.’

A balanced diet will contain fat, which is critical for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and chicken fat, while not appetizing, is a nutritious source.

Mixed Tocopherols are a Vitamin E compound derived from sources like vegetable oils, fish and nuts and used for preserving foods. They are safe to use [16, 17].

Vitamin E itself has several health benefits for dogs as an antioxidant helping with absorption of free radicals and may be beneficial in cancer and cardiovascular disease [18, 19, 20, 21].

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a whole-grain that is a nutritious source of carbohydrates, fiber and B vitamins [22].

Oatmeal is made from coarsely ground oats and is considered gluten-free when pure.

Natural Flavor: The FDA defines natural flavor as a substance obtained from a plant or animal source.

Natural flavors can also be derived from chemicals “naturally” in a laboratory setting. The term is very vague and sources of the flavoring can be varied.

The origin of the natural flavor is not specified in this dog food. However, flavors are usually added to make a food more palatable and don’t have a large effect on the nutritional value [23].

Quinoa: Quinoa is a gluten free pseudo-cereal grain. It is not a true grass and is more similar to a seed.

It is a very nutritious source of carbohydrates and fiber, with significant protein content. Quinoa contains flavonoids or plant antioxidants, which may have health benefits [24]. It also is a good source of such minerals as iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

However, research with dogs is scarce to prove quinoa’s benefits or side effects yet [25].

Other Additives

Fermented Products: Merrick dog food has added probiotics including dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product.

These are meant to help with gastrointestinal health and digestion in dogs, especially digestion of fiber sources [2627].

However, it’s possible to argue that it may be difficult to include enough probiotics in dog food and have them survive. Cooking and extruding will have a significant effect of bacteria’s survival.

Research is contradictory on this. Some studies evaluating commercial probiotic-rich pet foods show very low levels of organisms present [28, 29].

Other studies indicate that probiotics can be effectively incorporated in dog foods and successfully infest canine’s gut with healthy bacteria [30, 31].

An owner really wanting to use a probiotic is better off giving a supplement directly rather than relying on diet.

Fatty acids: Merrick dog food has added omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Research has shown benefits of both in a healthy canine diet [32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37].

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: This canine diet also has added glucosamine and chondroitin which have been shown to potentially improve joint health and function, but evidence is inconclusive [38, 39, 40].

The amount of additives in this diet are unlikely to have much therapeutic benefit, and a supplement separate from diet is generally necessary to see appreciable results.

Suspicious Ingredients

Merrick dog food has no added problematic ingredients.

The Bottom Line on Ingredients

Overall, the ingredients in Merrick dog food are above average.

Merrick dog food contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

The ingredient list is ordered by weight. Chicken is first on the list since meat contains significant water, thus making it heaviest. This doesn’t indicate that it is the biggest contributor to overall nutrition.

One important limitation of dog food labels is its inability to provide information on the quality of ingredients.

While the quality of the ingredients can’t be determined by the label, the ingredients themselves are all wholesome, nutritious, healthy and appear to be well-balanced.

Nutrient Analysis

Below is a guaranteed nutrient analysis of Merrick Classic Small Breed Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food formula.

  • Protein: 30% minimum
  • Fat: 15% minimum
  • Carbohydrates: 42%
  • Fiber: 3.5%

Calories: 3,585 kcal/kg (395 kcal/cup) calculated metabolizable energy.

Adult dog food protein content is typically in the range of 20-35% which is appropriate for most healthy dogs [41].

Fiber is beneficial to dogs in many ways but further research is required on several health benefit claims [42, 43, 44, 45].

However, crude fiber listed on Merrick dog food labels are not a particularly accurate measure of actual total dietary fiber content [46].

Certifications and Claims

Dog food manufacturers can have their foods tested and certified to meet specific regulations.

Some companies often use obscure or undefined statements. Below, we analyze all certifications and claims made by the company for accuracy and definitions.

Certifications

Merrick dog food has several affiliations with various organizations, including:

All of these certifications indicate manufacturer’s dedication to testing and safety.

Nutrition Claims

On their website, Merrick dog food claims to be a handcrafted, all-natural line of dog food.

Per FDA regulations, a modifier “recipe” on the label means the named ingredient must make up at least 25%, but not more than 95%, of the diet. Since this particular Merrick dog food doesn’t claim a protein source on the label, it is unclear from the packaging what the main protein source is.

The term “all-natural” does not have an official definition per the AAFCO pet food labeling requirements. Generally, “natural” indicates a lack of artificial flavors, preservatives or colors.

AAFCO Requirements

The nutrition standards set by the AAFCO are voluntary.

The presence of a statement by the AAFCO on the dog food’s label is the most important indicator of dog food’s nutritional adequacy.

Ingredient Requirements: Merrick dog food line meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages when evaluating their diet using food composition tables of the ingredients.

All of Merrick dry dog foods have an AAFCO statement on the bag.

Feeding Trials: Merrick dog food has not undergone any food trials with dogs.

Diet trials are the most stringent and costly AAFCO standard, and the highest AAFCO standard that can be met. The lack of a diet trial does not necessarily indicate that this dog food isn’t high quality.

Although the AAFCO statement claims to be adequate nutrition for all life stages, this diet may not be appropriate for puppies, especially large breed growing puppies that need very precise ratios of vitamins and minerals to calorie content.

Other Evaluations

Other factors are taken into consideration for the final assessment of this dog food brand.

“Best Use By” Date on the Label

When considering dog food’s quality control, it is important to have a “Best Use By” date present on the label to ensure proper shelf life.

Merrick dog food includes a “Best Use By” label on their packaging.

While seemingly inconsequential, the presence of this date is an important indicator of a dog food’s quality and the company’s commitment to safety.

Manufacturer and Brand

Merrick Pet Care is an independent dog food manufacturing company that claims to produce small dog food batches in their own “kitchen” located in Hartford, Texas. The company has been in business since 1988.

When inquired, Merrick’s customer support reported that both veterinarians and nutritionists are consulted during the creation of dog food formulas.

Merrick sources all of their main ingredients in the USA, but their website mentions that occasionally demand will necessitate sourcing ingredients from such places as New Zealand, Canada, Germany and Japan. No ingredients or products are sourced from China.

Testing, Safety and Quality Control

On their website, the company has briefly mentioned their final product testing process.

However, after talking with customer service, it seems they have more comprehensive testing parameters, including testing the raw ingredients and diets during pet food processing.

Recalls

At the time of this writing, Merrick dog food brand has never had any recalls.

Summary of Merrick Dog Food Review

This brand has scored 90 points out of possible 100 points for an excellent A rating, based on our Dog Food Rating System.

Merrick Classic Small Breed Recipe Adult dog food shares many of the characteristics of a good quality dog food.

This brand does claim several certifications of health and safety institutions. It meets AAFCO nutrition adequacy requirements and includes a “Best Use By” date.

While ingredients listed on the label are limited in giving insight to their overall quality, they are appropriate for dogs, and there are no added artificial flavors or colors.

The manufacturer is located in the USA and undergoes standard safety testing to ensure quality.

References

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