Back to Basics Dog Food (Dry)


Rating: ★★★★★

Back to Basics Dog Food earns the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Back to Basics product line includes three dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Back to Basics Pork Formula
  • Back to Basics Turkey Formula
  • Back to Basics Open Range Formula

Back to Basics Turkey Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

The first ingredient in this dog food is turkey giblets comprised of turkey liver and turkey hearts. Giblets are the edible by-products of poultry slaughter. They include the gizzard, brain, lungs, kidneys, heart, spleen, liver, ovaries and other visceral organs.

Though the thought of eating an animal’s internal organs probably wouldn’t appeal to most humans, these grisly-sounding ingredients can all be considered a natural part of an authentic ancestral diet.

Giblets are an acceptable (although less costly) meat ingredient.

The second ingredient is turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.

The third ingredient is turkey. Although it is a quality item, raw turkey contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The fourth ingredient is chicken meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

The fifth ingredient is tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.

The sixth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The seventh ingredient is poultry fat from turkey and chicken. Poultry fat is obtained from rendering, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Poultry fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life.

The eighth ingredient is dried whole egg, a dehydrated powder made from shell-free eggs. Eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

The ninth ingredient is flaxseed, one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.

However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With four notable exceptions

First, this recipe contains peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

Next, sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3’s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.

Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.

There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.

Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, this food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

Back to Basics Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Back to Basics Dog Food looks like an above-average dry product.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 42%, a fat level of 20% and estimated carbohydrates of about 30%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 42% and a mean fat level of 20%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 30% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 47%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea products and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Back to Basics is a meat-based grain-free dry dog food using a significant amount of named organs and meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

A Final Word

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The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

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Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

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Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

11/13/2014 Last Update

  • Burke’sMom

    Darn… I’m going to be cooking dog food, aren’t I?

  • Crazy4dogs

    Darn, I was wondering about the chicken. :(

    I think that’s all in the ultimate protein line. It’s their new formula.

  • Burke’sMom

    The ultimate protein seems absolutely perfect, but even the duck formula has chicken in it and he’s allergic to chicken. Have you heard of them making it in any other meat without chicken?

  • Burke’sMom

    Thank you! I’ve used Nature’s Variety Instinct before in his life. It’s a good food and a choice I’ll look into – especially as their ultimate protein looks promising.

  • Crazy4dogs

    One of my rotational kibbles is Nature’s Variety Instinct. They have several formulas including very limited ingredient and a new Ultimate Protein. I didin’t see any alfalfa or rosemary in the Ultimate Protein. These might work for you. They have Rosemary in some of the other formulas but I didn’t see alfalfa. I’ve had good luck with this brand. Here’s the link to an Ultimate Protein:

    Edit: The limited ingredient diets generally are lower in protein, but you would be making it up by adding the organ meat.

  • Burke’sMom

    Thank you.
    Even Orijin has alfalfa and Rosemary and some starchs in it that Back to Basics doesn’t. And Orijin (and seemingly everything else) is missing the B12 vitamins and folic acid of B2B. Part of inflammatory bowel means bad nutrient absorption, and the B12 vitamins in the back to basics have been a godsend. Of course, I’ve been giving him injections of B12 vitamins, but getting them in his food in the B2B has been integral as well. I guess there’s no way to tell if the things like alfalfa, rosemary, and starches aggravate the overall IBS without changing the food – We just know he’s been better on the back to basics -which happens not to have them :( I guess a dumb idea would be a limited ingredient food which is going to have low-protein and lack vitamins and probably keyalated minerals, and supplemented by cooking the organ meat for the protein…

  • Crazy4dogs

    Orijen might be your best choice. You might have to experiment a bit by slowly adding fresh organ meat and taking away from the kibble. Nutrition Data sources will help. I don’t think Back to Basics will give you a detailed analysis of their formulas, but you could ask. You can search here for fresh organ information:

    You could also work with the balance it website. Good luck with your pup. :)

  • Burke’sMom

    Yes :( it’s a good option, but I’ll need a way to measure the caloric intake between his kibble and the organ meat I add… Also, I still need a high protein, grain free, soy free, by-product free kibble that’s super low on starch and carbs, and doesn’t really have any fillers because right now I don’t know if he does well or poorly on things like alfalfa or Rosemary or tomatoe paste since Back to Basics pretty much eliminated all that :/

  • Crazy4dogs

    Have you thought about buying organ meat, cooking it and adding it to his regular food, whichever you choose? This would be a fresher alternative to dry kibble.

  • Burke’sMom

    My nine-year-old service dog Labrador has been extremely healthy his whole life. He’s, however, allergic to chicken, wheat, soy, corn etc. And I’ve been feeding him grain free high protein products such as wellness core oceans, Evo red meat, Ultramix etc. for many years. He has also done a raw diet and did well on that. Unfortunately he now has an autoimmune disease causing a very bad case of inflammatory bowel. (Yeah $5000 testing and upper/lower endoscopes with biopsies) He’s being treated by an internal medicine veterinary specialist and there’s pretty good hope for great improvement, but we will be continuing to treat IBS etc. I’ve been using “back to basics” high protein formula – such as open range – as a mix in/rotation/treats for the last two years or so, and when he got sick we switched to it completely. This is literally the very best food for him, I’ve worked with a veterinary nutritionist, and we have been round about with everything. He cannot eat Raw right now because of the inflammation in his intestines. I’m extremely concerned about this food going off the market and I have no idea what I will feed him as even orijin, with its meat choices, does not have the organ meat content of this food. There is vet/service dog organization/me agreement that it is the organ meat that has been integral to this recovery so far.

    Does anyone else who feeds this food or has fed it, or knows anything about the high protein line have suggestions for me about what to look at as this goes off the market? Perhaps even the Dog Food Advisor? I’ve spent time with this site and can find nothing comparable that is not raw- and even then the organ meat comparison is questionable. Am I looking at making my own food?

  • DogFoodie

    I agree. I think it’s a great product. That said, mine didn’t do well on it either.

  • Crazy4dogs

    It appears to be true since it’s on their website & Facebook page. Here’s the website link:

    Edit: I like the idea of this food, but had a hard time feeding this to my dogs unless I mixed it with another kibble formula even though my dogs eat raw. I think it had too much organ meat to work well for my dogs.

  • Pat

    is it true that this company will no longer be making this food as of December of this year

  • Jeri Borton

    it cost more than our previous dog food did lb wise but my dogs eat less because it is more filling.

  • Georgiapeach

    My westie/maltese mix is allergic to lots of things (intense itching/licking), and finding her a suitable kibble was difficult, to say the least. I have had good luck with BTB Hi Protein Pork, and she also seems to tolerate the Open Range okay. It’s one of the few kibbles that doesn’t contain any grains, poultry, eggs, or alfalfa. Most kibbles have at least one or more of these ingredients in them. I buy a 15 lb. bag and divide it up into gallon freezer bags, freezing the extra bags, so the kibble doesn’t go stale/rancid.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Anywhere from $60-$78, depending on the formula, for a 27lb bag on What is your weekly budget for dog food?

  • Deborah Smith

    I have to buy 75 lbs of food a week how expensive is B2B