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

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the quality of the test results from any specific batch of food a company chooses to publish.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

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.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

However, we do receive a fee from for each purchase made as a direct result of a referral from our website. This fee is a fixed dollar amount and has nothing to do with the size of an order or the brand selected for purchase.

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

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Burke’s Mom-

    Here is a tool that may be of some help:

    Poor pup. Good luck!

  • Burke’sMom

    Ugh. So, even with all the fresh food, supplements, balanced lean and organ meat my IBD dog is now getting, it is noticeable that he is doing not as well as he was doing on this food. I had 3 weeks of this kibble to mix with his food change, and then some left to use as treats and toppers. Still, ever since we ran out of this kibble last week, he’s lost energy and isn’t tolerating the new food nearly as well as he had been (though I’m still mixing in kibble with the fresh food (Wellness Core Oceans – which has no alfalfa, is high meat protein, grain-free etc.). His muscles were recovering from the prednisone, but now it’s almost like he’s lacking the will to use them (i.e. he had been able to do agility again, was enjoying it and benefiting from it, and now his muscles still could, but he either doesn’t feel like he can, or is too fatigued, or feels weaker than he is)

    Has anybody found something to add to their rotation in place of Back to Basics they are willing to suggest I try?

  • hisirishwench

    Our local supplier told us that Back to Basics will be closing their doors at the end of December as there isn’t a high enough demand for their food. My two German Shepherds do very well on this food and I can switch variety with no issues. So the search begins for a new food :(

  • Bobby dog

    Hi Burke’sMom:
    You accidentally replied to me instead of Melissa. I posted a link of your reply to Melissa so she can read the info you have shared with her.

  • Bobby dog

    Hi Melissa:
    Burke’sMom replied to you. However, she accidently replied to my post instead of yours. I didn’t want you to miss it, here’s the link to her reply:

  • Crazy4dogs

    Sorry I forgot to reply. You might have to cook, but if you went to an LID, you might just have to supplement with the fresh cooked. On the bright side, fresher is always better for dogs in the long run! :)

  • Burke’sMom

    Hi Melissa,
    So I’m still feeding my dog the high protein line of the Back to Basics since it will be available through the end of the year. I have from several veterinary nutritionists (U Penn being the “biggest name”) that anything with alfalfa in it is likely to be a big problem. Their explanation was a little different that what they usually say on this site (though this site will flag any alfalfa in food as a “red, controversial ingredient”). Penn Vet says that alfalfa, especially in IBS/IBD dogs, tends to expand and break down into a more foamy, fibrous substance when dogs try to digest it, and it actually can block nutrient absorption. This can be a serious issue over time if it’s an ingredient an IBD dog gets in his or her meals consistently, because it compounds their already serious nutrient absorption issues. (Unlike, say, in a ‘senior weight’ food where you are trying to fill the dogs belly, but keep them from absorbing as much calories – though I’d argue that it’s still iffy because you want them to absorb nutrients regardless….)
    In any case, some of the nutritionists I’ve talked to have been clear that regular vets do not always have specialties in nutrition, and some of the ‘prescription’ diets they subscribe (things like Hill’s Science etc.) are not the very best (contain corn, soy, grains, by-products etc.)
    We’ve been looking at things like Acana Singles (a limited ingredient that isn’t extremely high in protein, but lacks a lot of crap and focuses on only 1 meat, some of which is organ, so you can test for a protein allergy etc. but still have chealated minerals), or something like Hi-Tek or Annameat which, again, have only have moderately high meat, but nothing like alfalfa or rosemary (U Penn is concerned this could be building up over time as a neuro toxin, though I’ve not seen it marked as a “red, controversial ingredient” on this site yet). They have some starch and protein from pea type sources, but also B vitamins (essential for IBD dogs who have nutrition deficiencies) and good chealated minerals.
    Lastly, unfortunately, everything that I can find that fits my standards of high protein, low starch, no by-products, no grains, no corn, low soy, no chicken (he’s allergic), contains omegas, vitamins, and chealated minerals (and there actually are a lot of choices in the 5 and 4.5 star foods) contains either alfalfa or rosemary. I can not feed the alfalfa. I’m still out on some more nutritional specialist’s opinions (and I’d like to hear from anyone one here) about Rosemary. If I can’t feed the Rosemary, I’ll have to go with the Hi-Tek probably, and then get something like Ziwi Peak (air dried everything I want with out everything I don’t, but not kibble, there for harder for me to travel with since it has to be measured in ounces and re hydrate over night), as an add in to do half and half.
    I’m considering going for broke, and switching him entirely to something like Ziwi Peak, but it’s harder to keep enough of that around for a 65-70lbs dog when you travel between states 3 and 4 times a week, have 2 places you live, and have to weigh it the night before to re hydrate it etc.

    In fact, anyone have any experience with Ziwi or that type of food they want to share?

  • Bobby dog

    Hi Melissa:
    Here are two sites that might help with your search for specialists, good luck!

  • Melissa

    I too have a dog with IBD (Irish Setter). We have also spent thousands of dollars on him with no luck. We cannot control his symptoms on a prescription diet & steroids. I would love to take him to an internal medicine vet & dietician. Any you would recommend? We live in Ohio. My dog is only 2 and has been dealing with this since he was 6 mo. I need help!

  • 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