Merrick Grain Free canned dog food earns the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.
The Merrick Grain Free product line lists six canned 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.
- Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Pork
- Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Beef
- Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Tripe
- Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Duck
- Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Buffalo
- Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Chicken
Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Chicken was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Merrick Grain Free 96% Real Chicken
Canned Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken broth, dried egg product, natural chicken flavor, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, salt, sodium phosphate, vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, vitamin B12, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, niacin, vitamin D3 supplement, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, biotin, thiamine mononitrate), carrageenan, cassia gum, guar gum, minerals (zinc amino acid complex, iron amino acid complex, manganese amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, potassium iodide, cobalt glucoheptonate, sodium selenite), lecithin
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 6.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||46%||27%||19%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||35%||51%||15%|
The first ingredient in this dog food includes chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”.1
Chicken is naturally rich in the ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.
The second ingredient is chicken broth. Broths are nutritionally empty. But because they add both flavor and moisture to a dog food they are a common finding in many canned products.
The third ingredient is dried egg product, a dehydrated form of shell-free eggs. Quality can vary significantly. Lower grade egg product can even come from commercial hatcheries — from eggs that have failed to hatch.
In any case, eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.
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 two notable exceptions…
First, we note the use of carrageenan, a gelatin-like thickening agent extracted from seaweed. Although carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years, there does appear to be some recent controversy regarding its long term biological safety.
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.
Merrick Grain Free Canned Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Merrick Grain Free appears to be an above average canned dog food.
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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 44% and a mean fat level of 21%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 28% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 47%.
Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical canned dog food.
This makes no sense. This dog food is 96% meat. The protein and fat numbers should be higher and our carbohydrate estimate should be lower (much lower) — maybe even as low as 10%.
So, what’s going on here?
Although we can’t be sure why, we believe Merrick Grain Free’s reported protein and/or fat figures are most likely understated. After all, how could we arrive at a carbohydrate estimate of 25%?
What ingredient here could possibly contribute all those carbs?
Relying on these numbers alone, we’d likely have awarded this dog food just four stars.
However, we’ve elected to overlook the reported nutrient content here and go with the company’s promise that this dog food contains 96% meat.
Merrick Grain Free canned dog food is a meat-based product utilizing an abundance of animal ingredients as its primary sources of protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.
Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.
A Final Word
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However, our rating system is not intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits 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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Notes and Updates
02/09/2010 Original review
09/16/2010 Review updated
06/14/2012 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials ↩