Merrick Grain Free dog food receives the Advisor’s top tier rating of 5 stars.
The Merrick Grain Free product line includes four 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.
- Merrick Grain Free Pork and Sweet Potato
- Merrick Grain Free Duck and Sweet Potato
- Merrick Grain Free Buffalo and Sweet Potato
- Merrick Grain Free Chicken and Sweet Potato
Merrick Grain Free Duck and Sweet Potato was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Merrick Grain Free Duck and Sweet Potato
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned duck, turkey meal, salmon meal (source of omega 3 fatty acids), sweet potato, peas, lamb meal, potato, duck fat (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols), pea protein, natural flavor, apples, blueberries, organic alfalfa, salmon oil, minerals (salt, 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 (choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D3, niacin, riboflavin supplement, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, thiamine mononitrate), 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
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||43%||19%||30%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||36%||39%||25%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is duck. Although it is a quality item, raw duck 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 second ingredient is turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.
The third ingredient includes salmon meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
The fourth ingredient lists sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.
The fifth ingredient mentions peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The sixth ingredient is lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.
The seventh ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The eighth ingredient includes duck fat. Duck fat is obtained from rendering duck, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Duck fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, duck fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The ninth 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 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 three notable exceptions…
First, salmon oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.
Depending on its level of freshness and purity, salmon oil should be considered a commendable addition.
Next, we note the use of dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal 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.
Merrick Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Merrick Grain Free appears to be an above average dry 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 43% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 30% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 45%.
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 peas and pea protein, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.
Merrick Grain Free is a meat-based dry dog food using a significant amount of named meats and meat meals as its main sources of animal 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
The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.
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, 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.
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.
To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.
Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.
Notes and Updates
02/08/2010 Original review
09/13/2010 Review updated
05/16/2011 Review updated
08/21/2011 Review updated (added chicken and pork flavor)
06/15/2012 Last Update