Merrick Grain Free Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★★

Merrick Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Merrick Grain Free product line includes 11 dry dog foods, nine claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and two for adult maintenance.

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

  • Merrick Grain Free Small Breed
  • Merrick Grain Free Puppy Recipe (4 stars)
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Pork + Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Duck + Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Lamb and Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Turkey and Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Buffalo and Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Salmon and Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Chicken and Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato
  • Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe (4.5 stars)

Merrick Grain Free Real Duck and Sweet Potato was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Merrick Grain Free Real Duck and Sweet Potato

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 43% | Fat = 19% | Carbs = 30%

Ingredients: Deboned duck, turkey meal, salmon meal (source of omega 3 fatty acids), sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, deboned chicken, natural flavor, lamb meal, potato protein, duck fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), apples, blueberries, organic alfalfa, salmon oil, salt, minerals (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

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis38%17%NA
Dry Matter Basis43%19%30%
Calorie Weighted Basis36%39%25%
Protein = 36% | Fat = 39% | Carbs = 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 is 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 is 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 includes 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 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 seventh ingredient is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken 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.e

After the natural flavor, we find lamb meal, yet another high protein meat concentrate.

The ninth ingredient is potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato.

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 four notable exceptions

First, this recipe contains alfalfa, a flowering member of the pea family. Although alfalfa is high in protein (18%) and fiber, it’s uncommon to see it used in a dog food. This hay-family ingredient is more commonly associated with horse feeds.

Next, 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.

In addition, we note the inclusion 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 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 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 43%, a fat level of 19% and estimated carbohydrates of about 30%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 40% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 35% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 43%.

Above-average protein. Near-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, potato protein and alfalfa in this recipe, and the pea protein contained in other recipes, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Merrick Grain Free Dog Food is a meat-based kibble using a significant amount of various species 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 Chewy.com 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

03/26/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Maria Juliet Imbruglia

    My puppy loves merrick. He was having diarrhea and once I switched his food it got completely better. The only thing I noticed is that it has been giving him bad breath! Anyone else notice this? Any suggestions?

  • SNM

    Hi there–no, she is not intolerant to chicken. I feel there is a huge difference with raw chicken. My dog Chloe has an extremely sensitive stomach and I thought there would be a “getting used to” period when I switched her to raw chicken, but she adjusted immediately, with no issues! And the changes in her appearance, gas & scratching were almost immediate.

  • theBCnut

    Not the person you were asking, but I do have personal experience here. I have 2 dogs with food sensitivities. One can’t have kibbles with chicken or grain, but is fine with kibble with eggs or other types of poultry protein. She can eat fresh chicken, but I don’t feed it often. My other dog can’t have any poultry product, grains, tomato, alfalfa, or flax, either kibble or raw. I am currently feeding the old formula of Singles Pork and Butternut Squash and can’t use the new one because of the formula change. The old formula was the only food I could find that had none of his triggers. Fortunately, I’ve been feeding raw to this dog, in addition to kibble, for years, so I will go to feeding him only raw when I run out.

    So the answer is that you may be able to feed chicken, but you may not. Either way, when feeding raw, it’s important to feed a variety of meats over time to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients it needs. Different types of meat have different types of fats.

  • NinaOC

    Hi! I was just curious, was your dog ever intolerant to chicken when she was on kibble? My poor girl is intolerant to chicken and now fish (finding out the hard way now) I’ve had her on Acana Limited pork and squash but they’re changing the formula and I’m not wild about that..I’ve been considering raw and read that chicken is the most affordable way to go w/ raw feeding..I haven’t tried giving her any poultry since we last tried it, just curious if it’s a different result if fed raw rather than processed into kibble.. Thanks in advance for any info!

  • KenH

    My dogs love Merrick. Unless this site takes away their 5 star rating, we are sticking with Merrick regardless of who owns them.

  • Lanie Malvit

    Another food to add to the list of foods dogs should NEVER be on.
    The only food that is vet approved is royal canin.
    And scientific research has proven that royal canin is the healthiest dog food a dog can eat

  • Michelle

    My lab mix is sensitive and Merrick has been doing wonders for her, so I do understand but this can be with any company regardless if there’s a buy out involved. Just because one company has done something wrong, doesn’t mean all will… kind of like personal relationships in a way.

    Like I said before, “unless they slap another name on the bag and change the ingredients, I’m sticking with Merrick.” 🙂

  • theBCnut

    Usually, the issue with buy outs is that the quality of the ingredients change and often the ingredients change. For people with dogs that have health problems or food sensitivities, this is a real problem.

  • Michelle

    I changed over to Merrick for my girls months ago and they have been healthier and leaner and happier than I’ve ever seen them.

    I find it very funny about all the comments about this company buying out that company… oh my gosh, run for the hills! Obviously unless you have worked in the corporate world and know the in’s and out’s of corporate take overs and such, chill would you please? Just because they were bought, doesn’t mean that they are changing their formula. To me it sounds simply like a business decision. And unless they slap another name on the bag and change the ingredients, I’m sticking with Merrick.

  • Amateria

    There has indeed been an increase to sick pets on Merrick and some ingredients additions, but not everyone’s dogs are doing bad on it yet and the older recipes still look as delicious as ever haha, I guess only time will tell how long that will last.

  • JR

    The bottom line is Merric is a sell out to Purina Dog Chow. So if you could care less about your 4 legged family members then feed them the Merric Bargain Chow. I care about mine and that is the reason why I cook for mine every day and add Dog Food as a filler. After the dog food scare I stopped giving them anything but what I cooked for them. Now I have began the introduction to Dog Food to lessen my cooking time after long days in the office. Not doing to bad. All of my dogs are senior citizens the eldest being a 14 year old dachshund that broke is back at the age of 6 and he can still take 6 mile walks on Sundays and go home and play ball. Walking on his own. So if you really love your dogs take care of them. This isnt the dog food that will help achieve a happy pet. Buyer beware!

    ——– Original message ——–From: Disqus Date: 5/22/16 3:39 PM (GMT-08:00) To: [email protected] Subject: Re: Comment on Merrick Grain Free Dog Food (Dry)
    “Why did you post the device you used?”

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    Azul

    Why did you post the device you used?

    6:39 p.m., Sunday May 22

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    JR:

    Of corse I did.Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note5.

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  • Amateria

    I’ve seen it plenty of times on several forums even, it’s an auto thing like JR said below and can be turned off, I’m surprised it’s the first time you’ve seen it 😛

    It happens even with iPads when replying via message or in built email I think, I’m not sure though, it just sounds familiar.

    I’m glad it doesn’t happen with mine, I never really liked it to begin with.

  • JR

    Wow. Seriously? For those of us “Smart Phone” users we know that that is automatically entered on a signature line in a response email. This can be disabled when responding via email to a post reply. But im sure your questions pertain to the dog food as described in the earlier commentary. Dont get confused by the signature line now…just ignore it.

    Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note5.
    ——– Original message ——–From: Disqus Date: 5/22/16 3:39 PM (GMT-08:00) To: [email protected] Subject: Re: Comment on Merrick Grain Free Dog Food (Dry)
    “Why did you post the device you used?”

    Settings

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    Azul

    Why did you post the device you used?

    6:39 p.m., Sunday May 22

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    Azul’s comment is in reply to

    JR:

    Of corse I did.Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note5.

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  • Azul

    Why did you post the device you used?

  • JR

    Of corse I did.

    Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note5.
    ——– Original message ——–From: Disqus Date: 5/22/16 10:32 AM (GMT-08:00) To: [email protected] Subject: Re: Comment on Merrick Grain Free Dog Food (Dry)
    “Did you gradually switch their food over a course of 7-10days? If not you upset their tummies by the sudden change of food. Merrick foods are rich. ”

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    Packmomof4

    Did you gradually switch their food over a course of 7-10days? If not you upset their tummies by the sudden change of food. Merrick foods are rich.

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    We have 4 kids on the Grain Free Real Chicken+Sweet Potato. And we have 4 very upset tummies. The 2 big dogs have the … Read more

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