Beneful dry dog food earns the Advisor’s lowest rating of 1 star.
The Beneful Dog Food product line lists seven kibbles, five claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and two for adult maintenance (Healthy Weight and IncrediBites).
- Beneful Original
- Beneful Playful Life
- Beneful IncrediBites
- Beneful Healthy Fiesta
- Beneful Healthy Radiance
- Beneful Healthy Weight Formula
- Beneful Healthy Growth for Puppies
Beneful Dog Food Original Formula was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugar, propylene glycol, meat and bone meal, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, water, animal digest, sorbic acid (a preservative), potassium chloride, dried carrots, dried peas, calcium propionate (a preservative), L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2), DL-Methionine, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.7%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||29%||12%||51%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||27%||26%||47%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is corn. Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
For this reason, we do not consider corn a preferred component in any dog food.
The second item is chicken by-product meal, a dry rendered product of slaughterhouse waste. It’s made from what’s left of a slaughtered chicken after all the prime cuts have been removed.
In a nutshell, chicken by-products are those unsavory leftovers usually considered “unfit for human consumption”.
In addition to organs (the nourishing part), this stuff can contain almost anything — feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs — anything except quality skeletal muscle (real meat).
On the brighter side, by-product meals are meat concentrates and contain nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
In any case, although this item contains all the amino acids a dog needs, we consider chicken by-products an inexpensive, lower quality ingredient.
The third item is corn gluten meal. Gluten is the rubbery residue remaining once corn has had most of its starchy carbohydrate washed out of it.
Compared to meat, glutens are inferior grain-based proteins lower in many of the essential amino acids dogs need for life.
This inexpensive plant-based ingredient can significantly boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The fourth ingredient is wheat. Wheat is another problematic grain subject to the same issues as corn (previously discussed).
The fifth ingredient is animal fat. Animal fat is a generic by-product of rendering, the same high-temperature process used to make meat meals.
Since there’s no mention of a specific animal, this item could come from almost anywhere: roadkill, spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased or dying cattle — even euthanized livestock.
For this reason, we do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.
The sixth item is rice flour. Rice flour is made from either white or brown rice and is considered a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour.
The seventh ingredient is beef. Although it’s a quality item, raw beef 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 eighth ingredient is soy flour, a high-protein by-product of soybean processing.
Compared to meat, soy protein has a notably low biological value. Yet it is still capable of raising the protein content of this food.
The ninth ingredient is sugar, always an unwelcome addition to any dog food. Sugar has a high glycemic index which means it can unfavorably raise the blood sugar level of any animal soon after it is eaten.
This Beneful dry dog food product contains the controversial food moisturizer, propylene glycol. Propylene glycol has been banned by the FDA for use in making cat food.
Yet it can still be found in mostly lower quality dog foods.
Meat and bone meal is a dry “rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents”.1
Meat and bone meal has a lower digestibility than most other meat meals.
Scientists believe this decreased protein quality may be due to the ingredient’s higher ash and lower essential amino acid content.2
What’s worse, this particular item is anonymous. It doesn’t even specify the source animal.
Even though meat and bone meals are still considered protein-rich meat concentrates, we do not consider a generic ingredient like this a quality item.
Animal digest is a chemically hydrolyzed concoction of unspecified body parts from unspecified animals. This product is usually sprayed onto the surface of a dry kibble to improve its taste.
We’re always disappointed to find artificial coloring in any dog food. Coloring is used to make the product more appealing to you, not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his kibble is?
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, garlic oil may be a controversial item. We say “may be” here because we are not certain of the oil’s chemical relationship to raw garlic itself. Although the majority of experts favor the ingredient for its numerous health benefits, garlic (in rare cases) has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.3
However, the limited professional literature we surveyed provided no definitive warnings regarding the use of garlic… especially in small amounts (as it is here).
Next, we find no mention of we find no mention of probiotics, friendly microorganisms applied to the surface of the kibble after processing.
Thirdly, we note the minerals here do not appear to be chelated. And that can make them more difficult to absorb. Non-chelated minerals are usually associated with lower quality dog foods.
And lastly, this Beneful dog food product contains menadione, a controversial form of vitamin K linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells.
Beneful Dry Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Beneful Dog Food looks to be a below-average kibble.
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 30% and a mean fat level of 12%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 50% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 40%.
Above-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbohydrates as compared to a typical dry dog food.
In addition, when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the corn gluten meal, this is the profile of a kibble containing only a modest amount of meat.
Plus it’s difficult to ignore the unusual abundance of so many Red Flag ingredients.
Beneful Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a modest amount of chicken by-products meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 1 star.
Those looking for a canned version of this product may want to check-out our review of Beneful Prepared Meals Wet Dog Food.
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.
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Other spellings: Beniful
11/07/2009 Original review
05/17/2010 Review updated
01/30/2011 Review updated (recipe change)
03/17/2012 Last update
03/17/2012 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition ↩
- Shirley RB and Parsons CM, , Effect of Ash Content on Protein Quality of Meat and Bone Meal, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Poultry Science, 2001 80: 626-632 ↩
- Yamato et al, Heinz Body hemolytic anemia with eccentrocytosis from ingestion of Chinese chive (Allium tuberosum) and garlic (Allium sativum) in a dog, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 41:68-73 (2005) ↩