Beneful Dog Food (Dry)


Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Beneful Dog Food receives the Advisor’s lowest rating of 1 star.

The Beneful product line includes eight dry dog foods, seven claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages and one for adult maintenance.

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

  • Beneful Original
  • Beneful Playful Life
  • Beneful IncrediBites
  • Beneful Healthy Smile
  • Beneful Healthy Fiesta
  • Beneful Healthy Weight
  • Beneful Healthy Radiance
  • Beneful Healthy Growth for Puppies

Beneful IncrediBites was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Beneful IncrediBites

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 31% | Fat = 14% | Carbs = 47%

Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, beef, rice flour, soy flour, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, salt, phosphoric acid, mono and dicalcium phosphate, animal digest, potassium chloride, tricalcium phosphate, sorbic acid (a preservative), non-fat yogurt, dried carrots, dried peas, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, l-lysine monohydrochloride, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, red 40, niacin, vitamin A supplement, yellow 5, yellow 6, copper sulfate, vitamin B12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, blue 2, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 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
Guaranteed Analysis27%12%NA
Dry Matter Basis31%14%47%
Calorie Weighted Basis28%30%42%

The first ingredient in this dog food is corn. Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain. And aside from its energy content, this grain is 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 ingredient 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 addition to organs (the nourishing part), this stuff can contain almost anything — feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs — anything except feathers.

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 ingredient is corn gluten meal. Gluten is the rubbery residue remaining once corn has had most of its starchy carbohydrate washed out of it.

Although corn gluten meal contains 60% 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.

The fourth ingredient is wheat flour, a highly-refined product of wheat milling. Like corn, wheat is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

For this reason, we do not consider wheat a preferred component in any dog food.

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 pets.

For this reason, we do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.

The sixth 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 seventh ingredient is rice flour. Rice flour is made from either white or brown rice and is considered a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour.

The eighth ingredient is soy flour, a high-protein by-product of soybean processing.

Although soy flour contains about 51% 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.

The ninth ingredient is meat and bone meal, a dry “rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents”.1

Meat and bone meal can have a lower digestibility than most other meat meals.

Scientists believe this decreased absorption may be due to the ingredient’s higher ash and lower essential amino acid content.2

What’s worse, this particular item is anonymous. Since there’s no mention of a specific animal, this ingredient could come from almost anywhere: spoiled supermarket meat, roadkill, dead, diseased or dying livestock — even euthanized farm animals.

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.

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 nine notable exceptions

First, this product contains the controversial food moisturizer, propylene glycol. Propylene glycol has been banned by the FDA for use in making cat food.

However, it can still be found in some commercial dog foods.

Second, we note the inclusion of sugar. Sugar is always an unwelcome addition to any dog food. Because of its high glycemic index, it can unfavorably impact the blood glucose level of any animal soon after it is eaten.

Next, this food contains animal digest. Animal digest is a chemically hydrolyzed mixture of animal by-products that is typically sprayed onto the surface of a dry kibble to improve its taste.

In addition, this recipe contains dried peas. Dried peas are a good source of carbohydrates. Plus they’re naturally rich in dietary fiber.

However, dried peas contain about 27% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

Next, we’re always disappointed to find artificial coloring in any pet food. That’s because coloring is used to make the product more appealing to humans — not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his kibble is?

We also note that garlic can be a controversial item. Although many favor the ingredient for its claimed health benefits, garlic has been linked to Heinz body anemia in dogs.3

So, one must weigh the potential benefits of feeding garlic against its proven tendency to cause subclinical damage to the red blood cells of the animal.

Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

In addition, the minerals listed 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 food contains menadione, a controversial form of vitamin K linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells.

Since vitamin K isn’t required by AAFCO in either of its dog food nutrient profiles, we question the use of this substance in any canine formulation.

Beneful Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Beneful Dog Food looks like a below-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 31%, a fat level of 14% and estimated carbohydrates of about 47%.

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 41%.

Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the corn gluten meal, soy flour and dried peas, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Beneful Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of chicken by-product meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 1 star.

Not 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.

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.

Other spellings: Beniful


03/26/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition
  2. 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
  3. 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)
  • Janis King

    My grandpuppy golden lab Marty is 7 years old. He has suffered seizures for the last 5 years of his life. My son always fed him Beneful . He joined Costco a year ago and now feeds him Kirkland dogfood. Mary has not had a seizure since he started the food and is no longer on medicine for it. Please think about this and make the right decision. Why take the chance.

  • Diane Zimerle

    I am scared of using Beneful because of the negative reports, and my dogs got very ill at one point in my using Beneful although I can’t say for sure it was the Beneful that caused their vomiting. Now they don’t trust most dog food flavors (chicken, beef, turkey). Before all this information came out it was the only food my dogs would eat. Now I am having trouble finding a food they will actually eat, they are used to all the sugar and crap. My concern is Purina makes several dog foods and no one seems to be too concerned about them, if Purina doesn’t care about the quality of this food why would they care about any of their foods, and it seems no one is talking about that at all. Last, anyone have any good ideas about a food a dog will actually like, I have tried Blue, Instinct, Alpo, Rachel Ray, Wilderness, Nutro, I have even been cooking for them, they are senior dogs (over 15) and are barely eating, I am at a loss.

  • Crazy4dogs

    There are many foods out there with better ingredients that cost the same or less. The explosive diarrhea is probably because you didn’t do a very slow transition. If your dog has been eating the same food every day for 10 years, you need to change over in very small increments. The fresh food you are giving him is a good addition that he could get daily, if you give him just a bit that has no seasoning or butter, etc.
    My 10+ year old lab just took a 2 mile walk with me this morning. She has only 2 peas sized lipomas on her body and they haven’t changed size in almost 2 years. She doesn’t and never has eaten Bemeful. My last lab mix lived to 14.5 yo. and we lost him due to myelopathy, a genetic dengenerative nerve disorder that has nothing to do with food. At 12 he was still walking at least a mile daily. Good food really does matter.

  • Jacob

    My dog has been eating this stuff since he was a pup, he’s 10 years old and doing fine. He’s 110 lb lab. Every time I’ve tried to switch him to a better brand it always has the same effect, explosive diarrhea. He seems to like this stuff. He’s not picky. I do give him vegetables and human quality meat occasionally to make sure he’s getting a balanced diet. He is like a little kid when it comes to celery and carrots. Aside from benefuls I’m picky about the human food he eats, no junk. He only had a life expectancy of 12 years because of his size. He’s got fatty tumors on his body, but that’s common in labs. He’s doing just fine for 10 years old, he’s starting to slow down. I won’t blame benefuls when he dies. Not saying it’s good food, just saying his body seems to like it.

  • Matt Begley

    My 10 year old best friend, a German Shepherd dog was murdered by Purina’s Beneful dog food. I had found him lost in the North Cascade mountains, running wild. nearly 2 years old and weighed only 60 lbs. He was my sixth GSD and we were never apart for 10 years, until he developed a very deadly form of cancer which caused him to bleed internally. After spending over $3500 to have his spleen removed my Vet told me that the same lesions were all over his intestines as well. He was like he was years younger after the surgery. He lived only 6 more days before he began to bleed internally again, I was with him at the vet when the biopsy report came back about the cancer. He died in my arms that morning. If I ever get my hands on those at Purina who make the decisions to put inferior and poisonous products into their dog foods I will make them suffer, right before they die. Why? Because there are reports of thousands of dogs dying from digestive tract destruction like mine did and they do nothing but deny.

  • Daniel Yoo

    Disappointing how these companies do anything for profit. I guarantee Purina takes spoiled Chinese supermarket meat to put it in dog food as there’s no mention of an animal. “PURINA” –> the irony is real. Poisonina is the right.

  • Miltapher

    It’s still not healthy. Do you eat healthy yourself? How do you choose what to eat? Read the ingredients in this “food” you are feeding. The ingredients are closer to a bag of doritios than something healthy. Just like Doritos, Beneful is mostly corn, has added sugar, has artificial flavors and colors. Added sugar, artificial ingredients are ingredients in the junk food people buy for themselves to eat. It’s junk food for dogs.

  • sighthndman

    Actually that’s true. In fact, many good foods look like they cost more but in fact don’t because you feed less (whether you ration or free feed). In addition, just because they’re better foods, the waste product is more compact and less wet, meaning you have fewer piles to scoop and they are smaller and less smelly and less runny and squishy. (Or is this only a concern with greyhounds and a few other breeds?) That even goes one more step and means it’s easier and less costly to find a sitter on those occasions when you’re going to be away for more than a few hours. Or even to find a dog walker if both “parents” are going to be away for the day.

  • Crazy4dogs

    The saddest thing about this whole Beneful thing is that if people actually did a little research instead of watching the commercials and listening to the marketing spin doctors they would find that there are many really decent foods with good ratings, good ingredients that are healthy for their dogs that cost the same as or less than Beneful. :(

  • JellyCat

    I can see that the company may actually settle to avoid higher legal costs. However, they may also not settle just based on ideology, even if that means higher costs. Additionally, owners involved may not settle also because of ideological reasons. We don’t know any details here.

    As far as different nutritional needs, obviously not every dog has same nutritional needs. Not every dog needs to eat high protein and high fat foods and none of the dogs need to consume poor quality ingredients. There are some better Purina formulations on the market, but Beneful is not one of them. It does not offer quality regardless of nutritional requirements.

  • sighthndman

    No. Companies settle without admitting fault all the time. To them it’s a business decision. If Purina settles, they also change their formulation so that they don’t have a stream of “me too” lawsuits. Or discontinue the brand. Not all companies have to do that. (The case where a plaintiff was awarded $10 million because his new Mercedes had been scratched and the paint was retouched comes to mind.) But if it comes to a point where it looks like it would cost $1 million to fight (an extreme but possible total cost, not including payment of claims to those claiming injury and their lawyers), and then the possibility of “legal roulette” where you don’t know what the judge and/or jury might decide (and what any appellate courts might do) where the award could be $10 million or more, they might decide that it’s in their interest to limit their losses. In addition, they might very well settle simply to avoid having a public record of bad food. If they go to court and lose, they have to change their formulation, because they are on record as having unsafe food. (This is regardless of whether the food is, in actual fact, unsafe or not.)

    If their marketing department can’t put a positive spin on changing the formulation, they should probably all be replaced anyway.

    I don’t know where Beneful is on the price scale. However, the general rule is that cheaper is not as good (and that is reflected in the language: “inexpensive” means low cost but “cheap” means both low cost and low quality) but there are exceptions. Also, there is always someone selling cheap stuff at premium prices in an effort to separate you from your money. So the general rule is not a hard and fast rule, it’s more of a general guide.

    At the “top end” things diverge: running dogs have different nutritional needs from sled dogs which have different nutritional needs from the large breeds and you have to know exactly what your animal needs and feed to the nutritional requirements of your animal. A lot can go into that that I don’t have time or space for here. But what it does mean is that there is a lot of variety that is essentially meaningless unless you have a performance animal (similarly, unless you are an athlete yourself, you don’t need to eat like one, and you don’t need to watch your diet like one, even though we all still need to watch our diet).

  • JellyCat

    The reason why Purina will never settle, is because settling means admitting that their food isn’t as healthy as they claim it is. That would be extremely damaging to the brand.

  • Dee Robinson Terry

    So It’s ok if they keep killing dogs and cats with this food? Please go to the FDA site and read all of the complaints, all the way through. And yes I have a complaint on there for my dad. His pet’s became deathly ill from this food with high vet bills. Thank god they are ok now. But read all about the ones that are now dead. You are slowly killing your pets. I can’t believe you are defending Purina to save a buck. It’s not about free money, it’s about saving animals. You really need to educate yourself on this matter. Praying for your pets!

  • mia

    I had been feeding my 8 yr old

  • Dog_Obsessed

    I agree, there is absolutely no reason it should be in dog food. It can be good for anti-freeze though, even though it is not totally non-toxic, because it would be less harmful if a dog were to accidentally ingest some of it.

  • pitlove

    propylene glycol is the second cousin to ethylene glycol and is still toxic at high doses (AKA a dog eating Beneful every day for 10 years). And propylene glycol is used in a supposedly “non-toxic” form of anti-freeze. Also it is used as a moistining agent and has zero nutrional value to your dog. So why should he have to eat it?

  • Miltapher

    I tried to post this about a week ago, here it is.

  • Crazy4dogs

    The rating given for this food and any of the variations are more than fair, in my opinion.
    Read any of the ingredients in any of the formulas:

    It’s sad that marketing and advertising can get people to believe that this is “healthy” as stated in 5 varieties and makes dogs “playful”.
    I wish they would spend some of their marketing & advertising budget on better ingredients.

  • Dog_Obsessed

    Yup! Same!

  • Dori

    Quite simply stated, and, of course, it is only my opinion and does not represent the thoughts and opinions of anyone else on DFA, this food is not fit for any living creature to consume. People can make all the justifications for feeding this food that they want and others of the same ilk, but it does not change what the ingredients are in any of their formulas. To pretend that DFA or Dr. Mike has chosen the lesser of evils only takes a moment of research on Beneful’s site to see the truth of every formula for this line of food. Everyone can feed their animals whatever they choose, but it is what it is, pretending otherwise is a bit delusional.

  • Crazy4dogs

    Glad to see the the offensive word was removed!

  • Shawna

    If you look at Taste of the Wild, and other foods, you will see that each specific food has a different star rating even though there is only one article.

    The criteria that DFA author uses to rate a food, amount and quality of protein, quality of ingredients etc, are so similar in Beneful that the stars given are identical for each line.