Beneful Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Purina Beneful Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-lowest tier rating of 2 stars.

The Purina Beneful product line includes eight dry dog foods, seven claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and one for growth (puppies).

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

  • Beneful Playful Life
  • Beneful Healthy Puppy
  • Beneful Healthy Weight
  • Beneful Originals with Real Beef
  • Beneful IncrediBites with Real Beef
  • Beneful Originals with Real Salmon
  • Beneful Originals with Real Chicken
  • Beneful IncrediBites with Real Chicken

Purina Beneful IncrediBites with Real Chicken was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Purina Beneful IncrediBites with Real Chicken

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 29% | Fat = 14% | Carbs = 49%

Ingredients: Chicken, whole grain corn, barley, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, rice, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal, glycerin, egg and chicken flavor, calcium carbonate, salt, mono and dicalcium phosphate, oat meal, poultry and pork digest, potassium chloride, dried carrots, dried sweet potatoes, dried spinach, vitamins [vitamin E supplement, niacin, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin D3 supplement, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), menadione sodium bisulfite (vitamin K), folic acid, biotin], minerals [zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite], choline chloride, yellow 6, l-lysine monohydrochloride, yellow 5, red 40, blue 2, garlic oil

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.7%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis25%12%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%14%49%
Calorie Weighted Basis26%30%44%
Protein = 26% | Fat = 30% | Carbs = 44%

The first ingredient in this dog food 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.

The second ingredient 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 third ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fourth 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 fifth 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 sixth ingredient is wheat. Wheat is another cereal grain and subject to the same issues as corn (previously discussed).

The seventh ingredient is rice. Is this whole grain rice, brown rice or white rice? Since the word “rice” doesn’t tell us much, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this item.

The eighth ingredient is beef tallow, a fatty by-product of beef rendering. Tallow is high in saturated fats. However, this fat is typically associated with lower quality pet foods.

The ninth ingredient is soybean meal, a by-product of soybean oil production more commonly found in farm animal feeds.

Although soybean meal contains 48% 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 next item is poultry by-product meal, a dry rendered product of slaughterhouse waste. It’s made from what’s left of slaughtered poultry 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 quality skeletal muscle (real meat).

We consider poultry by-products slightly lower in quality than a single-species ingredient (like chicken by-products).

On the brighter side, by-product meals are meat concentrates and contain nearly 300% more protein than fresh poultry.

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 seven notable exceptions

First, we find glycerin. Glycerin is used in the food industry as a natural sweetener and as a humectant to help preserve the moisture content of a product.

Next, we note the use of poultry and pork digest. A digest is a chemically hydrolyzed brew of slaughterhouse waste. Animal digests are usually sprayed onto the surface of a dry dog food to improve its taste.

In addition, garlic oil 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.1

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.

Additionally, 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 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.

Purina Beneful Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Purina 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 16% and estimated carbohydrates of about 45%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 30% and a mean fat level of 14%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 48% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 47%.

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 and soybean meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Purina Beneful is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of chicken by-product meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 2 stars.

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.

Purina Dog Food
Recall History

The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. Or view the same list sorted alphabetically by brand.

To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Advisor’s recall notification list.

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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

06/28/2016 Last Update

  1. 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)
  • LabsRawesome

    Pretty much.

  • bojangles

    Hi aimee,

    I say “Have you also noticed that Purina figured out an ingenious way of using all the waste from their human food facilities”, and you tell a story about an overripe banana.

    Now that’s funny 🙂

    Think more along the lines of:

    – Rat poop
    – Rotten and rotting, meats
    – Floor sweepings
    – Food scraped from the machines when they are cleaned
    – Foods that contain mold, mites, alflatoxins, mycotoxins, vomitoxins.
    – Heads, beaks, claws, feet.
    – Rancid oils
    – Cockroaches
    – Feces

    Now Purina’s Veterinary and PhD nutritionists use all that research and science to turn that “waste” into Dog Food!

  • Shawna

    You answer my question first. Would you feed your child table sugar at every meal?

  • Shawna

    I read it differently than you
    “The limitations of cross-sectional studies, the lack of controlled feeding trials, and the importance of genetic variation in response explain the absence of conclusive evidence. The lessons learned from animal models point to dietary fat as one potentially important component in the etiology of human obesity.”

    Yet we know that humans, even with diabetes, put on high fat diets not only lose weight but also have improvements with their diabetes. Of course, the fat has to be appropriate fats. This paper doesn’t state whether these animals were fed olive oil or corn oil. Only certain fats are allowed on the “high fat diet”.

  • aimee

    Do your grand kids ever consume any simple sugars?
    I’d evaluate diet as a whole vs vilifying a component.

  • Shawna

    No, you do not understand my position. I feel the overall carb content is important but I also think that complex carbohydrates should make up the majority of that lower amount. I see no place for table sugar in the canine diet – especially a diet that is fed at every meal, every day for life.

  • Shawna

    I don’t think anyone is actually freaking out?

    I personally wouldn’t feed, even small amounts, of granulated table sugar to my grand kids at every meal. Would you feed your daughter this way?

  • aimee

    I don’t think there is any reason for someone to seek out and only buy products that have sugar as an ingredient. but I also don’t see any reason to “freak out” over it’s presence.

  • aimee

    i don’t disagree that many of the ingredients that goes into the making of any dog food is by product from human food processing.

    Ethically I think this is the right thing to do., especially when considering animal based products.

    I admit to feeding my dog “human waste” nearly every day. For example today I noted that my bananas were getting overripe. I’m fickle and don’t like to eat them in that state so.. I can either throw them into the garbage… waste,or re-purpose them.

    The overripe bananna is now stuffed into a kong and is in the freezer.

    Similar story with the chicken breast that hubby overcooked and was quite dry. I know I’m not going to eat that.. i could either throw it away .. human waste or i could feed it to my dogs.

    Human “waste” can be very nutritious.

  • bojangles
  • Crazy4dogs

    Very interesting Bojangles. Do you have a link to that information?

  • Crazy4dogs

    I want to think Purina is finally doing the right thing. However, I would be leery of glycerin being used in the formula. Unless it specifically names vegetable glycerin, it could be no better than propylene glycol. 🙁

    http://slimdoggy.com/dog-food-ingredients-a-to-z-glycerin/

    http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/12_11/features/Treat_16175-1.html

    https://goodnessgracioustreats.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/glycerin-a-diesel-by-any-other-name-wouldnt-taste-as-sweet/

  • aimee

    I wouldn’t say it is my opinion so much as it is the only conclusion I can make based on the literature pertaining to cause of Diabetes in dogs.

    Of the major macro-nutrients, protein fat and carb, it has only been fat which has been “tapped” as having a potential in the pathogenesis of DM based on its role in pancreatitis.

  • LabsRawesome

    That’s no surprise to me. Beneful is toxic waste.
    Glad to here you switched to actual food.
    I hope your pup is feeling better.

  • bojangles

    “The low carb fad certainly hasn’t helped the “diabesity” problem either”

    I don’t know about the obesity part of your statement, but is it your opinion that the overall carb content of a dog’s diet and canine diabetes have no correlation?

  • bojangles

    HI Pitlove,

    “I believe he (your store’s new Purina rep) did say that the revamping of Beneful was due to the large outcry of consumers who were upset about the inclusion of propylene glycol, sugar etc”

    That’s great!

    Did you happen to ask, or did he happen to say why “propylene glycol, sugar etc” were in their foods in the first place?

    And did you know that the propylene glycol that Purina is now removing, is said in the class action lawsuit to have been industrial grade, NOT food grade, and that the lawsuit claims there were other toxic substances like lead, arsenic and mycotoxins in Beneful?

    “Purina failed to disclose that the brand contains substances toxic to animals — including Industrial Grade Glycols (IGG), lead, arsenic and mycotoxins.”

    What was discussed in the conversation that you two had about the lawsuit against Bedneful?

  • aimee

    If I’m understanding your position then, it is unlike the OP, in that you have no objection to the sugar per say that was in this diet or the sugar content of any diet as long as the over all carbohydrate content of the diet falls within your preferred level? Is that right?

    When it comes to carbs do you prefer simple sugars over starches?

    “I don’t think it’s any huge secret that I advocate for lower carb (starch) diets to begin with”.

    This would seem to fit with canid diets in the wild that seasonally may consume a lot of fruit and therefore more simple sugars than starches.

    I think the glycerin in the new formula is replacing the propylene glycol and sugar in the old formula as a humectant and preservative to keep the moist bits moist. The wellness core air dried that I use has training rewards contains the same thing.

    I got a free sample of the Evengers Hi- Bio. Initially the pieces were just as moist as the Wellness product but then they quickly dried upon air exposure. The Hi Bio doesn’t have glycerin.

    I have a weird quirk in that I don’t like squishy pieces as a main diet but i do like the Wellness Core squishy pieces for training reward.

    I think the reason replacing fat with sugar, the low fat fad, didn’t get “us” anyplace is because the food still tasted good and people still consumed calories in excess of need. The low carb fad certainly hasn’t helped the “diabesity” problem either.

    I do think there very well could be differences between people and dogs.

    “It is evident from animal experiments
    that the percentage of energy derived from fat in
    the diet is positively correlated with body fat content. With few
    exceptions,
    obesity is induced by high-fat diets in monkeys,
    dogs, pigs, hamsters, squirrels, rats, and mice. The mechanisms
    responsible
    for this correlation between body fat and dietary
    fat content are not clear……In contrast with the animal studies, studies in humans that have examined the relation between dietary fat content
    and body fat are inconclusive.”

    The authors go to to say why a correlation may not have yet been found but it may be that we are different from other animals.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/3/505S.short

  • Cannoli

    Good for Purina for trying. They keep improving their ingredients and one day I’ll give them a try

  • theBCnut

    That’s what they used to think about humans. Now we have a diabetes epidemic and a few other little nasty health problems.

  • Pitlove

    Our new Purina rep and I discussed the new Beneful formulas not too long ago. We talked about the Beneful lawsuits etc. I believe he did say that the revamping of Beneful was due to the large outcry of consumers who were upset about the inclusion of propylene glycol, sugar etc. I was told the proylene glycol would be removed as well and I did notice at Walmart when I checked out the ingredient list for what looked like a new Beneful formula there wasn’t any.

  • LabsRawesome

    The problem with all of us is, we are not intelligent enough to understand her superior intellect. 🙂

  • LabsRawesome

    No I didn’t. But if it makes you feel superior, then go ahead and think that. Actually, you missed my point.
    There are so many good foods to choose from, why you continuously defend/recommend Beneful, and call it a valid choice, is questionable.

  • Shawna

    I don’t think it’s any huge secret that I advocate lower carb (starch) diets to begin with.

  • Storm’s Mom

    So, if all nutrient needs are met from other ingredients, it’s ok to then just load something up with sugar for the heck of it?!

  • Crazy4dogs

    Hi aimee,

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, but in the earlier post to JellyCat, it seemed that you said that the sugar didn’t meet her feeding philosophy? Do you think refined sugar in dog food should fit any owner’s feeding philosophy?

    I realize the whole discussion is a bit of a moot point since it appears Purina is no longer including sugar in the new formulas. Perhaps Purina realizes that improvements in the formula are needed to reduce the risk of lost sales.

  • aimee

    You missed the point.. that’s Ok

  • LabsRawesome

    Water has no nutritional value. Neither does sugar.
    The difference is a dog will die without one, and be healthier without the other. For someone that is so “scientific” and “intelligent” that should be obvious.

  • aimee

    I didn’t interpret what you said as meaning ” a food that contains a “small amount of something of “no nutritional value” automatically makes a food “terrible”. But I think that was the position of the OP.

    Is your position then that removing the sugar from a food that has apples bananas and sweet potatoes as ingredients would make it a better food?

  • bojangles

    Have you also noticed that Purina figured out an ingenious way of using all the waste from their human food facilities while fooling consumers into thinking it’s healthy?

    They call it dog food.

  • aimee

    Hi Crazy4dogs,

    I’m not trying to ” to prove that refined sugar is a “good” ingredient”

    I’m saying that as long as nutrient needs are met that it is Ok if some components consumed don’t have “nutritional value.”

  • Crazy4cats

    Haha! I haven’t visited the dogfood project site since I was first obsessed with trying to figure out how to feed my dogs properly! I like the live strong site as well due to me learning how to eat better to lower my triglycerides. Apparently I need to consume less sugar, less saturated fat and exercise more. Why oh why does it always come back to that? Anyway, I am shocked at how much sugar is in so many foods. Like I mentioned to Aimee, I think it would be very helpful to see how much sugar is in dog food as well. Thanks for the links.

  • mahoraner

    You’ve made a good point. And it is true, you usually feed less on the higher quality ones.
    So actually, If sport mix wholesomes is CHEAPER than beneful when divided by pounds, imagine how much cheaper it is when divided by meals?
    Sorry if i wrote that badly.

  • aimee

    I don’t recall ever seeing maize on a US label and searching DFA for maize didn’t yield any hits.

    I did see zea mays on a label though.but i think it was listed as a botanical and it was the silk and not the kernel that was in the diet

  • LabsRawesome

    I can’t even take this post seriously.

  • Crazy4dogs

    They probably learned that from the big 5 when they started calling corn “maize”. 😉

  • LabsRawesome

    This is the dumbest post I’ve ever read.

  • Shawna

    Oh no, I’m not in the least little bit suggesting that a food that contains a “small amount of something of “no nutritional value” automatically makes a food “terrible”. I think my exact words were the exclusion would make it a “better food”.

    You’re grasping at straws with the water statement.

    It’s very difficult to even try to take you seriously when you attempt to defend sugar.

  • theBCnut

    You won’t be sorry.

  • Crazy4dogs

    Hi aimee,

    Sorry, but I think you should use a different example to try to prove that refined sugar is a “good ingredient” (SMH).

    Water is a basic requirement for any living organism. To compare sugar to water seems an invalid argument as water is necessary to sustain life and processed sugar is not.

    http://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_the_importance_of_water#

    I don’t think you can validly compare processed sugar to natural sugar found in a whole food either since, while the sugar is processed by the body in basically the same way, there are other nutritional elements to the whole food that provide nutrition to the body.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/546655-does-the-body-process-fruit-sugars-the-same-way-that-it-does-refined-sugar/

  • aimee

    I don’t think we’ll ever see that… AAFCO can’t even decide how/if to list total carbohydrate content.

    I did notice a new way of listing sugar.. this was on a product at the dog boutique store
    “evaporated cane juice”

  • Crazy4cats

    You know, it’s too bad that the amount of sugar in dog food is not on the guaranteed analysis label like on human food. I think that would be great information to have when picking out a food!

  • mahoraner

    one thing i have to say about your comment “I myself consume a lot of water everyday. Water has no nutritional value You seem to be saying that I should be drinking fruit juice all day instead of water”

    first of all, dogs drink water too,
    and two, humans and dogs cant survive on just water, we and they both need a healthy diet to go along with the water

    just saying

  • aimee

    Hi Shawna,

    I didn’t miss that point about “this no nutritional value” but I disagree that simply because a diet contains a small amount of something of “no nutritional value” ( OP’s words) that that inclusion makes the overall diet a terrible diet.

    I myself consume a lot of water everyday. Water has no nutritional value You seem to be saying that I should be drinking fruit juice all day instead of water.

    I think the sugar is in the food to help keep the moist bits moist.

    If it is sugar itself that is vilified than diets with similar sugar levels from whole food ingredient should also be deemed “terrible”

  • aimee

    I promise to order a hot fudge banana shake for my first DQ shake taste test : )

  • Crazy4dogs

    Oh, for sure! I don’t do them often, but for crazy junk food DQ Blizzards are fun! 😉

  • Crazy4cats

    Lol! I agree, but she was talking fast food. DQ seems to be known more for their desserts than food.

  • Shawna

    I didn’t understand the whole post but I think JellyCat made one point quite clear (you must have missed this?). “This has no nutritional value”

    Let’s look at the nutritional value of sugar as compared to sweet potato
    Sugar – no matter the quantity there is 0-fiber, 0-fatty acids and 0-amino acids. Although you would never need or use equal amounts of sugar to sweet potato for comparative purposes I am here. There is 28g of sugar in an ounce of granulated sugar. The nutrient balance completeness score is also 0 however there is a trace of a few minerals in there. Glycemic load is 19. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5592/2

    Sweet potato – 1gm fiber, 1gm fat (mostly omega 6) and 1gm of protein. But of those nutrient supplied the nutrient completeness score is 65 and the protein quality score is 82. The glycemic load is 2. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2

    It’s quite clear to see which of these ingredients adds the most nutritional bang for the buck.

    You may say that sugar is added for energy (I think you have stated that before) however I would ask — isn’t the addition of the carbohydrate dense foods higher up in the ingredient list more than adequate to meet the dogs glucose/energy needs? Yes, yes they are.

    I personally do feel that the exclusion of sugar, unless replaced with an equally nutrient deficient ingredient/s, will make for a better food.

  • Shawna

    On this we can agree… I don’t hate the ingredients in Taste of the Wild foods but I won’t use them, regularly at least, due to company quality control issues and I do feel minimally processed foods offer more nutrition than brown food pellets.

    “I do not believe that you can rank one food as being better than another by looking at an ingredient list.”

    Not as the sole criteria but it’s a heck of a good place to start.

  • theBCnut

    OM! You have got to try hot fudge banana. Just sayin’.

  • Bobby dog

    Mmmmmmmm…Dairy Queen! 😉

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