Big Red Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Big Red Dog Food receives the Advisor’s lowest-tier rating of 1.5 stars.

The Big Red product line includes five dry dog foods. However, since we’re unable to locate AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the product’s web page, it’s impossible for us to report specific life stage recommendations for these recipes.

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

  • Big Red Puppy
  • Big Red Nuggets
  • Big Red Great Gravy
  • Big Red Lamb Meal and Rice
  • Big Red High Energy (2 stars)

Big Red Nuggets was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Big Red Nuggets

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 24% | Fat = 13% | Carbs = 54%

Ingredients: Meat and bone meal, ground yellow corn, ground wheat, wheat middlings, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), corn gluten meal, dried beet pulp, flaxseed meal, natural flavors, salt, potassium chloride, calcium propionate (preservative), choline chloride, minerals (zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate monohydrate, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement)

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis22%12%NA
Dry Matter Basis24%13%54%
Calorie Weighted Basis22%29%49%

The first ingredient in this dog food 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.

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

The fourth ingredient is wheat middlings, commonly known as “wheat mill run”. Though it may sound wholesome, wheat mill run is actually an inexpensive by-product of cereal grain processing.

In reality, wheat middlings are nothing more than milling dust and floor sweepings — and an ingredient more typically found in the lower quality pet foods.

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: restaurant grease, slaughterhouse waste, diseased cattle — even (although unlikely) euthanized pets.

We do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.

The sixth 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 seventh ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

The eighth ingredient includes flaxseed meal, one of the best plant-based sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Flax meal is particularly rich in soluble fiber.

However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, 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, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

Next, 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 also 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.

Big Red Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Big Red 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 24%, a fat level of 13% and estimated carbohydrates of about 54%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 26% and a mean fat level of 13%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 52% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 51%.

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

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the corn gluten and flaxseed meals, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a below-average amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Big Red is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of meat and bone meal or chicken by-product meal as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 1.5 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.

Special Alert

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, 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.

Notes and Updates

06/27/2014 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
  • InkedMarie

    I dont think overweight dogs who have more in their bowl than they need, causing the weigh gain and more coming out the other end means it’s working for your dogs. It doesn’t sound like you care whether they eat a food with good ingredients or not so good for you, I guess. Poor dogs, though.

  • Melissaandcrew

    Lindy-

    Truth is? ROFLMAO. Truth is, I know of not one breeder or rescue that feeds this food, and I know many. If you think it works for your dogs, thats great. But, most people do not want to feed higher volumes and clean up higher volumes of output, when one can feed a higher quality product and feed less of it.

    If you are saying that those of us who actually care about what we put into our dogs are “dog food nazis” then I am sure most of us, if not all, can live with it : )

  • BryanV21

    Actually, dogs left to their own devices (aka “wild dogs”) eat much better than this. And just because I food is rated highly doesn’t mean it’s good for a dog, as they’re as different as you or I when it comes to dietary needs.

    Frankly, it’s crap. If you can’t see that then you’re either uninformed or blind. But I see you don’t care to hear informed opinions, you just wanted to come in here and rant. So go ahead…

  • Lindy

    I was once a food nazi………then reality hit.  Been feeding this to my dogs since I moved 6 months ago and had it recommended to my by a neighbor who also shows her dogs.  Truth is, lot’s of show dogs eat it.  My breed has a tendency to put on weight easily, so putting a little more in their bowl with more coming out the other end is not a problem, not if it keeps them happy and full but not fat.  So reality is, I feed what works for my dogs, and I don’t give a crap how much it costs or how good/bad it’s supposed to be for them.  God knows dogs would eat alot worse things if left to their own devices, and the last highly ranked food I fed my dogs gave 2 of them colitis. 

  • http://twitter.com/Lottoya Lottoya Marrast

    Reading that ingredient list made me nauseous.

  • Shawna

    I’m really really glad that you found a food that relieves the gas.  However, a lack of gas in pup doesn’t make the ingredients in the food any better.  They are complete JUNK.  The gas has been corrected but I would bet money that you will have all kinds of issues much worse then gas down the line form feeding the food….  Just my opinion though..

    Here’s just ONE reason I say the above — I have many more.

    The very first ingredient is “meat and bone meal” and the fat used is “animal fat” — both un-named sources (what animal did the “meat” come from).  BOTH of these ingredients can be contaminated with pentobarbitol —- the drug they use to euthanize animals.  The FDA has tested dog food and confirms that these two (plus three more) ingredients can be contaminated.  The US Fish and Wildlife Department states that pento does not break down in the cooking process and should not be fed to ANY animal (let alone our pets)….  Dogs being fed pento contaminated food are slowly being poisoned..  Won’t show immediate symptoms but down the line your pup will surely pay if pento is in the food..

    Again, that’s just one of the problems with this food.

  • Shawna

    Hi Lisa ~~ the actual “cause” of stinky gas is not actually any specific food but rather undigested protein being fermented by bad bacteria in the gut.  Non-smelly gas is caused by the same thing only undigested carbs not protein..  The bad bacteria in the digestive tract may have fermented eggs and fish more then other proteins causing a worsening of symptoms — however, it is not the eggs and fish that are the actual problem.

    I foster Boston Terriers and they are a farty bunch too..  When I start them on probiotics (which eventually gets rid of the bad bacteria) and start them on enzymes (which help digest the protein/carbs) the tooting ALWAYS stops.  And I rotate between many different 5 star (high protein) kibbles with the fosters and add a canned and raw topper with every meal..

    Yes, they will have an ocassional — swallowed too much air type of toot.  But those are rare even.

  • Sharon

    I don’t recall seeing the ingredients “egg byproduct” or “fish byproduct” in any dog food.

    There certainly are egg and fish ingredients in some foods, but you are confused about the actual name of the ingredients, and there are certainly many foods without any fish or egg products of any kind.

  • lisa Hoffman

    Kibble did not work. Read the ingredients.

  • Lisa Hoffman

    OMG you have no idea how many dog foods I tried, frozen, cost a fortune, that wasn’t the problem. This is the ONLY One that I could find that did not have Fish and EGG Bi products in it! Wow… Man it would make you tear up; and I mean wake you up out of a deep sleep ; try a humid month where it just hung in the air!!! I at one point was driving 50 miles to find it, but found it closer to me recently. I am an Animal Advocate Activist, believe you me, I would never give an animal anything but the best, but in this dogs case, her farting issues where terrible, especially when she was a pup, my older dog that is now gone after a long 18 + life, she tended to gulp down the food at first. I rescued her at 6 months. 

  • Lisa Hoffman

    Same here and Vet approves. She has ton of energy eats exactly what she shold for her size and weight which is normal and her coat is healthy.  If you see my post, I responded to my dogs flatulence issues, saved my life and my nose!  

  • http://www.futuregraphics1.com/index.html Lisa K. Hoffman

    This is on BIG RED DOG FOOD NUGGETS. 

  • http://www.futuregraphics1.com/index.html Lisa Hoffman

    GOT A FLATULENT DOG?! MUST READ!!!
    Somewhat valuable information on nutrition 1 star? I think not. 5 here! This food saved my life with my 5 year old Pit mix I got when she was 6 months old. This breed is known for it’s Flatulence problems. Note that this food has no EGG or FISH by products. So now, she can let them rip all day long and rarely a sniff of a problem. Also, this is easy on the wallet. My Vet approves. Won’t find at Kroger’s or most stores, easy to find and feed and seed stores. 

  • Michelle

    Gordon, looks like a good movie. I probably haven’t heard of it because it’s Australian mate! :)

  • Gordon

    Michelle – You can read about the movie, cast, etc of Red Dog here, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0803061/

  • Michelle

    Gordon, I have no idea what you’re talking about. The only Big Red dog I know is Clifford, he has his own cartoon, that my 6 yr old son likes to watch.

  • Gordon

    There is one ‘Red Dog…’ that is actually OK. It isn’t big though, as it is just a Kelpie and not a food. It’s a movie and based on a true story, about “…..the Red Dog who united a disparate local community while roaming the Australian outback in search of his long lost master.”

  • Michelle

    Bonita, that is amazing….. since their is not one good ingredient in this dog food. Have you read the review at the top of this page? :(

  • Bonita

    We have fed Big Red dog food for years and our pets have always loved it and will not eat other brands. They have been consistently healthy with no teeth problems, they have healthy and shiny coats, and good energy levels.

  • melissa

    Lisa-

    With all due respect, unless it were a drastic case of throwing the dog out or feeding this, there is no way I would recc this food ever.

    Generic bone meal? Generic everything it would seem, and then topped off with corn, wheat and menadione. There are so many better foods out there for such little cost. No, you are not going to get a 50lb sack of kibble for less than $20, but you certaintly can get something reasonable like Pro Pac-33lb for 26.99

  • Bob K

    Lisa – Did you read the detailed review of this product. What other expensive foods have you tried? What formulas? How did you transition your dog to a new more expensive food that did not agree with him? If this is the best you can afford for your loved pet then it is a great food versus starving.

  • Lisa Hoffman

    My dog is a 90 lb. Pitt mix / perhaps bulldog? .. this food is not only relatively cost effective; $17.99 / 50 lb. bag (at least at the feed store where I purchase it at; when people are throwing there pets away because they cannot afford to feed them in this recession/depression; this food also is really great (the only one I have found that does not have fish or egg ingredients or bi-products there of, so if you have a large dog that has very stinky farts; that will run you out of your home – I recommend this dog food over all others that I have tried, including the very expensive brands cause who wants to smell the fart of a dog that has ate a fish or an egg? Huh? Not me. Phew. My dog is 4 years old and has absolutely no health issues, except that her nails grow too fast and can take a few layers of skin off when just trying to give you a paw.