Boreal Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★½

Boreal Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.

The Boreal Grain Free product line includes four dry dog foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

  • Boreal Grain Free Duck Small Breed (4 stars) [A]
  • Boreal Grain Free Lamb All Breeds All Life Stages [A]
  • Boreal Grain Free Turkey All Breeds All Life Stages [A]
  • Boreal Grain Free Wild Salmon All Breeds All Life Stages [A]

Boreal Grain Free Lamb formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Boreal Grain Free Lamb

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 31% | Fat = 20% | Carbs = 41%

Ingredients: Fresh lamb, lamb meal, peas, dried whole eggs, pea starch, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, source of vitamin E), northern white pea bean, dehydrated alfalfa, flaxseed, natural lamb flavour, salt, vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, lecithin, zinc methionine, mannanoligosaccharides, chicory root (fructooligosaccharides), dried whole fruits & vegetables (apple, carrot, cranberry, spinach, sweet potato, tomato), calcium carbonate, zinc sulphate, ferrous sulphate, digestive pack (probiotic bacteria – Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Enterococcus faecium, digestive enzymes – papain, bromelain, Aspergillus oryzae fermentation product), herbal pack (blueberries, cranberries, green tea extract, barley grass, spirulina), taurine, copper sulphate, manganese sulphate, niacin, calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, riboflavin, vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.3%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis28%18%NA
Dry Matter Basis31%20%41%
Calorie Weighted Basis26%40%34%
Protein = 26% | Fat = 40% | Carbs = 34%

The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb. Although it is a quality item, raw lamb 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 lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.

The third ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The fourth ingredient is whole dried egg, a dehydrated powder made from shell-free eggs. Eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

The fifth ingredient is pea starch, a paste-like, gluten-free carbohydrate extract probably used here as a binder for making kibble. Aside from its energy content (calories), pea starch is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The sixth ingredient is canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.

Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

The seventh ingredient includes white pea beans. Beans are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, pea beans contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.

The eighth ingredient is dried alfalfa. 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.

The ninth ingredient is flaxseed, one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also 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 two notable exceptions

First, this recipe contains mannanoligosaccharide (also known as MOS), a nutritional supplement likely included here as a prebiotic. Prebiotics function to support the growth of healthy bacteria in the pet’s intestinal tract.

And lastly, with the exception of zinc, 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.

Boreal Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Boreal 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 31%, a fat level of 20% and estimated carbohydrates of about 41%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 32% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 41% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, beans, alfalfa and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing an notable amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Boreal Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a notable amount of named meat meals or egg as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 stars.

Highly 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.

Boreal 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.

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A Final Word

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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".

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Notes and Updates

04/26/2016 Last Update

  • Storm’s Mom

    Yeah, Boreal’s got a lot of filler, too..peas, pea starch, and northern white pea bean. It’s a reminder to me that I’d really like to know %s of each ingredient, as he’s had some foods with only 1 or 2 meat ingredients (fresh meat followed by a meat meal) and then a bunch of “fillers”, like Boreal’s ingredient list, and not had issues remotely like he’s had with Boreal.

    I didn’t find that I had to feed more of it ..less than the Holistic Select, in fact, on which he had less poop! (and yet I swear he gained weight on the Boreal much more quickly than normal.. it was weird!)

  • aquariangt

    Precise has a decent amount of filler and a lowish amount of meat, so there is a lot more unused portion of it and you have to feed a bit more of it than a lot of foods I like (thus the more bigger poop). IMO, it’s an excellent transition food and I like the company, but not really a good long term option

  • Pitlove

    Bentley had the Wild at Heart line (duck and turkey). I haven’t tried Turkey again, but hes eating Duck now with Fromm with no issue. Not sure what it was about Precise. It was the first grain based food he ate, but hes eating a grain based food now and doing great.

  • Storm’s Mom

    I edited my post to indicate that, in retrospect, it was the Precise Lamb & Turkey that he didn’t do well on, and now he definitely reacts to turkey and duck, in addition to the chicken he’s always reacted to, so a poultry intolerance may have been why he didn’t do well on the Precise GF more so than anything to do with the food itself.

  • Pitlove

    Bentley didn’t have very good poop on Precise either. I still recommend the Large/Giant Breed Puppy food though.

  • Storm’s Mom

    I’ve had the opposite happen with Storm on Boreal Wild Salmon.. his poops have become mushy and substantially bigger in volume 🙁 This was feeding him either the recommended serving or a little less. He’s also added back in the one additional poop per day that we’d gotten rid of with the Holistic Select GF Salmon, Anchovy & Sardine (or whatever it’s called) that he had a bag of right before switching to this one. Boreal is only the 3rd or 4th food that hasn’t agreed with him (he changes food every bag) …2 Merrick ones (the grain-inclusive Beef, and one of the Backcountry ones (Red Meat?)), and the other was Precise Holistic Complete GF. I don’t think I’m going to add this one to the rotation..although I may check out the grain-inclusive Ocean Fish formula, as I only have a couple grain-inclusive formula in the rotation (and neither are fish ones).