California Natural Grain Free Dog Food earns the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.
The California Natural Grain Free product line includes five dry dog foods, four recipes claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance and one recipe for all life stages.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal (3 stars)
- California Natural Grain Free Chicken Meal (5 stars)
- California Natural Grain Free Venison Meal (3 stars)
- California Natural Grain Free Salmon Meal and Peas (4 stars)
- California Natural Grain Free Kangaroo and Red Lentils (2.5 stars)
California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
California Natural Grain Free Lamb Meal
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Lamb meal, peas, potatoes, sunflower oil (naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea fiber, natural flavors, potassium chloride, salt, taurine, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, betaine hydrochloride, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, riboflavin supplement, beta carotene, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid)
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||23%||12%||57%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||21%||27%||52%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb meal. Lamb meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh lamb.
The second ingredient is 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 third ingredient is potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fourth ingredient is sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3′s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.
Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.
There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.
The fifth ingredient is pea fiber, a mixture of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber derived from pea hulls. Aside from the usual benefits of fiber, this agricultural by-product provides no nutritional value to a dog.
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, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
And lastly, this food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.
California Natural Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, California Natural 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 28% and a mean fat level of 12%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 52% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 45%.
Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effects of the peas as well as the red and green lentils contained in other recipes, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a below average amount of meat.
However, compared to the higher protein content of the chicken (38%) and salmon (31%) recipes, the venison, lamb and kangaroo products (23% protein) appear to include only a modest amount of animal protein.
California Natural Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a below-average amount of various meats and meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
Those looking for a wet grain free product from the same company may want to check out our review of EVO Canned 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
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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
06/12/2010 Original review
01/12/2011 Review updated
01/30/2011 Review updated
11/15/2011 Review updated
05/15/2013 Review updated
05/15/2013 Last Update