FirstMate Grain Free Dog Food earns the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The FirstMate Grain Free product line includes nine dry dog foods, two claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance, six for all life stages and one for growth (puppy formula).
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- FirstMate Grain Free Austrailian Lamb
- FirstMate Grain Free Chicken with Blueberries
- FirstMate Grain Free Austrailian Lamb Small Bite
- FirstMate Grain Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Original
- FirstMate Grain Free Chicken with Blueberries Small Bite
- FirstMate Grain Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Large Breed
- FirstMate Grain Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Original Small Bite
- FirstMate Grain Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Endurance/Puppy (4.5 stars)
- FirstMate Grain Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Weight Control/Senior (2.5 stars)
FirstMate Grain Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Large Breed was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
FirstMate Grain-Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal Large Breed
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Potato, pacific ocean fish meal, tomato pomace, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), fish oil, dicalcium phosphate, choline chloride, calcium propionate (preservative), Yucca schidigera extract, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, iodine, cobalt carbonate, selenium yeast), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, riboflavin, niacin, d–pantothenic acid, thiamine hydrochloride, vitamin A supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, biotin, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement), yeast extract (a source of prebiotics) glucosamine hydrochloride
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 8.9%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||28%||13%||51%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||25%||29%||46%|
The first ingredient in this dog food 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 second ingredient is pacific ocean fish meal. Because it is considered a meat concentrate, fish meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh fish itself.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
Unfortunately, this particular item is anonymous. Because various fish contain different types of fats, we would have preferred to have known the source species.
The third ingredient is tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
The fourth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
The fifth ingredient is fish oil. Fish oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.
Depending on its level of freshness and purity, fish oil should be considered a commendable addition.
The sixth ingredient is dicalcium phosphate, likely used here as a dietary calcium supplement.
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, yeast extract is the common name for a broad group of products made by removing the cell wall from the yeast organism.
A significant number of these ingredients are added as specialized nutritional supplements while others are used as flavor enhancers.
However, the glutamic acid (and its chemical cousin, monosodium glutamate, or MSG) found in a minority of yeast extracts can be controversial.
That’s because even though the Food and Drug Administration designated these food additives to be safe decades ago2, the agency continues to receive reports of adverse effects.
So, detractors still object to the use of yeast extract and other glutamic acid derivatives and blame them for everything from Alzheimer’s (in humans) to obesity.
In any case, since the label reveals little about the the actual type of yeast extract included in any recipe, it’s impossible for us to judge the quality of this ingredient.
Next, this food 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.
And lastly, this recipe includes selenium yeast. Unlike the more common inorganic form of selenium (sodium selenite), this natural yeast supplement is considered a safer anti-cancer alternative.
FirstMate Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, FirstMate Grain Free looks like an above-average dry dog food.
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 27% and a mean fat level of 14%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 51% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 53%.
Near-average protein. Below-average fat. And above-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
Free of any plant-based protein boosters, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
FirstMate Grain Free Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a moderate amount of fish, chicken or lamb meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
We review the company’s grain-inclusive FirstMate Classic product line in a separate report.
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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Notes and Updates
05/08/2010 Original review
03/17/2014 Last Update