Gravy Train Dog Food earns the Advisor’s lowest rating of 1 star.
The Gravy Train product line includes three dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Gravy Train Beef Flavor
- Gravy Train Chicken and Rice Flavor
- Gravy Train Beef, Liver and Bacon Flavor
Gravy Train Beef Flavor was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Gravy Train Beef Flavor
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Corn, soybean meal, meat and bone meal, wheat middlings, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), animal digest, salt, calcium carbonate, cellulose gum, wheat flour, caramel color, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), natural and artificial beef flavor, red 40, BHA (preservative), yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 2, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||19%||9%||64%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||18%||21%||61%|
The first ingredient in this dog food 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 second 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 third ingredient 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 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.
Unfortunately, the variations in nutrient content found in wheat middlings can be a critical issue in determining their suitability for use in any dog food — or even livestock feeds.3
In reality, wheat middlings are nothing more than milling dust and floor sweepings — and an ingredient more typically associated with 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: roadkill, spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased or dying cattle — even euthanized pets.
For this reason, we do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient.
The sixth ingredient includes animal digest. Animal digest is a chemically hydrolyzed mixture of animal by-products that is typically sprayed onto the surface of a dry kibble to improve its taste.
The seventh ingredient is salt (also known as sodium chloride). Salt is a common additive in many dog foods. That’s because sodium is a necessary mineral for all animals — including humans.
However, since the actual amount of salt added to this recipe isn’t disclosed on the list of ingredients, it’s impossible to judge the nutritional value of this item.
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 five notable exceptions…
First, 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?
Next, caramel is a natural coloring agent made by caramelizing carbohydrates. It’s used by pet food manufacturers to impart a golden brown tint to the finished product.
However, the concentrated version of this ingredient commonly known as caramel coloring has been more recently considered controversial and found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.4
In any case, even though caramel is considered safe by the FDA, we’re always disappointed to find any added coloring in a pet food.
In addition, 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 is preserved with BHA, a suspected cancer-causing agent.
Gravy Train Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Gravy Train 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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 19% and a mean fat level of 9%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 64% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 47%.
Below-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 soybean meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a limited amount of meat.
Gravy Train Dog Food is a plant-based kibble using a limited amount of named and generic meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 1 star.
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.
A Final Word
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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.
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Notes and Updates
10/14/2014 Last Update
- Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008 Edition ↩
- 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 ↩
- Wheat Middlings as defined in an article by Wikipedia ↩
- Consumer Reports February 2014 ↩