Merrick Classic Dog Food (Dry)


Rating: ★★★★★

Merrick Classic Dog Food earns the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Merrick Classic product line includes seven dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

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

  • Merrick Classic Senior Recipe
  • Merrick Classic Large Breed Adult
  • Merrick Classic Small Breed Recipe
  • Merrick Classic Beef, Barley & Carrot
  • Merrick Classic Puppy Recipe (4 stars)
  • Merrick Classic Chicken, Brown Rice & Green Pea
  • Merrick Classic Lamb, Brown Rice & Apple (4 stars)

Merrick Classic Beef, Barley and Carrot was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Merrick Classic Beef, Barley and Carrot

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 34% | Fat = 17% | Carbs = 41%

Ingredients: Deboned beef, pork meal, peas, salmon meal (source of omega 3 fatty acids), barley, brown rice, sweet potatoes, pork fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), oats, natural flavor, carrots, apples, flaxseed oil, blueberries, organic alfalfa, salmon oil, salt, minerals (dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, zinc amino acid complex, zinc sulfate, iron amino acid complex, manganese amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, potassium iodide, cobalt amino acid complex, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D3 supplement, niacin, riboflavin supplement, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, thiamine mononitrate), choline chloride, Yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis30%15%NA
Dry Matter Basis34%17%41%
Calorie Weighted Basis29%35%36%

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

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 salmon meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

The fifth ingredient is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. However, aside from its energy content, this cereal grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The sixth ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The seventh ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The eighth ingredient is pork fat, a product from rendering pig meat.

Commonly known as lard, pork fat can add significant flavor to any dog food. And it can be high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life.

Although it may not sound very appetizing, pork fat (in moderate amounts) is actually an acceptable pet food ingredient.

The ninth ingredient includes oats. Oats are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

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 find flaxseed oil, one of the best non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids — essential to a dog’s health.

Next, we find alfalfa, a flowering member of the pea family. 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.

In addition, salmon 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, salmon oil should be considered a commendable addition.

Next, we note the inclusion of dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.

And lastly, 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.

Merrick Classic Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Merrick Classic 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 34%, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 41%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 32% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 44% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 49%.

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

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas and alfalfa, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a notable amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Merrick Classic is a plant-based kibble using a notable amount of poultry, pork or lamb meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically 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.

Merrick 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

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

The Dog Food Advisor does not test dog food products.

We rely almost entirely on the integrity of the information posted by each company on its website. As such, the accuracy of every review is directly dependent upon the quality of the test results from any specific batch of food a company chooses to publish.

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

05/05/2015 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Pitlove

    Karen- There is a difference between being helpful and trying to beat the idea of raw into someones head. I read your posts you make on here and they are very aggressive and in your face. That’s not really an approach that works for most people. Raw does not work for everyone for a variety of reasons and trust me, on this website, if someone is interested in feeding raw, they will 100% ask for advice and help usually on the forums side.

    I think what most people on here who have confronted you about your approach to convincing people raw is better (which I agree with btw), is that you need to tone it down a notch and not be so aggressive and belittling when trying to convince people they need to feed raw. They also might litsten to what you have to say instead of passing your post up like I see most doing.

  • Karen Mitchell

    Don’t you?

  • Pitlove

    Lol @ the Karen Mitchell comment. She comments on all of these reviews yelling at everyone to switch to raw before they kill their dog. I don’t disagree that raw is healthy, but not everyone can/wants to feed raw.

    Merricks quality control issues have been brought up on here. My cat eats their Whole Earth Farms line of canned food and I notice that every place I get cans they are different. Sometimes the pate is sticking to the top of the lid, sometimes its not. Best of luck in finding a new kibble! Take a look at Nature’s Logic. The kibble is pretty small and it’s an all life stages food for any breed. It’s also only one of 2 foods that does not have a premade vitamin pack. All the vitamins and minerals come from natural sources and they had to go through a feeding trial and pass to be approved for all life stages, which they did! I have my large breed dog on this and he’s doing well very.

  • jill815

    I’d been thinking about switching my Chihuahuas off Merrick in recent months. Though their coats are pretty, they’re at good weight and don’t have eye stains or any digestive problems on Merrick, there seems to be a quality control problem. I always get the small breed kibble, but in the past 6 months or so, nearly every other bag has had a bigger dog kibble. Merrick has promptly sent a coupon for a free bag once I sent them pictures of the difference in size, but I got tired of emailing them that it had happened yet again. Now that Purina is in the picture, I’ve decided it’s time to go. Now to find a replacement. And sorry Karen Mitchell, I’m not going to do raw, for reasons I will not discuss with you.

  • jill815

    You don’t stop do you? I haven’t looked, but I’m willing to bet you post on all the premium dog food reviews.

  • Ziggy

    I am so disappointed to hear the latest on Merrick. I do believe it was a high quality dog food UNTIL recently. Merrick has been bought out by Purina. Check out their ratings and reviews and what will that mean for Merrick. Down with quality! Very sad!

  • Guest

    Heartbroken! Newsflash! Merrick Pet Care has sold to Nestle Purina! Changes are coming…

  • Heather Champagne

    Just so you all are aware, Merrick is selling out to Purina very soon so expect a drop in quality if you still choose to feed it.

  • aimee

    Thanks Karen,

    I look forward to the answer. The more data we have the better!

  • Karen Mitchell

    How would I know? I’m not him lol. I will ask him though because I would like to know as well….

  • aimee

    Hi Karen,

    I did read the link when you originally posted it. It lacks references to any published research to support what he wrote. Where did he get the information from in regards to gastric pH being higher in kibble fed dogs? Maybe he just made it up!

    Here is a link to a study which used dry dog food and the measured pH was quite low,.1.08 and 1.26 for the different amounts fed.

    This study compared dogs on kibble vs meat based diets. In both groups the pH was higher than other studies I’ve read. The fasted pH was similar for both groups and the pH at 8 hours was not different between the two groups. There were some differences in the meat based and cereal based gastric pH at the 2 and 4 hour sampling with the meat based being a bit lower.

    These published research studies do not support the information in the link you posted which is why I’m asking you for links to studies that support what he wrote.


  • Karen Mitchell

    They will be fine for the first half of their life. Come the second half and you will be taking them to the vets often. You had better get some pet insurance!

  • Karen Mitchell

    That won’t happen

  • Karen Mitchell
  • Karen Mitchell

    Even though they may be old, sometimes people can relate to them and thus learn someone thing from the comments.. Besides, it’s not as if it’s illegal, or that I’m wasting space or paper now is it?

  • Sunstar

    Finally found a food my 9.5 year old Cocker/Poodle mix loves and doesn’t stir up any skin issues. Adopted her a little over a year and a half ago, she was found with severe ear, eye, skin, and nail infections. The yeast problem didn’t start until last July, skin scrapes showed it was bacterial AMD fungal. In November we found out she had extreme hypothyroidism and now, just year later, she is finally clear (after a couple rounds of antifungals & a summertime regiment of antihistamines, as well as a strict bathing schedule). Wish I could still be feeding her exclusively raw but I’m on a limited budget and even for a 25-lb dog it’s not exactly the most cost-effective. But she does get honest kitchen Verve in the AM and Merrick Beef, Barley, & Carrot in the PM (feeding both makes everything go a long way). Sad to read of all the adverse effects various readers’ dogs have had as a result of eating this food, especially after seeing that my dog has made tremendous strides on it. I’ve tried over a dozen high quality brands and this is the one that seems to be a big hit with me and her.

    Also: I work with dogs everyday and know the benefits of raw food…and it certainly helped in the early stages of her skin issues. But again, very expensive.

    Sorry for the rambling but despite everything else…I do believe this to be a good food.

  • Crazy4dogs

    Karen Mitchell, why are you continually replying to some very old posts on this Merrick review? This post is 2 years old!