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 Beef, Barley & Carrot
- Merrick Classic Large Breed Real Chicken
- Merrick Classic Toy & Small Breed Real Chicken
- Merrick Classic Chicken, Brown Rice & Green Pea
- Merrick Classic Puppy Chicken, Brown Rice & Pea
- Merrick Classic Senior Chicken, Brown Rice & 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
Ingredients: Deboned beef, pork meal, barley, salmon meal (source of omega 3 fatty acids), peas, brown rice, sweet potato, pork fat (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols), oats, pea protein, natural flavor, flax seed, carrots, apples, blueberries, organic alfalfa, salmon oil, minerals (salt, 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 (choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D3, niacin, riboflavin supplement, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, thiamine mononitrate), 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|
|Dry Matter Basis||34%||17%||41%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||29%||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 is barley. Barley is a starchy carbohydrate supplying fiber and other healthy nutrients. Unlike grains with a higher glycemic index, barley can help support more stable blood sugar levels.
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 mentions peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
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 is whole 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 pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.
Even though it contains over 80% 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.
Next, we find 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.
Thirdly, 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 use 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 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.
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.
As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 33% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 43% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50%.
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, pea protein and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.
Merrick Classic is a plant-based kibble using a significant amount of named meats and meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.
Those interested in a grain-free version of this product may wish to check out our review of Merrick Grain Free dry 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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Notes and Updates
02/05/2010 Original review
06/28/2010 Review updated
09/11/2010 Review updated
06/16/2012 Review updated
01/11/2014 Review updated
01/11/2014 Last Update