Nutreco Wholesome Blend Grain Free Dog Food earns the Advisor’s second highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.
The Nutreco Wholesome Blend Grain Free product line includes five dry dog foods.
However, since we’re unable to locate AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the product’s web page, it’s impossible for us to report specific life stage recommendations for these recipes.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Wholesome Blend Grain Free Small Breed
- Wholesome Blend Grain Free Large Breed
- Wholesome Blend Grain Free Medium Breed
- Wholesome Blend Grain Free Feather and Fowl
- Wholesome Blend Grain Free Red Meat Turf Formula
Nutreco Wholesome Blend Grain Free Medium Breed was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nutreco Wholesome Blend Grain Free Medium Breed
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Fresh deboned salmon, salmon meal, menhaden fish meal, whole peas, peas starch, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and rosemary extract), suncured alfalfa, whitefish meal, fresh whole fruits & vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, apples, tomatoes, peas, cranberries, spinach, blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate), natural flavours, tomato pomace (source of lycopenes), olive oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and rosemary extract), flaxseed, herring oil (source of DHA), dried brown kelp, botanicals (aniseed, cassia, thyme, chamomile, horseradish, juniper berry oil), chicory root extract (FOS), mannanoligosaccharides (MOS), Yucca schidigera extract, taurine, l-carnitine probiotic bacteria: Lactobacillus acidophillus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Enterococcus faecium, digestive enzymes: papain, bromelain, Aspergillus oryzae fermentation product, vitamins: vitamin E, choline chloride, niacin, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta carotene, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, vitamin A, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, minerals: calcium carbonate, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulphate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, calcium iodate
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||36%||17%||40%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||31%||35%||34%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is salmon. Although it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, raw salmon 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 salmon 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
The third ingredient is menhaden fish meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
Menhaden are small ocean fish related to herring. They’re rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. What’s more, in their mid-depth habitat, menhaden are not exposed to mercury contamination as can be typical with deep water species.
Unfortunately, the controversial chemical ethoxyquin is frequently used as a preservative in fish meals.
But because it’s usually added to the raw fish before processing, the chemical does not have to be reported to consumers.
However, in this case, the company transparently reports2 on its website:
“Fish Meal we source from certified suppliers in the USA does have a trace amount of Ethoxyqiun for shipping stability and safety. (Nutreco standard on finished diets is well below AAFCO recommended maximum of 150 ppm, at 0.005% which is confirmed by our Quality Assurance department)”
The fourth 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 fifth ingredient is pea starch, a paste-like carbohydrate extract probably used here as a gel-like binder for making kibble.
The sixth ingredient is canola oil. Many applaud canola for its favorable omega-3 content while a vocal minority condemn it as an unhealthy fat.
Much of the objection regarding canola oil appears to be related to the use of genetically modified rapeseed as its source material.
Yet others find the negative stories about canola oil more the stuff of urban legend than actual science.3
In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.
The seventh ingredient is dried alfalfa. 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.
Yet alfalfa can still provide some healthy nutrients to a dog food.
The eighth ingredient is whitefish meal, yet another high protein meat concentrate.
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, 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.
Next, herring 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, herring oil should be considered a commendable addition.
In addition, chicory root is rich in inulin, a starch-like compound made up of repeating units of carbohydrates and found in certain roots and tubers.
Not only is inulin a natural source of soluble dietary fiber, it’s also a prebiotic used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract.
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 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.
Wholesome Blend Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Wholesome Blend 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 35% and a mean fat level of 18%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 39% 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 effects of the peas and alfalfa, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.
Wholesome Blend Grain Free is a grain free kibble using a significant amount of salmon, pork and chicken meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 stars.
However, it’s unfortunate the company chose to include fish meal preserved with ethoxyquin in its recipes. Without this controversial ingredient, we’d have been compelled to award this line our highest rating.
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
11/04/2012 Original review
11/04/2012 Last Update