NutriSource Grain Free dog food gets the Advisor’s second tier rating of 4 stars.
The NutriSource Grain Free product line lists six dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.
- NutriSource Grain Free Chicken Formula
- NutriSource Grain Free Lamb Meal Formula
- NutriSource Grain Free Seafood Select Formula
- NutriSource Grain Free Heartland Select Formula
- NutriSource Grain Free Large Breed Lamb Formula
- NutriSource Grain Free Large Breed Chicken Formula
NutriSource Grain Free Heartland Select Formula was selected to represent the others in the line for this review.
NutriSource Grain Free Heartland Select
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Bison, chicken, chicken meal, peas, pea flour, pea starch, menhaden fishmeal, sunflower meal, alfalfa meal, flax seeds, sunflower oil, natural turkey and chicken flavor, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), tomato pomace, tapioca flour, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, dried brewers yeast, pea protein, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, selenium yeast), choline chloride, taurine, vitamins (vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), glucosamine hydrochloride, ascorbic acid (source of vitamin C), chondroitin sulfate, Yucca schidigera extract, calcium iodate, rosemary extract, yeast culture (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Aspergillus niger fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtillis fermentation product
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 7.8%
Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||28%||17%||48%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||24%||35%||41%|
The first two ingredients in this dog food are bison and chicken. Although they’re both quality items, raw meat 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, these items would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.
The third ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
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 lists pea flour, a powder made from roasted yellow peas. Pea flour makes a slightly healthier substitute for wheat and can support more stable blood sugar levels.
The sixth ingredient lists pea starch, a paste-like carbohydrate extract probably used here as a gel-like binder for making kibble.
The seventh 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.
Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1
The eighth ingredient is sunflower meal, a by-product of the oil extraction process – and an item more typically found in feed for livestock.
Although sunflower meal contains about 34% protein, it 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 ninth ingredient is alfalfa meal. Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds.
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, the manufacturer appears to have applied friendly bacteria to the surface of the kibble after cooking. These special probiotics are used to enhance a dog’s digestive and immune functions.
Next, brewers yeast. Brewers yeast can be a controversial item. Although it’s a by-product of the beer making process, this ingredient contains about 45% protein and is rich in other healthy nutrients.
Fans believe yeast repels fleas and supports the immune system.
Critics argue yeast ingredients can be linked to allergies. This may be true, but (like all allergies) only if your particular dog is allergic to the yeast itself.
What’s more, a vocal minority insist yeast can increase the risk of developing the life-threatening condition known as bloat. However, this is something we’ve not been able to scientifically verify.
In any case, unless your dog is specifically allergic to it, yeast can still be considered a nutritious additive.
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.
NutriSource Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, NutriSource Grain Free appears to be 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 28% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 48% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 61%.
Average protein. Average fat. And average carbs as compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea and sunflower meal ingredients, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a below-average amount of meat.
NutriSource is a grain-free dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meats as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
Those looking for a quality wet food from the same company may wish to visit our review of NutriSource canned 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
09/13/2010 Original review
11/15/2010 Adjusted to read ethoxyquin-free
03/04/2012 Updated (added 2 new recipes)
03/04/2012 Last Update