Dog food reviews can be helpful when you’re comparing products.
However, it’s impossible to judge the actual quality of the raw materials that were used to make each specific batch of food available for purchase.
Or the important research and nutritional design effort that went into creating each recipe.
And no review can accurately reflect the safety practices that were taken — or neglected — by a company when processing, storing and shipping the finished goods.
Why Ingredient Quality
Can Be So Difficult to Judge
Not only do most pet food companies conceal the origin of their ingredients, they also change the sources as well as the quality of those ingredients on a regular basis.
Many raw materials used to make dog foods are bought and sold in commercial-sized lots on the open market.
Bulk prices vary. And so does quality.
From day to day, it’s not unusual for an ingredient to come from a different farm, a different storage facility or a different state.
Even a different country.
Although better companies procure their ingredients directly from trusted manufacturers, others may buy their raw materials through brokers and middlemen.
And many times through less-reputable third party suppliers.
What’s worse, manufacturers are not legally required to report these changes to consumers.
That’s why the method used to review a product is so important.
How We Rate Dog Food
Although there are many ways to rate a dog food, we’ve settled on using the only reliable information we feel we can consistently trust.
We read and interpret government-regulated pet food labels. Nothing more. And we do this in two simple steps.
- We study the ingredients list
- We evaluate the meat content
Of course, we don’t test dog food. We don’t taste it. And we rarely trust marketing hype. Manufacturer’s claims. Or the fancy artwork on the package.
Nor should you.
Going Beyond the Label
Just the same, a pet food label is a great place to start.
However, there are many important items that are missing from the label — additional facts you’d still like to know before making a purchase. For example…
- Will my dog like the taste?
- Is the kibble size right for my pet?
- Where do the ingredients come from?
- Are they food grade? Or agricultural rejects?
- Have the raw materials been tested for contamination?
- Are the finished goods tested before they are shipped?
Some of these questions can be answered by simply visiting a company’s website. Or calling their customer service number.
Yet company information can be biased — and is almost always subject to change.
That’s why we’re reluctant to simply re-broadcast a manufacturer’s marketing message. We fear it could be misleading and provide a false sense of security to our readers.
No review can ever predict results. Yet there are other reliable sources of valuable information.
Talk to friends. Ask your vet. And check out the Comments section at the end of every review.
That way, you’ll get a more complete picture of each product you’re considering — before you feed it to your pet.
In the Comments area and in our Forums, you’ll find a wealth of helpful information from other readers — dog owners, breeders, community-minded veterinary professionals, nutritionists and dog food companies.
- Feeding tips and suggestions
- Candid opinions about specific brands
- Reports of actual experiences and results
- Comments about a company’s customer service
More importantly, find out from others whether their dogs give a “tails up” or a “tails down” to the taste of a particular food.
About Our Star Ratings
When evaluating a product, we tend to favor dog foods made with quality plant and animal ingredients — especially named meats. And we downgrade recipes that contain:
- Generic animal fats
- Anonymous meat ingredients
- Synthetic chemical preservatives
- Plant-based meat-protein substitutes
And because we respect a dog’s natural carnivorous bias, we shamelessly favor dog foods rich in meat.
In general, a five star dog food is one that is high in meat content and free of suspicious chemicals or excessive plant-based protein boosters.
So, does that mean a one-star dog food is bad for your dog?
No, probably not. A dog food with a low star rating isn’t necessarily a bad product.
It’s just that we believe you should always know what you’re paying for. So, dog foods made with by-products and less meat should, of course, cost less, too.
The Bottom Line
Because of all the variables that go into making any food product, it’s important to keep in mind that…
Each dog food can only be as good as the specific batch from which it was made — and different batches can vary significantly.
Since there’s no way to test each product, we must all rely 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.
In any case, start with our star ratings.
Then, consider all the information you can also collect from other reliable sources before making your final decision on what to feed your precious pet.