Premium Dog Food — Saying It Doesn’t Make It So

Premium Dog Food

Premium Dog Food — or Premium Words?

Premium, gourmet, natural and homestyle. Are these words you can trust when you find them on a dog food package?

Do they have any REAL meaning?

Or are they simply words designed to influence your buying decision?

Truth is…

There REALLY are premium dog foods on the market. Lots of them.

But as you’ll soon discover…

Good Words Can Conceal Bad Dog Food

Each and every day, dog foods of dubious quality find their way onto the shelves of retail stores.

Many contain agricultural waste declared unfit for human consumption. Or other controversial ingredients, such as:

Saying It Doesn’t Make It So

Pet food companies know that inferior ingredients like these won’t help them sell their mediocre products.


They also realize how much more dog owners LOVE to buy any food that’s labeled “premium”, “gourmet”, or “homestyle”.


Some intentionally use these words to distract you from noticing what’s really inside the package.

They’re betting you won’t take the time to read the label.

For example…

Take a close look at this popular brand:

Kibbles 'n Bits Homestyle Package
Kibbles ‘n Bits Homestyle Packaging

Then compare the package graphics to The Dog Food Advisor’s label analysis:

Kibbles n-Bits Homestyle with Nutrient Gauges
Kibbles ‘n Bits Homestyle DFA Label Analysis

Notice all the controversial ingredients in this “homestyle” dog food.

Premium Dog Food, According to the FDA

If you’re like most, you’ll be shocked to learn the FDA1 has no regulations that protect consumers from marketing claims like these.

According to the FDA…2

“Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.”

Which is exactly why…

You should not be willing to pay more for any dog food, just because the packaging and names contain words like these.

What About ‘Natural’ Dog Food?

OK, so you think the word “natural” might be an exception? Right?

Well, think again.

The word “natural” actually has no legal meaning. Yet that same regulation3 allows the use of the word “natural” when a food lacks 3 specific types of ingredients…

“The term ‘natural’ is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition… For the most part, ‘natural’ can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.”

The Bottom Line

It’s important to not allow yourself to be fooled by deceptive packaging. Or by the flattering words used to inflate the perceived value of a product.

On any pet food package…

The legal truth can be found in one place. And one place only. The FDA-regulated portion of the label.

And nowhere else.

It’s the ONLY information you can reliably trust.

And WHY we never pay ANY attention to the pictures on the bag… or the words premium, gourmet or natural on the package when we evaluate any dog food.

Nor should you.

How to Find the REAL Premium Brands

By now, it should be obvious that just calling a dog food “premium” or “gourmet” doesn’t make it so.

Instead of buying dog foods marketed as “premium”, here are 7 things to look for on the FDA-regulated label to help you find the REAL top brands.

  1. Above-average meat content
  2. Moderate carbohydrate levels
  3. Low fat-to-protein ratios
  4. Limited plant-based protein concentrates
  5. No chemical preservatives
  6. No artificial preservatives
  7. No anonymous animal protein

Or if you need help, check out The Dog Food Advisor’s most recommended brands below.

Our Editor’s Top Picks
December 2023

The following are considered top-rated dog foods based on The Dog Food Advisor’s detailed analysis of each recipe’s government-regulated label.


  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  2. FDA Pet Food Labels, Updated February 7, 2020
  3. Ibid.
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