Merrick Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Merrick Grain Free product line includes 14 dry dog foods.
Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage: Growth, Maintenance, All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.
Important: Because many websites do not reliably specify which Growth or All Life Stages recipes are safe for large breed puppies, we do not include that data in this report. Be sure to check actual packaging for that information.
Click the links below to check prices and read reviews from actual buyers at an online retailer.
- Merrick Grain Free Real Rabbit + Chickpeas [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Venison + Chickpeas [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Lamb + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Duck + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Buffalo, Beef + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Turkey + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Salmon + Sweet Potato (4.5 stars) [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Chicken + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe (4.5 stars) [M]
- Merrick Grain Free Senior Real Chicken + Sweet Potato [M]
- Merrick Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Puppy Real Texas Beef + Sweet Potato [A]
- Merrick Grain Free Large Breed Real Chicken + Sweet Potato (4.5 stars) [A]
Merrick Grain Free Real Rabbit + Chickpeas was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Merrick Grain Free Real Rabbit + Chickpeas
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned rabbit, turkey meal, pork meal, chickpeas, lentils, peas, pea protein, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), natural flavor, tapioca, sunflower oil, organic dried alfalfa meal, salmon oil (source of omega 3 fatty acids), salt, apples, blueberries, choline chloride, minerals (iron amino acid complex, zinc amino acid complex, zinc sulfate, sodium selenite, manganese amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, potassium iodide, cobalt proteinate, cobalt carbonate), gelatin, Yucca schidigera extract, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A acetate, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, niacin, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride), dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||38%||18%||36%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||33%||37%||30%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is rabbit. Although it is a quality item, raw rabbit contains up to 73% 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 turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.
The third ingredient is pork meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate. Yet it can also be high in ash — about 25-30%.
However, the ash content of the final product is typically adjusted in the recipe to allow its mineral profile to meet AAFCO guidelines.
It’s important to note that the next three ingredients included in this recipe are each a type of legume:
Although they’re a mixture of quality plant ingredients, there’s an important issue to consider here. And that’s the recipe design practice known as ingredient splitting.
If we were to combine all these individual items together and report them as one, that newer combination would likely occupy a significantly higher position on the list.
In addition, legumes contain about 25% protein, a factor that must also be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.
The seventh ingredient is 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 meat content of this dog food.
The eighth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.
Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.
After the natural flavor, we find tapioca, a gluten-free, starchy carbohydrate extract made from the root of the cassava plant.
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, sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3’s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.
Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.
There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.
Next, this recipe contains 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.
In addition, 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 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 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 Grain Free
Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Merrick Grain Free Dog Food looks like an above-average dry product.
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 38% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 38% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 42%.
Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the chickpeas, lentils, pea products and alfalfa meal in this recipe, and the pea protein contained in other recipes, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Merrick Grain Free is a dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meat meals as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
However, it’s unfortunate the company chose to include so much plant-based protein in its recipe. Otherwise, we would have been compelled to award this product a higher rating.
Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.
Merrick Dog Food
The following list (if present) includes all dog food recalls since 2009 directly related to this product line. If there are no recalls listed in this section, we have not yet reported any events.
- Merrick Recalls Multiple Dog Treats (5/23/2018)
To learn why our ratings have nothing to do with a product’s recall history, please visit our Dog Food Recalls FAQ page.
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Important FDA Alert
The FDA has announced it is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and a type of canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy. Click here for details.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
04/01/2019 Last Update