Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.
The Black Gold Explorer Grain Free product line includes 3 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 compare prices at an online retailer.
- Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Timber Ridge Formula [U]
- Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Game Bird Formula (4.5 stars) [U]
- Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Ocean Catch Formula (3.5 stars) [U]
Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Timber Ridge Formula was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Timber Ridge Formula
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Beef, peas, potatoes, beef meal, pea protein, potato protein, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), brewers dried yeast, venison, lamb meal, pea starch, dried beet pulp, natural flavors, sweet potato, dried eggs, fish meal, dicalcium phosphate, caramel, salmon oil, canola oil, flaxseed, salt, potassium chloride, minerals (zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, manganese sulfate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), choline chloride, dl-methionine, vitamins (vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), dried chicory root, dried carrots, dried spinach, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, l-carnitine, hydrolyzed yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||33%||18%||41%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||28%||37%||35%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Although it’s a quality item, raw beef 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 includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.
The third ingredient lists potato. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
The fourth ingredient is beef meal. Beef meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh beef.
The fifth 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 sixth ingredient is potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato.
This item also contains over 80% protein, but would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.
The seventh 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.
The eighth ingredient is brewers yeast, which can be a controversial item. Although it’s a by-product of the beer making process, this ingredient is rich in minerals and 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.
In addition, a vocal minority insists yeast can increase the risk of developing the life-threatening condition known as bloat. However, this is a claim 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.
What’s more noteworthy here is that brewers yeast contains about 48% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The ninth ingredient is venison. Although it is a quality item, raw venison 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.
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 eight notable exceptions…
First, we find pea starch, a paste-like, gluten-free carbohydrate extract probably used here as a binder for making kibble. Aside from its energy content (calories), pea starch is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
Next, beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.
Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.
We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.
In addition, we note the use of caramel, a natural coloring agent made by caramelizing carbohydrates. It’s used by pet food manufacturers to impart a golden brown tint to the finished product.
However, the concentrated version of this ingredient commonly known as caramel coloring has been more recently considered controversial and found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.1
In any case, even though caramel is considered safe by the FDA, we’re always disappointed to find any added coloring in a pet food.
That’s because coloring is used to make the product more appealing to humans — not your dog. After all, do you really think your dog cares what color his food is?
We also find canola oil in this food. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because it can sometimes (but not always) be derived from genetically modified rapeseed.
Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
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.
Next, flaxseed is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.
However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
Additionally, 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.
We also note 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.
And lastly, this food includes menadione, a controversial form of vitamin K linked to liver toxicity, allergies and the abnormal break-down of red blood cells.
Since vitamin K isn’t required by AAFCO in either of its dog food nutrient profiles, we question the use of this substance in any canine formulation.
Black Gold Explorer Grain Free Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Black Gold Explorer 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 33% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 41% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 57%.
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the peas, pea and potato proteins, brewers yeast and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a dry product containing a notable amount of meat.
However, it’s unfortunate the company chose to include menadione in its recipes. Without this controversial supplement and plant-based protein boosters, we would have been compelled to award this brand a higher rating.
Black Gold Explorer Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a notable amount of named meat meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.
However, menadione phobics may wish to ignore our rating and look elsewhere for another product.
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.
Black Gold Dog Food
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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.
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Notes and Updates
03/16/2018 Last Update