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Merrick Lil’ Plates Dog Food Review (Dry)

Mike Sagman

By

Mike Sagman
Mike Sagman

Mike Sagman

Founder

Dr Mike Sagman is the creator of the Dog Food Advisor. He founded the website in 2008, after his unquestioning trust in commercial dog food led to the tragic death of his dog Penny.

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Updated: March 21, 2024

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Rating:
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Which Merrick Lil’ Plates Recipes Get Our Best Ratings?

Merrick Lil’ Plates Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The Merrick Lil’ Plates product line includes the 7 dry dog foods listed below.

Each recipe includes its AAFCO nutrient profile when available… Growth (puppy), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

Recipe and Label Analysis

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Texas Beef + Sweet Potato was selected to represent the other products in the line for detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.

Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.


Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Texas Beef + Sweet Potato

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

38.2%

Protein

16.9%

Fat

36.9%

CarbsCarbohydrates

Deboned beef, lamb meal, salmon meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, potato protein, whitefish meal, pork fat, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower oil, flaxseed, chicory root (source of inulin), potassium chloride, salt, organic dehydrated alfalfa meal, choline chloride, apples, blueberries, salmon oil, minerals (iron amino acid complex, zinc amino acid complex, zinc sulfate, sodium selenite, manganese amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, cobalt proteinate, cobalt carbonate), taurine, Yucca schidigera extract, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, vitamin A acetate, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid, niacin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, biotin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin D3 supplement), mixed tocopherols for freshness, dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, citric acid for freshness, 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) = 3.5%

Red denotes any controversial items

Estimated Nutrient Content
Method Protein Fat Carbs
Guaranteed Analysis 34% 15% NA
Dry Matter Basis 38% 17% 37%
Calorie Weighted Basis 33% 35% 32%

Ingredient Analysis

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 is pork meal. Pork meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh pork. 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.

The third ingredient is salmon meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

The fourth ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The fifth ingredient is 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 sixth ingredient includes peas, which 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 seventh ingredient is pork fat, a product from rendering pig meat.

Commonly known as lard, pork fat can add significant flavor to any dog food. And it can be high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life.

Although it may not sound very appetizing, pork fat (in moderate amounts) is actually an acceptable pet food ingredient.

The eighth ingredient is natural flavors. Natural flavors doesn’t give us much information about the particular ingredients included in this dog food for flavoring purposes.

We’re pleased that the flavorings used are natural, but more details are required to give any further information about these natural flavoring ingredients. Flavorings are used to make the foods more appealing and tasty for our dogs.

The ninth ingredients is potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato.

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 actual meat content of this dog food.

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 Merrick product.

With 6 notable exceptions
First, we find 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.

Next, we find flaxseed, 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.

Next, we find chelated minerals in this product. Chelated minerals are minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

We also note the use of sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium. Sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast.

Additionally, taurine is an important amino acid associated with the healthy function of heart muscle. Although taurine is not typically considered essential in canines, some dogs have been shown to be deficient in this critical nutrient.

Since taurine deficiency appears to be more common in pets consuming grain-free diets, we view its presence in this recipe as a positive addition.

And lastly, this recipe also contains 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 its nutrient profiles, we question the use of this item in any canine recipe.

Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Merrick Lil’ Plates Dog Food looks mostly like an above-average dry product.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 36%, a fat level of 17% and estimated carbohydrates of about 39%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 35% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 41% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 48%.

Which means this Merrick product line contains…

Above-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to other dry dog foods.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea products, potato protein and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a significant amount of meat.

However, it’s unfortunate the company chose to include menadione in its recipes. Without this controversial ingredient, we may have been compelled to award this line a higher rating.

Our Rating of Merrick Lil’ Plates Dog Food

Merrick Lil’ Plates includes both grain-inclusive and grain-free dry dog foods that use a significant amount of named meat meals as their dominant source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly recommended.

However, those concerned about the presence of menadione in this recipe may wish to ignore our rating and look elsewhere for a different product. Or consider using diet rotation to reduce the risks associated with feeding the same dog food… continuously, for a lifetime.

Merrick Dog Food Recall History

The following automated list (if present) includes all dog food recalls related to Merrick through July.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls since 2009 here.

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More Merrick Brand Reviews

The following Merrick dog food reviews are also posted on this website:

Sources

1: Association of American Feed Control Officials

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