Nutro Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.
The Nutro Grain Free product line includes 8 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.
Use the links below to compare price and package sizes at an online retailer.
- Nutro Grain Free Adult Lamb [M]
- Nutro Grain Free Adult Chicken [M]
- Nutro Grain Free Senior Chicken [M]
- Nutro Grain Free Puppy Chicken [G]
- Nutro Grain Free Small Bites Lamb [M]
- Nutro Grain Free Small Breed Adult Chicken [M]
- Nutro Grain Free Large Breed Adult Lamb (3.5 stars) [M]
- Nutro Grain Free Large Breed Adult Chicken (3.5 stars) [M]
Nutro Grain Free Adult Lamb, Lentils and Sweet Potato was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Nutro Grain Free Adult Lamb, Lentils and Sweet Potato
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Deboned lamb, chicken meal, dried potatoes, lentils, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), lamb meal, chickpeas, dried sweet potato, potato starch, natural flavor, split peas, dehydrated alfalfa meal, pea protein, dried plain beet pulp, flaxseed, choline chloride, dl-methionine, potassium chloride, salt, dried apples, dried blueberries, dried carrots, mixed tocopherols and citric acid (preservatives), zinc sulfate, niacin supplement, biotin, vitamin E supplement, iron amino acid chelate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), selenium yeast, vitamin B12 supplement, copper amino acid chelate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), manganese amino acid chelate, vitamin A supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, rosemary extract
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||28%||17%||48%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||24%||35%||41%|
The first ingredient in this dog food is lamb. Although it is a quality item, raw lamb 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 chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The third ingredient is dried potato, a dehydrated item usually made from the by-products of potato processing. In most cases, dried potato can contain about 10% dry matter protein which can have a slight affect on our estimate of the total meat content of this recipe.
The fourth ingredient lists lentils. Lentils are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, lentils contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The fifth 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 sixth ingredient is lamb meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.
The seventh ingredient includes chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. Like peas, bean and lentils, the chickpea is a nutritious member of the fiber-rich legume (or pulse) family of vegetables.
However, chickpeas contain about 22% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.
The eighth ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.
The ninth ingredient is potato starch. Potato starch is a gluten-free carbohydrate of only modest nutritional value to a dog.
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, it’s important to note that several ingredients included in this recipe are each a type of legume:
- Split peas
- Pea protein
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.
Next, we note the use of 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, this food includes 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, 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.
We also find flaxseed in this recipe. 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.
Next, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.
Additionally, 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.
And lastly, this recipe includes selenium yeast. Unlike the more common inorganic form of selenium (sodium selenite), this natural yeast supplement is considered a safer anti-cancer alternative.
Nutro Grain Free Dog Food Review
Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro 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 28% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 47% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.
Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.
When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the lentils, chickpeas, peas, alfalfa meal, pea protein and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.
Nutro Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of named meat meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.
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.
Nutro 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.
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Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
A Final Word
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Notes and Updates
11/16/2018 Last Update