Nutro Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★½

Product Appears to Have Been Renamed
See the Following Related Review
Nutro Wild Frontier

Nutro Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.

The Nutro Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free product line lists four dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Duck and Chickpeas
  • Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Chicken and Chickpeas
  • Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Salmon and Chickpeas (5 stars)
  • Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Venison Meal and Chickpeas (4 stars)

Nutro Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Chicken and Chickpeas was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Nutro Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free Chicken and Chickpeas

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 36% | Fat = 20% | Carbs = 36%

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, chickpeas, lamb meal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried potatoes, pea protein, split peas, dehydrated alfalfa meal, natural flavor, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried plain beet pulp, potassium chloride, choline chloride, dl-methionine, salt, zinc sulfate, niacin supplement, vitamin E supplement, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), copper proteinate, iron proteinate, selenium yeast, vitamin B12 supplement, manganese proteinate, biotin, vitamin A supplement, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, rosemary extract, decaffeinated green tea extract, spearmint extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%

Red items indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis32%18%NA
Dry Matter Basis36%20%36%
Calorie Weighted Basis30%40%30%
Protein = 30% | Fat = 40% | Carbs = 30%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% 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 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 fourth ingredient is lamb meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

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 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 affect our estimate of the total meat content of this recipe.

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 split 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 ninth ingredient is 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.

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, this food includes sunflower oil. 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, 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 find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

Next, 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 Natural Choice
High Protein Grain Free Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Natural Choice High Protein 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.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 36%, a fat level of 20% and estimated carbohydrates of about 36%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 35% and a mean fat level of 20%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 37% 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 chickpeas, pea protein, peas and alfalfa meal, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a notable amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nutro Natural Choice High Protein Grain Free is a plant-based dry dog food using a notable amount of chicken meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 stars.

Highly recommended.

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.

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Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

04/14/2016 Last Update

  • Bryan Ledford

    Anybody know the ash content for these formulas?

  • MIDGET

    I wouldn’t eat food from big lots so I certainly wouldn’t feed it to my dog.

  • Danielle

    Recently switched to the Salmon and Chickpea formula for my 4 dogs from another brand’s Salmon formula. My picky eater is suddenly excited to get her food. We are on our 4th bag with good results.

  • aimee

    Your best bet may be to contact the company to ask how to how they validated the label claim.

    The presence of potato doesn’t really concern me too much as the glycemic idexx varies significantly depending on type of potato and cooking method used. Cold potato is near the low range on the glycemic scale whereas when served hot it is much higher. Since this is kibble and usually not served hot the presence of potato may be immaterial.

    Tapioca on the other hand I’ve always seen as being reported as high on the glycemic scale.

  • DogFoodie

    Hi Ninja! Good to see you stop by again. It’s been a long, long time!

    I think it’s label trickery and that by “low glycemic recipe,” they mean, we put chickpeas in this dog food. That drives me crazy. Nutrisca paved the way on that one. Anything that has chickpeas or lentils automatically gets crossed off my list because one of my dogs cannot tolerate them. He ends up with terrible gas and loose stools.

    I was watching Dr. Oz yesterday morning and he was talking about the benefits of EVOO as it relates to its ability to help lower cholesterol. He said that light colored oils have been processed to the point that they have very little of the sterols that we choose EVOO for in the first place. He said to choose the old that are dark and have a bitter or slightly peppery taste.

  • Dog Food Ninja

    Something interesting to note regarding this food: Nutro states on the bag that it is a “low glycemic recipe” which I find interesting considering the use of white potatoes as the 5th or 6th ingredient. I’m always looking for a food to recommend to people who’s dogs seem to have a yeast problem. We have had major results with Earthborn Great Plains (peas and tapicoa) and Wellness Core Wild Game (chickpeas and lentils) as well as adding extra virgin coconut oil and probiotics to the diet. But what does everyone here think about this food? Could this food, despite the potato, be an option for a yeasty dog given that the food has been rated as “low glycemic”? Or is Nutro full of it and misleading consumers with some sort of labeling trickery (like “recipe” doesn’t mean that the food, as a whole, is low GI)?