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Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Crunchy Blend Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4.5 stars.
The Zuke’s Ascent product line includes three dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.
The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.
- Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Lamb and Pea Recipe
- Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Chicken and Lentil Recipe
- Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Pollock and Chickpea Recipe
Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Chicken and Lentil Recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.
Zuke's Ascent Chicken and Lentil Recipe
Dry Dog Food
Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content
Ingredients: Chicken, turkey meal, lentils, peas, chickpeas, chicken fat (preserved with tocopherols), chicken meal, flaxseed, pea protein, turkey, dried eggs, natural flavors, tomato pomace, cranberries, sweet potatoes, blueberries, chicory root extract, sunflower oil, salt, potassium chloride, choline chloride, carrots, spinach, parsley, pumpkin, apples, tocopherols (preservative), vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, niacin, ferrous sulfate, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, manganese sulfate, zinc proteinate, folic acid, calcium iodate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, sodium selenite, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, green tea extract, rosemary extract, Yucca schidigera extract, turmeric, cinnamon, peppermint, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product
Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 5%
Red denotes controversial item
|Estimated Nutrient Content|
|Dry Matter Basis||36%||19%||38%|
|Calorie Weighted Basis||30%||39%||32%|
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 turkey meal. Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.
The third ingredient includes lentils. Lentils are a quality source of carbohydrates. Plus (like all legumes) they’re rich in natural fiber.
The fourth ingredient includes peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.
However, both lentils and peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this dog food.
The fifth ingredient lists 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.
It’s important to note that a number of 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.
You see, if we were to combine all these individual items together and report them as one, that newer combination would almost certainly occupy a higher position on the list — possibly making legumes (not meat) the predominant ingredient in this recipe.
The sixth 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 seventh ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.
The eighth ingredient is 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.
The ninth 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.
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 four notable exceptions…
First, we find tomato pomace. Tomato pomace is a controversial ingredient, a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup.
Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.
Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.
Next, 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.
In addition, this recipe contains 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.
And lastly, this food includes 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.
Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free
Crunchy Blend Dog Food
The Bottom Line
Judging by its ingredients alone, Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Crunchy Blend looks like an above-average dry dog food.
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 36% and a mean fat level of 19%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 38% for the overall product line.
And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 53%.
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 lentils, chickpeas, pea products and flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing at least a moderate amount of meat.
Zuke’s Ascent Grain Free Crunch Blend is a plant-based dry dog food using a moderate amount of turkey, lamb or fish meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4.5 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.
Zuke’s 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 diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
Notes and Updates
- “Last Update” field at the end of this review reflects the last time we attempted to visit this product’s website. The current review itself was last updated 4/10/2016 ↩
10/15/2017 Last Update