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Dog Food Comparison

by Gail and David Goren

Read Your Pet Food Label!

The best way to determine the quality of your pet food is to carefully read and understand the label. While reading the label, ask the following questions: Does the food use high quality ingredients? Is there a quality meat source as one of the first two ingredients? Better yet, are the ingredients human-grade? Is the bag dated for freshness?

There are literally hundreds of brands and varieties of dog food. Below is a table listing a few popular dog food brands, with the less desirable ingredients highlighted in red. Keep in mind that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. For example, corn listed as one of the first three ingredients is less desirable than if listed as the eight ingredient.

Dog Food Comparison Chart

Dog Food First Eight Ingredients Human
Bil-Jac Select Fresh chicken by-products1 (organ meat only), fresh chicken, corn2, chicken by-product meal1, dried beet pulp (sugar removed), fresh chicken liver, brewers dried yeast, cane molasses7 No
Eukenuba Adult Chicken, chicken by-product meal1, corn meal2, ground whole grain sorghum, ground whole grain barley, chicken fat, fish meal, Brewers rice3 No
Flint River Ranch Chicken meal, whole wheat flour, ground rice, lamb meal, poultry fat, ground wheat, flax seed, dried whole egg Yes
Flint River Ranch
Lamb Meal, Ground Whole Millet, Ground Whole Rice, Rice Bran, Menhaden Fish Meal, Grapeseed Oil, Flaxseed Meal, Lecithin Yes
Iams Adult Chicken, corn meal2, ground whole grain sorghum, chicken by-product meal1, ground whole grain barley meal, fish meal, chicken fat, dried beet pulp No
Kibbles 'N Bits Corn2, soybean meal, ground wheat, beef & bone meal4, animal fat5 (BHA6 and citric acid used as preservatives), corn syrup7, wheat middlings, water sufficient for processing No
Nutro Max Chicken meal, wheat flour, ground whole wheat, rice bran, poultry fat, corn gluten meal2, ground rice, lamb meal No
Pedigree Ground yellow corn2, meat and bone meal4, corn gluten meal2, chicken by-product meal1, animal fat5 (preseved with BHA/BHT6), wheat mill run, natural poultry flavor, rice, salt7 No
Proplan Adult Chicken, Brewers rice3, whole grain wheat, poulty by-product meal1, corn gluten meal2, beef tallow8, whole grain corn2, corn bran2 No
Purina Beneful Ground yellow corn2, chicken by-product meal1, corn gluten meal2, whole wheat flour, beef tallow8, rice flour, beef soy flour, sugar7 No
Purina Dog Chow Ground yellow corn2, poultry by-product meal1, corn gluten meal2, soybean meal, beef tallow8 preserved with mixed-tocopherols , brewers rice3, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate No
Purina One Chicken and Rice Chicken, brewers rice3, whole grain corn2, corn gluten meal2, poultry by-product meal1, whole grain wheat, beef tallow8 preserved with mixed tocopherols , natural flavors No
Science Diet Natures Best Chicken Brewers rice3, ground wheat, turkey meal, corn gluten meal2, soybean meal, animal fat5, chicken, vegetable oil No
Science Diet Original Chicken, corn meal2, ground grain sorghum, ground wheat, chicken by-product meal1, brewers rice3, soybean meal, animal fat5 (preserved with BHA6, propyl gallate6 and citric acid) No

1Meat by-products: Pet grade meat by-products consist of organs and parts either not desired, or condemned, for human consumption. This can include bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, heads, feet, and feathers.

2Corn: Corn products are difficult for dogs to digest.

3Food Fragments: Lower cost by-products of another food manufacturing process. Examples include wheat bran and brewer's rice (a waste product of the alcohol industry).

4Meat and bone meal: "Meat and bone meal" and "beef and bone meal" are inexpensive sources of animal protein. The protein in a meal containing a large amount of bone may be poorly digestible and fail to provide adequate nutrition.

5Animal Fat: Animal fat is a "generic" fat source that is most often made up of rendered animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans. Look for a named fat source, such as poultry or chicken fat, that is naturally preserved.

6Chemical Preservatives: Chemical preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (also used as a less-toxic version of automotive antifreeze), and ethoxyquin. BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are potentially cancer-causing agents. The long term build-up of these chemicals (that may be eaten every day for the life of your pet!) have not been thouroughly studied and may ultimately be harmful.

7Sweeteners: Sweeteners such as corn syrup, sugar, and cane mallases are usually added to lower quality foods to increase their appeal. Dietary sugars can aggrevate health problems, including diabetes.

8Beef Tallow: A low quality fat product.


[1] The Animal Protection Institute, "What's Really in Pet Food.", January 29, 2002.

[2] Kerns, Nancy "Choose the Best Dry Food.", The Whole Dog Journal, February 2000, 13-17.

[3] The Animal Protection Institute, "Selecting a Commercial Pet Food. ", October 25, 2001.

(revised 2/25/03)

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