Gravy Train dog food is the only pet food brand that formulates recipes designed to create its own gravy when mixed with warm water.
The company prioritizes an appealing gravy flavor and a low price over nutritional content. But, their low-quality ingredients may not be worth the savings.
As a veterinary technician, the health and safety of any canine diet is my top priority. Due to a low ingredient quality and controversial recall history, I don’t recommend Gravy Train dog foods.
If you are looking for a dog food with a better reputation and a similar price tag, consider Pedigree instead. Keep reading this Gravy Train dog food review to learn why.
About Gravy Train Dog Food
Gravy Train built their reputation on advertising that mixing warm water with their products would create an appealing gravy texture. Most pet foods at the time only produced bland, dry products that picky dogs refused to eat.
The dog food formulas offered by this brand also feature incredibly cheap price tags. Few companies can match Gravy Train’s affordability. But to limit costs, the company makes significant sacrifices to quality.
While Gravy Train products are tasty and affordable, they use lower quality ingredients than most budget dog food brands. The lack of quality control has even resulted in dangerous contamination and controversial recalls.
Owners of picky dogs on a tight budget may find themselves drawn to Gravy Train. While these recipes do meet AAFCO’s daily nutrient requirements, there are better alternatives available.
Gravy Train History
The first Gravy Train dog food formulas appeared in pet stores in the 1950s. Officially trademarked in 1960 by General Foods, the company has a long history of formulating affordable dog food recipes. 
To this day, Gravy Train remains the only national brand of dog food designed to create its own gravy. This brand’s products have always prioritized offering better flavors than other brands.
JM Smuckers bought the Gravy Train brand from Del Monte Pet Products group in 2015 as part of their family of Big Heart Pet Brands. The Smuckers corporation manages an extensive portfolio of pet products, including Meow Mix and Milk-Bone.
Unfortunately, several pet products produced by JM Smucker have a recall history. Many pet brands owned by Smuckers focus on budget products that minimize costs with reduced quality control.
Today, Gravy Train still maintains a simple lineup of recipes, adding dog treats to their product range in 2005.
Where is Gravy Train Dog Food Made?
Gravy Train dog food products are manufactured in the United States. However, there is limited information available about where the company sources its ingredients.
JM Smuckers inherited Big Heart Pet Brands’ existing corporate and manufacturing facilities. The family of pet brands operates corporate facilities on both US coasts and factories throughout the country.
Gravy Train dog food is produced at their factories in Alabama, Kansas, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Ingredients used by the company are difficult to source and identify on the label. Gravy Train does not maintain any commitments to avoiding ingredients sourced from China. And most of their ingredients are likely imported.
Recent recalls have also called Gravy Train ingredient sourcing into question. Some owners have concerns that animals euthanized with pentobarbital make up some of the meat meals included in these recipes.
Legal Issues and Controversies
Gravy Train has been heavily criticized recently over a considerable controversy about small amounts of deadly euthanasia drugs found in their formulas.
A 2018 investigation by ABC News discovered the presence of pentobarbital in certain Smucker’s products. This drug is commonly used to euthanize horses, cats, and dogs. Although the food had low levels of the drug, federal law prohibits any concentration in dog food. 
The investigation began after a woman fed her five dogs a contaminated can of wet food, and one of her pets died. Although the dog did not eat Gravy Train dog food, the investigation revealed that the contamination affected this brand as well.
Consumers targeted Gravy Train’s parent company in a class-action lawsuit over the pentobarbital contamination. Gravy Train formulas did not contain lethal levels of this drug, but several dogs on their diets experienced kidney failure. 
Gravy Train responded to concerns by recalling certain products and reassuring dog owners that they do not use euthanized pets as meat sources in their recipes. Smuckers eventually traced the contamination to a single animal fat ingredient manufactured at one facility. 
Unfortunately, Gravy Train dog foods have a significantly below-average ingredient quality.
Most high-quality dog foods use real meat as the first ingredient to provide dogs with a balanced omnivorous diet. But all Gravy Train recipes depend on corn and soy as the primary ingredients.
Animal-based products do not appear until further down the label. And when they do, they include generic meat and bone meals that do not specify the type of meat. This is problematic for dogs who suffer from food allergies since you cannot determine the protein source.
The first ingredient, corn, is an inexpensive grain that is high in calories but low in nutrients. Gravy Train does not specify if they use whole grain corn, which would be a better option for increased fiber content.
Soy products like soybean meal are a common source of plant protein. This ingredient is a cheap way to boost protein content, but plant protein has limited bioavailability for dogs. Their digestive systems are unable to digest soy as efficiently as animal protein.
Gravy Train’s iconic gravy taste comes from animal digest. This ingredient consists of animal by-products that are hydrolyzed chemically and sprayed on the surface of the kibble. So it’s impossible to know for sure precisely what that gravy contains.
Animal fat is the primary fat source. This ingredient is a rendering by-product, produced from the same process used to make meat meals. Since the ingredient source is not specified, the fat could come from nearly anywhere with limited quality standards.
These dog food formulas also contain several artificial additives. Plus, they use BHA as a preservative. Scientists suspect that this ingredient can significantly increase the risk of cancer. 
I am super picky about what I feed my furry best friend, and I encourage every pet owner I know to carefully read the label of their dog’s food.
Gravy Train’s ingredient list is disappointing, and their low ingredient quality is the primary reason I do not recommend their food.
Gravy Train Brand Lines
Gravy Train offers a limited product line of basic dry dog food formulas. All of their recipes use similar ingredients but vary slightly in flavor and kibble size.
Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
The Beefy Classic dog food recipe from Gravy Train is the company’s flagship product. This formula has average-sized kibble and a nutritional content designed for most breeds.
Most dog owners find themselves drawn to this formula’s affordable price. Additional savings come from purchasing the food in large 41-pound bags. Few budget brands can offer similar affordability.
But, the low cost comes at the expense of quality nutritional content. A reduced 17% crude protein content may not provide adequate amino acids for active dogs. Lower quality plant proteins and less meat content limit protein availability in this recipe.
This dog food’s fat and caloric content is also low, so this recipe may not be a good choice for dogs who struggle to maintain weight. If you have an overweight dog that needs reduced calories and fat, this formula might promote weight loss.
Dog food reviews of this product recommend the formula for dog owners on a budget looking for a diet that appeals to a picky eater.
Gravy Train Small Bites dog food features the same recipe as the Beefy Classic dry dog food formula in a smaller kibble size for tiny mouths. Most diets targeted to small breeds have a different nutritional content for toy dogs’ unique needs, but this recipe does not.
The reduced protein and fat are not ideal for the fast metabolisms of small breeds. Most dogs do best on a high protein diet. But smaller pups generally need a diet rich in protein to meet their calorie demands while using high-quality ingredients.
Despite the reduced kibble size, this dry dog food also has the same caloric content per cup as the classic formula. The best small breed dog foods usually have a higher concentration of calories to provide enough energy in a manageable serving size.
But, the greater concentration of grain-based ingredients is more beneficial for smaller dogs.
Toy breeds have a limited ability to store glycogen due to their reduced muscle mass. Consistent sources of carbohydrates like corn can help maintain blood sugar levels.
Gravy Train Meaty Classic recipe includes additional beef, liver, and bacon flavors for an improved taste. Unfortunately, these flavors come from by-product ingredients like animal digest, meat meal, and bacon fat.
The standard nutritional content of this formula remains unchanged from Gravy Train’s original products. This brand does not offer any high protein alternatives for dogs that need additional energy or amino acids from their diet.
A higher protein content would require more animal protein ingredients, which could significantly raise these products’ prices. Like the other Gravy Train recipes, this formula consists primarily of inexpensive plant proteins, grains, and by-products like wheat middlings.
Despite lower quality nutrition, dog food reviews from Gravy Train consumers frequently recommend this formula as an even tastier alternative to the original.
Gravy Train Dog Food Recalls
Gravy Train has been subject to multiple recalls in the past. One massive recall involved a dangerous euthanasia drug contamination that impacted several Smucker brands.
Here is a list of dog food recalls that involved the Gravy Train dog food brand.
- February 2018 – An independent investigation revealed trace amounts of the euthanasia drug pentobarbital in several Smucker’s pet products. The FDA issued a widespread recall that affected several canned Gravy Train production lots. 
- March 2007 – A report by the FDA found melamine contamination in Gravy Train Beef Sticks Dog Snacks. The organization issued a recall of certain production lots with an expiration date in August 2008. 
The legal controversies that arose from the 2018 FDA recall reveal severe quality control issues that should be concerning to any dog owner.
Affected products only contained small amounts of pentobarbital, but we should never have to worry about feeding our pups euthanasia drugs.
This Gravy Train dog food review demonstrates that sometimes you get what you pay for when it comes to dog food. Although this pet food brand offers an appealing flavor, they compromise ingredient quality and nutritional value for competitive pricing.
Feeding your four-legged family member a high-quality diet is a valuable investment in his long-term health. Work with your veterinarian to determine the best dog food formula for your pup’s unique nutritional needs.