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Merrick Dog Food Review | Ratings | Recalls

Merrick Pet Care is a popular brand of pet food that many pet parents encounter when shopping for premium dog food formulas.

This pet food brand offers several unique product lines designed to meet the special needs of different dogs. But all Merrick formulas aim to deliver superior levels of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Although Merrick dog foods cost more than average kibble, the company offers exceptional quality for affordable prices. When a large industry leader recently purchased the small brand, all of their formulas remained mostly unchanged.

I’m a vet tech who researched this brand so you don’t have to. If you are looking for a dog food brand that sources quality ingredients to produce premium formulas at an affordable price, you should consider Merrick.

Keep reading this Merrick dog food review to learn more about the company, its product lines, and its history.

About Merrick

merrick logo

Established in 1988, Merrick has developed a reputation as a trusted brand for premium pet food. The company even offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you or your dog don’t have a positive experience with their pet food, they will refund your purchase.

Merrick uses human-grade ingredients for all of their pet food recipes. And they commit to never sourcing any of their ingredients from China.

While all Merrick dog food excludes corn and soy, they produce both grain-inclusive and grain-free formulas. Although they are a relatively small pet brand, Merrick still features several product lines to choose from.

The company’s most popular dog food ranges include Backcountry and Healthy Grains. Both of these brands are based on your pet’s evolutionary diet. Merrick also offers limited ingredient diets for sensitive dogs who suffer from allergies. [1]

Who Makes Merrick and Where is it Produced?

Merrick Pet Care is a family-run business that Garth Merrick started in 1988 in Amarillo, Texas. Merrick became inspired to start the company after he began formulating home-cooked food for his family pet. [2]

The brand’s emphasis on wholesome nutrition enabled their exponential growth into the industry leader they are today. As a result of their success, Nestle-Purina decided to buy the Merrick Pet Care brand.

Some dog owners worried that the new ownership would negatively impact Merrick’s products. But, most original formulas have changed very little. The biggest changes following the purchase involved different canning techniques learned from Purina.

To this day, every Merrick recipe is created and tested in the original Merrick kitchen in Hereford, Texas. The company uses fresh, whole-food ingredients from farmers within the United States. And all Merrick foods are manufactured in the USA.

Merrick recipes continue to exclude preservatives, fillers, and artificial additives. The brand even avoids using additives commonly found in other Purina recipes.

Related brands in the same family as Merrick pet foods include Castor & Pollux, Whole Earth Farms, and Zuke’s.

Ingredient Quality

raw meat fish chicken ingredients

Merrick outperforms other Purina-owned dog food brands in ingredient quality. The first ingredient in every Merrick recipe is premium deboned animal protein. The company prioritizes using real meat as the base for all of their formulas.

Quality sources of animal protein are essential for ensuring the digestibility of any dog food. Dogs evolved to thrive on omnivorous diets based on animal meat. These ingredients have a greater nutrient bioavailability and are important sources of essential amino acids.

Although plant-protein is more difficult to digest, whole fruits and vegetables can also be valuable in dog food recipes. Merrick formulas use fruits and veggies as rich sources of vitamins and antioxidants.

Natural sources of fiber from fibrous whole foods also help support healthy digestion. Fiber acts as a prebiotic to nourish the good bacteria in your dog’s gut. [3]

Many budget pet food manufacturers use questionable sources of ingredients by importing products from abroad. But some pet owners have concerns over ingredients sourced from China and other countries.

Merrick uses local farms to source their ingredients. And any other sources must meet rigorous standards from the FDA and USDA. Responsible sourcing helps ensure that this dog food brand uses only the best ingredients.

Most Merrick recipes also include nutraceuticals. These ingredients support the whole food ingredients used in each recipe by providing concentrated nutritional support for common issues.

Nutraceuticals include chondroprotective ingredients like Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Probiotic cultures introduce good bacteria into the digestive system. And concentrated omega-3 fatty acids help promote healthy inflammation levels.

What you don’t find on the ingredient list is just as important as what’s on it. Merrick dog foods do not contain artificial ingredients like preservatives, colors, or flavors. Instead, the company uses botanicals to make their food appealing to picky pups.

Legal Issues and Controversies

A recent class-action lawsuit against Merrick Pet Care and Nestle Purina Petcare argued that the companies mislabeled their dog food. The lawsuit claims the companies used vitamins and minerals sourced from foreign countries while labeling their food as “USA-sourced.”

Merrick uses whole food ingredients sourced from farms in the US. But many pet food brands use vitamin and mineral premixes from China or India to fortify their recipes. Manufacturers do not have to share this information if the minerals are mixed together in a separate country. [4]

Other controversies include Merrick’s role in the 2018 FDA investigation into the link between grain-free diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Several of the dogs found to have an increased risk of heart disease ate Merrick grain-free dog food. [5]

The company’s team of veterinarians and nutritionists performed a comprehensive review of their formulas to ensure the safety of their recipes. Recipes that contain legumes are appropriately balanced. And all dry dog foods feature added taurine for heart health.

Available Merrick Product Lines

Merrick offers several unique product lines designed to meet the special needs of your furry best friend. Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Merrick Grain Free

Merrick Grain Free

The grain-free product line from Merrick features a variety of wet and dry dog food formulas suitable for all life stages and breed sizes.

These recipes contain protein from up to 84% animal sources. In addition to eliminating grain, Merrick’s Grain-Free formulas also limit plant-based ingredients to maximize the bioavailability of nutrients.

Whole foods like blueberries and sweet potatoes help balance the nutritional content.

Deboned fish, meat, or poultry is the first ingredient of every recipe. If your dog is sensitive to a certain type of animal protein, several varieties offer alternative meat sources.

Specialized recipes cater to large breeds, seniors, overweight dogs, and other special needs. But every formula offers skin, coat, and joint support from high levels of omega fatty acids and glucosamine.

The grain-free line is ideal for dogs with gluten sensitivities. But it may not be suitable for pups with heart health concerns due to the potential link to DCM.




Merrick Backcountry

Merrick Backcountry

Merrick Backcountry range of products uses exotic proteins to create premium dog food formulas based on the ancestral canine diet.

This line contains both grain-inclusive and grain-free recipes. But both varieties feature freeze-dried coatings of raw infused meat to boost nutritional content. This raw coating allows your pup to get the benefits of a raw diet in the convenience of a commercial formula.

Like other Merrick products, deboned meat is the primary ingredient in all Backcountry recipes. If your dog has a grain sensitivity, grain-free Backcountry formulas may be the best choice. But the healthy whole grains of other recipes have extra fiber for healthy digestion.

Grain-inclusive Backcountry recipes can also be beneficial for dogs at risk of developing heart conditions as they do not contain any peas or lentils.

Merrick dog food reviews from pet parents share noticeable improvements in the overall health of dogs fed this diet. Most dog owners feel that these recipes are worth their higher price tag.




Merrick Full Source

Merrick Full Source

Merrick Full Source recipes use the entire animal source of meat-based ingredients. This whole-prey approach is a sustainable method for producing a high-protein and nutrient-rich formula.

85-90% of the protein in Full Source dog foods comes from meat content. These sources also include cartilage and organ meats that act as concentrated sources of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

Grain-free Full Source recipes use sweet potatoes as an alternative source of digestible carbohydrates, And Full Source Healthy Grains options contain oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice for extra fiber.

Like Merrick’s Backcountry range, this product line also features freeze-dried raw-coated kibble. This addition combines the benefits of raw infused meat with the safety of a commercially available recipe.

Your dog’s ancestors ate the entire body of their prey to consume natural sources of concentrated vitamins and minerals. These formulas need less fortification thanks to the comprehensive nutrient content of full source animal protein.

This product line is available exclusively at Pet Supplies Plus, Petco, and independent retailers.




Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet

The range of Limited Ingredient Diets from Merrick features recipes that offer comprehensive nutrition from less than ten main ingredients. A limited ingredient diet is best suited for adult dogs.

Dogs with food sensitivities depend on a limited ingredient diet formula to eliminate common food allergens responsible for adverse reactions. Added fortification with vitamins and minerals ensures that these simple recipes still meet the daily nutrient requirements from AAFCO.

Pups with food intolerances often do best on a grain-free diet. But this product line also features grain-inclusive recipes.

Limited Ingredient Diet formulas use a single source of animal protein as the first ingredient. The dry food recipes use either salmon or chicken. If your dog has a chicken allergy, consider an alternative wet food.

Like all Merrick formulas, these recipes exclude corn, wheat, soy, and artificial additives. These ingredients may cause adverse reactions in more sensitive dogs.




Merrick Classic Healthy Grains

Merrick Classic Healthy Grains

Merrick Classic Healthy Grains recipes offers a selection of healthy grain-inclusive formulas for dogs who benefit from whole grain ingredients. These formulas are well suited for small breeds, puppies, and adults.

These easily digestible recipes feature balanced levels of animal proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Ancient grains and other whole grain ingredients offer high levels of carbohydrates and fiber.

Dogs with heart concerns may need to avoid peas, lentils, and potatoes. Dog foods in this product range exclude all of those ingredients to support optimal heart health. Instead, barley, quinoa, and brown rice are the primary carbohydrate sources.

Guaranteed levels of omega fatty acids boost immune function and promote a healthy inflammatory response. Plus, added glucosamine and chondroitin help ease discomfort from joint conditions.

Merrick dog food reviews from pet owners recommend these formulas as appealing options for picky eaters.




Merrick Lil’ Plates

Merrick Lil' Plates

The Merrick Lil’ Plates line features recipes exclusively designed to meet the unique nutritional requirements of small breeds. These formulas are breed-specific and suitable for all life stages.

Small breeds have fast metabolisms that require dense nutrition with adequate energy levels. Despite their increased energy needs, your tiny friend can only eat a small serving size. And generic dog food with average-sized kibble may not fit in their little mouths.

Merrick Lil’ Plates formulas have concentrated amounts of high-quality protein for increased digestibility and energy. Toy breeds also need consistent sources of carbohydrates from their diets to prevent hypoglycemia.

Grain-Free Lil’ Plates recipes use starchy vegetables as alternative sources of carbohydrates. While Healthy Grains options feature high levels of digestible carbohydrates from whole grains.

These formulas also have concentrated levels of omega fatty acids from sunflower oil and flaxseed. Fat is an excellent source of energy for small dogs. And omega-3 fatty acids help support a healthy coat.




Merrick Dog Food Recall History

Merrick Pet Care does have a history of dog food recalls. But, the company remains dedicated to continually improving the safety of their products to meet their high standards. And most of their recalls involve dog treats, not dog food recipes.

Here are the most recent recalls of Merrick dog products.

  • May 2018 – Merrick Pet Care announced a voluntary recall of three flavors of Merrick Backcountry treats due to potentially x levels of elevated beef thyroid hormone. [6]
  • August 2011 – The FDA recalled Merrick Doggie Wishbone treats with a best-by date of January 30, 2013, in lot #11031 due to potential salmonella contamination. [7]
  • January 2011 – The FDA recalled Merrick Jr. Texas Taffy pet treats in all products with a lot number of 10364 or lower due to a potential salmonella contamination. [8]
  • July 2010 – The FDA recalled Merrick Texas Hold Ems Pet Treats with a best-by date of May 6, 2012 and Merrick Beef Filet Squares 10 oz bags with a best-by date of March 24, 2012 due to another potential salmonella contamination. [9]

Salmonella is a harmful bacteria that can cause severe illness in humans and dogs. Thankfully, there have been no recalls of Merrick dog food due to salmonella concerns since 2011. Most Purina-owned dog food brands perform regular testing for the bacteria.

You can view a complete list of all dog food recalls sorted by date. [10]

Our Verdict

This Merrick dog food review demonstrates that this brand is an excellent choice for pet owners seeking an affordable premium diet for their pups.

Merrick dog food uses high-quality ingredients sourced from the USA to create a wide variety of product ranges suited for nearly any dog. Although Purina eventually bought this small, family-run company, their successful formulas have remained nearly unchanged.

All Merrick dog food formulas feature real meat as the first ingredient. But dog owners can select from both grain-free and grain inclusive recipes to find the best diet for their four-legged friend.

Several product lines emphasize ancestral diets and use freeze-dried raw infused kibble to boost nutrient content. And others feature high-quality limited ingredient recipes for sensitive dogs.

If you want to feed your dog a specialized, premium dog food with a superior value, consider Merrick dog food.

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