Monday, May 7, 2012

Food Reviews: Second Batch Preview

Ebon with the food, ordered by the "best if used by" dates. The foods that will expire soonest are to the left, latest to the right. All of these were purchased at the local Pet Supermarket. I also picked up some treats to replace the ones I recently trashed.
I mentioned in my Castor & Pollux review that I would be soon making my decision about whether or not I would be doing more reviews. I've decided I am, so today I went and picked up five more foods that I'll be reviewing over the next few months. This time, all of the bags I purchased were fifteen pounds except for the thirteen-point-two pound bag of Evo. My only real requirements for the foods I was picking were that they all had to be four or five stars on Dog Food Advisor (DFA), and were not to have been involved in the recent recalls that have been coming out of the recalls that have been traced back to the Diamond Dog Food plant in Gaston, SC. You will note that California Natural is actually a three star food, which I will be getting back to.

Merrick 5-Star Entrees
First on the list is a bag of Grammy's Pot Pie. Merrick produces a wide variety of products, including the Castor and Pollux line that I so recently reviewed. The 5-Star Entrees is just another of the several brands they produce, which also include Before Grain and Whole Earth Farms. All of the brands they produce are good, with none of the kibbles dropping below a four star rating on DFA. The 5-Star Entrees line itself is a four star line, though the cans are five stars.

An important note: due to the date on the bag of Merrick I purchased, and the fact that I have not yet opened the Blue Buffalo Wilderness, I am rotating this food forward. That's right, I will be reviewing this food beginning tonight, when I would have otherwise been opening my bag of Wilderness. The Wilderness review will then follow.

I also picked up a bag of Turkey & Chicken Formula. Evo is one of several brands manufactured by Natura Pet, who produces five different lines of kibble and cans which range from thee stars to five stars. Evo is overall a five star line, though the 95% cans are only four stars. So far, this will be the food with the highest protein by far that Ebon has ever eaten, with a crude protein level of forty-two percent. Hopefully he handles it well and doesn't turn out like Siggy, who can't handle protein levels over about twenty-five percent. So far, Ebon has done great on a variety of protein levels, but the highest thus far has only been thirty-five percent.

California Natural
I actually picked this food up on accident. I thought it was a four star food, but it is actually only three stars. It's only some of the grain free products by this brand that are four or even five stars. Their canned foods are all five stars. California Natural is also another brand produced by Natura Pet. I almost picked up a bag of their grain free Kangaroo and Red Lentil food, but opted instead for the Large Bite Lamb Meal & Rice Formula. Interestingly enough, both foods have the same three star rating, which is proof that a grain free food isn't automatically stellar. Though three stars is still a rather good food, this will be the lowest rated food that Ebon has eaten in a number of years. I'm still going to include the food in the reviews both to compare it to the other foods he has eaten and since there aren't many ingredients and those that are in the food are rather good and are unlikely to pose any issue to Ebon.

The next bag I picked up is the Large Bite Adult Dry Dog Food. Overall, Innova is a highly rated brand. Except for their three star senior and low fat formulations, their kibble is mostly four stars, and the grains free ones are even five stars. The cans are four stars. Innova seems comparable in ingredients to a couple of foods Ebon has been fed before, with its multiple protein and grain sources. We shall see how well he does on it compared to those similar foods. Innova is yet another brand produced by Natura Pet. I wasn't aware that these three foods were all Natura products until I began ordering them by expiration date. It will be quite interesting to compare these foods, all of which are vary in quality, and to see how Ebon does on a range of foods from the same corporation.

Dogswell Nutrisca
Dogswell is a brand I know far better as a producer of dog treats rather than dog foods. However, everything I have seen about their products and everything I have experiences feeding their treats in the past have been positive. Their foods are all four or five stars, with the vast majority being five stars like Nutrisca. Nutrisca is an interesting set of foods as not only is it grain free, but it's also potato free. The only sources of carbohydrates in the food are vegetables such as chickpeas and peas, and some fruits such as apple and blueberry. I am quite curious about how Ebon will react to this food, as he has not been fed anything quite like it before. Of the three formulations, the Chicken and Chickpea recipe, which I bought, has the highest protein content.

If it were not for the recent flood of recalls I would likely be reviewing foods from the Canidae and Natural Balance lines. Though these foods have not tested positive for Salmonella, other food produced at the Gaston plant have. The additional recalls have been precautionary, and I applaud the company for doing this. Once things have been sorted I do intend to try out their products as well.


  1. I had Canidae in my lineup as well. But for caution's sake, I dropped it despite my state not being on the distribution list and the formula I was going to use isn't even one of those on there. But still, I'd rather not chance it.

    That coming from someone who normally feeds their dog raw chicken. Yep, I make a whole lot of sense.

    1. It is an interesting comparison to make. However, there is quite a bit of difference between the potentials for contamination in raw meat and kibble.

      Kibble is handled and processed heavily, coming in contact with a lot of machinery that has the potential of being improperly cleaned and/or maintained. It is quite possible for even a well cleaned piece of machinery to have remnants of bacteria that may have been missed. The more machinery, the greater the potential. Then, the kibble may end up sitting in its bag on a shelf for a long time before being consumed. Even if proper precautions are maintained, the amount of contact and the potential wait times involved make recalls, in my opinion, inevitable. I try my best to find foods with long shelf lives because it is closer to its manufacture date.

      The handling of raw meat, in contrast, is fairly minimal and, if you buy minimally processed meat (such as whole birds, etc.) it can be quite safe, especially if it is as fresh as possible. The more processed/handled and the longer it sits around, the more likely something harmful will grow on it. With meat, you can also always buy fresh and freeze it, which is something I think few kibble feeders would think to do. I can definitely see the sense in your decisions.

  2. Hey Stephanie,

    I'm a new reader (also a dog lover & biologist). I searched your blog to try to see if you've ever considered feeding Ebon raw, fresh food. I can't find any mention of why not, so - why not? Have you considered it?

    I used to try all kinds of dry kibble, even keeping a spreadsheet to get the best value. I frequented DFA. I fed a lot of Evo. I have two large dogs and it was quite expensive! They were doing okay on kibble, but are much better now since we switched to raw over 2 years ago. I actually save money because I get all their food for free (craigslist and roadkilled deer that my husband and I butcher ourselves) or cheap (they each get an egg a day, free range eggs sold by our neighbor for $1/dozen). All I pay for is to run the chest freezers (energy savers - they claim to run on $30/year but I haven't tested this yet). There are raw food co ops in many areas if you are interested in feeding raw and saving money. Even if you did all your shopping for Ebon in the supermarket and butcher shop, I bet you wouldn't pay that much more than you're paying now for high quality kibble.

    1. Amy, I have definitely considered it. I've even mentioned it before on the blog, twice. I have in the past done quite a bit of research on the subject and have debated about whether or not I should do it.

      I am also quite aware that raw feeding has the potential to be significantly cheaper than kibble, depending on how you do it. One of the biggest reasons I don't feed raw is that I can't afford, nor do I have room for, a chest freezer. The small freezer we do have isn't able to hold much, so if I did choose to feed raw it really wouldn't be practical for a dog Ebon's size. For now, Ebon gets raw bits and pieces on occasion, including any trimmings that we take off of the meat we cook for ourselves.

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