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10 Best Beef Dog Foods in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

golden retriever puppies

While most dog food is filled with wonderful ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and grains, we all know that it’s the protein source that’s the real star — and it’s hard to beat beef. Feeding your dog beef is a great way to keep him lean, healthy, and happy.

Of course, choosing the right beef food for your dog can be nerve-wracking. Every brand says that it’s the only food that has everything your dog needs. Unless you went to vet school, wading through all those claims can be intimidating — not to mention exhausting.

That’s why we’ve done all that for you. In the reviews below, you’ll discover which beef foods we think are best for your dog (and your budget). To make this list, we pored over ingredient lists, compared nutritional profiles, and checked to see what dogs actually prefer eating.

The foods that made the cut are so healthy and delicious, you may think about trying a bowl yourself.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Iams Proactive Dry Dog Food Iams Proactive Dry Dog Food
  • Feature iconLots of protein inside
  • Feature iconUses farm-raised beef
  • Feature iconHigh fiber content
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Blue Buffalo Adult Wet Dog Food Blue Buffalo Adult Wet Dog Food
  • Feature iconOmits many common allergens
  • Feature iconIncludes superfoods like cranberries
  • Feature iconHas lots of beef, including beef broth and liver
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dog Food The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dog Food
  • Feature iconEach box goes a long way
  • Feature iconHuman-grade ingredients
  • Feature iconCattle are humanely-raised
  • Best for Puppies
    Merrick Grain Free Wet Dog Food Merrick Grain Free Wet Dog Food
  • Feature iconIdeal for puppies
  • Feature iconFilled with high-quality ingredients
  • Feature iconNo grain or poultry to upset stomachs
  • Purina ONE Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Purina ONE Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Feature iconKibble is small enough for toy breeds
  • Feature iconIncludes antioxidants to boost immune system
  • Feature iconAdded glucosamine for joint health
  • The 10 Best Beef Dog Foods – Reviews 2021

    1. Iams Proactive Dry Dog Food – Best Overall


    Iams 10171731 Proactive Health Adult Dry Dog Food

    There’s plenty of protein inside Iams Proactive Health, as in addition to farm-raised beef it also boasts chicken, egg, and chicken fat. All that protein will help your pup build plenty of lean muscle, while also preventing him from getting too pudgy.

    It’s not all meat and protein, though. There’s also plenty of veggies for vitamins and fiber, like carrots, beet pulp, and flaxseed. That ensures your pooch will get all the nutrients he needs to keep his coat shiny, his bones and teeth strong, and his digestive tract in good working order. Of course, all that added fiber will likely also lead to an increase in gas, so maybe don’t stand downwind after dinner.

    The manufacturers also added an extra dose of L-Carnitine, which helps regulate metabolism, making this a good choice for dogs that need to shed a few pounds.

    Regardless of your dog’s size, Iams Proactive Health should have all he needs to stay strong, trim, and healthy, which is why it’s a no-brainer pick for our top spot.

    • Lots of protein inside
    • Uses farm-raised beef
    • High fiber content
    • Added L-Carnitine to regulate metabolism
    • Good for keeping coat shiny and bones strong
    • May cause gas
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    2. Blue Buffalo Adult Wet Dog Food – Best Value

    Blue Buffalo 840243104956 Adult Wet Dog Food

    This wet food from Blue Buffalo foregoes many common allergens, like wheat, grain, and chicken. Instead, the recipe is filled with all kinds of beef, including beef broth and liver.

    There are several so-called “superfoods” in each can as well, such as blueberries, cranberries, and flaxseed. These have a ton of vitamins and minerals in them, including omega fatty acids, which can help everything from your dog’s heart to his immune system.

    Despite all this goodness, this is a relatively inexpensive food. You can stretch your dollar even further by mixing it with kibble if you like.

    Just be aware that this is extremely rich food, so you may need to ease your dog into it to avoid an upset stomach. Once he’s acclimated, though, he should love it — and so should your pocketbook, which is why we feel it’s the best beef dog food for the money.

    • Omits many common allergens
    • Has lots of beef, including beef broth and liver
    • Includes superfoods like cranberries
    • Good budget option
    • Mixes well with dry kibble
    • Extremely rich
    • May take some getting used to
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    3. The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dog Food – Premium Choice

    The Honest Kitchen VR Organic Whole Grain Dog Food

    The Honest Kitchen VR Organic is a dehydrated option, so you’ll need to add some water and stir it up before serving. However, that ensures that each box goes a long way, which helps to offset its high sticker price.

    Your money certainly buys quality food, however. All of the ingredients are human-grade, and the beef is ranch-raised, so you don’t have to worry about the cows being mistreated or shot full of antibiotics and hormones.

    Because there aren’t any processed ingredients in this food, your dog should digest it well. It’s low in fat and calories as well, so there’s little risk of your dog packing on the pounds with this food.

    However, the tricky part is convincing your dog to try it. It’s unlike any other food you’ve given him in the past, and many pups are hesitant to give it a shot.

    If you can convince him to taste it (and convince your bank to finance a box or two), The Honest Kitchen VR Organic is one of the best foods on the market today.

    • Each box goes a long way
    • Human-grade ingredients
    • Cattle are humanely-raised
    • Dogs digest it well
    • Low in fat and calories
    • Extremely expensive
    • Many dogs are hesitant to eat it
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    4. Merrick Grain Free Wet Dog Food – Best For Puppies

    Merrick 00812 Grain Free Wet Dog Food

    We won’t judge you if you feel tempted to try a bit of the Merrick Grain Free yourself, because it looks exactly like a big bowl of beef stew. Your puppy will be thrilled, then, to see you exercise some self-restraint (you didn’t actually try it, did you?) and feed it to him instead.

    This food is specially-formulated for puppies, so don’t expect it to have all the nutrients a fully-developed dog needs. However, it’s got everything a growing animal requires, including lots of deboned beef, peas, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.

    Just as notable is what it doesn’t have, which is grain or poultry. These can be difficult for young dogs to tolerate, so omitting them reduces the risk that you’ll have stomach problems to deal with. The fact that it’s made in the USA eliminates another possible source for digestive problems.

    The majority of each can is moisture, however, rather than protein or fat. As a result, Merrick Grain Free is best combined with dry food that will round out your dog’s nutritional profile.

    • Ideal for puppies
    • Filled with high-quality ingredients
    • No grain or poultry to upset stomachs
    • Made in the USA
    • Each can is primarily moisture
    • Should be combined with a dry food
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    5. Purina ONE Natural Adult Dry Dog Food

    Purina 14930 ONE SmartBlend Natural Adult Dry Dog Food

    Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural has bits of tender meat mixed in with the dry food, so it’s no wonder that it often proves to be a hit with dogs. The kibble is tiny, making it suitable for smaller pups, but it’s also filled with nutrients that big dogs need, like glucosamine for joint health.

    The manufacturer also adds an antioxidant blend to the formula, which should help turbo-charge your dog’s immune system. You’ll also find extra calcium, Niacin, vitamin E, and more.

    Our biggest concern is that the ingredient list is full of foods that are known to cause issues with sensitive dogs, like whole grain wheat, chicken by-product, and artificial coloring. There’s also a bit more salt than we’d like to see.

    Ultimately, Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural is a middle-of-the-road food that’s sold at a middle-of-the-road price. Your dog should do fine on it, but he would probably fare better eating one of the foods ranked above.

    • Kibble is small enough for toy breeds
    • Added glucosamine for joint health
    • Includes antioxidants to boost immune system
    • Includes lots of common problem foods
    • High salt content
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    6. Diamond Naturals Real Meat Dry Dog Food

    Diamond Naturals 418439 Real Meat Recipe Dry Dog Food

    At first glance, Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe looks like everything you’d want in dog food: it doesn’t have corn or wheat, there are plenty of omega fatty acids for your dog’s skin and coat, and it has probiotics for digestive health.

    Unfortunately, you don’t have to look very hard on the package to find a big problem: the first ingredient is beef meal, not real beef. What’s in beef meal? That’s a very good question — and one that you probably don’t want to know the answer to.

    There are a lot of “superfoods” in this kibble, like kale, chia seeds, and kelp, but there’s virtually nothing in the way of real, trustworthy meat. Most dogs prefer meat to kelp and kale, so you may have difficulty getting your pooch to eat it. The kibble itself is also very hard, so it may not be a good choice for senior dogs or those with dental issues.

    It’s a shame that Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe skimps on the “real meat” portion of their name because this looks like a good product otherwise.

    • No corn or wheat
    • Lots of vitamin-rich superfoods
    • Probiotics for digestive health
    • Uses beef meal instead of real beef
    • Many dogs don’t like flavor
    • Kibble is very hard
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    7. Rachael Ray Nutrish Dry Dog Food

    Rachael Ray Nutrish 198904 Dry Dog Food

    Each bag of Rachael Ray Nutrish proudly states that real beef is the #1 ingredient, and that’s true (and good). However, what they don’t tell you is that beef meal is the second ingredient, and that’s not such a good thing.

    There’s an awful lot of filler in this food, and that negates most of the things we like about it. In addition to beef meal, it’s also stuffed with corn and wheat. This helps keep the price down, but at the expense of your dog’s nutrition — and those ingredients often cause digestive issues, so you may want to buy an extra roll of poop bags to go with the kibble.

    On the sunny side of the ledger, there’s brown rice and beet pulp for fiber, and chicken fat adds a nice boost of omega fatty acids.

    That’s not enough to outweigh the dodgy ingredients, though, and so Rachael Ray Nutrish will have to be satisfied with a bottom-tier ranking.

    • Real beef is #1 ingredient
    • Lots of fiber and omega fatty acids
    • Loaded with cheap fillers
    • May cause digestive issues
    • Beef meal is second ingredient
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    8. Crave Grain Free Dry Dog Food

    Crave 10171455 Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food

    Crave Grain Free is filled with protein — it’s 34% protein, in fact. However, in what’s becoming a theme with the foods near the bottom of our list, the issue is where that protein comes from.

    As with the Rachael Ray Nutrish, real beef is the first ingredient. It goes downhill sharply after that, though, as it also has chicken meal, pork meal, and lamb meal. All of those meals help keep the price down, as otherwise, food with this much protein would be very expensive, but they lower the quality of the kibble in the process.

    It’s also extremely high in fat and low in fiber, which isn’t a good combination if your dog is looking more porky than a Corgi.

    The flavor is likely to be a hit, though. There are quite a few pea-based ingredients inside as well, which is good for bone health.

    If protein is your top concern when choosing a food, Crave Grain Free might be right for you. If you care about nutritional balance, though, you’ll probably want to keep looking.

    • Dogs like flavor
    • Lots of peas for bone health
    • Filled with protein meals
    • Very high fat content
    • Little fiber inside
    • Not good for overweight dogs
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    9. NUTRO MAX Adult Dry Dog Food

    NUTRO MAX 10143202 Adult Dry Dog Food

    There is real beef in NUTRO MAX, but you’re going to have to look pretty hard to find it. The first ingredient is chicken meal, which is a sort of double whammy, since it’s both a low-quality filler as well as a food that often causes digestive issues.

    In addition to possibly wreaking havoc on his bowels, this food could possibly make his doggy breath worse (if such a thing is possible). Dogs with skin conditions may find their problems worsened as well.

    The company markets this to large breed dogs specifically, but if that’s the case, we feel there should be ingredients inside that promote healthy joints, like glucosamine and chondroitin. No such luck — and there’s a lot of fat inside, which can lead to weight gain and exacerbate joint problems.

    The good news is there are no grains in this food, as it uses oatmeal, sorghum, flaxseed, and rice instead. That provides more vitamins and minerals, with less likelihood of an upset stomach.

    Of course, saying that a food doesn’t have one ingredient that causes digestive issues doesn’t do much good if it has a bunch of other ingredients that do. As a result, it’s hard to justify recommending this food with so many other better options available.

    • Uses flaxseed and similar ingredients instead of grains
    • Not much beef inside
    • May cause bowel issues
    • Can worsen doggy breath
    • Not ideal for pups with skin conditions
    • Lacks ingredients for joint health
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    10. Merrick Classic Healthy Grains

    Merrick 35322 Classic Healthy Grains

    The biggest selling point that Merrick Classic Healthy Grains offers is what’s not inside — specifically, a lack of problematic ingredients like wheat, poultry, and legumes.

    Unfortunately, the ingredients that are actually in the bag aren’t as promising. There’s a lot of protein meal, not to mention an awful lot of salt. Also, the recipe is filled with grains (as you might expect, given the name), but that apparently didn’t leave much room for fruits and veggies. For the price, you’d expect a more well-rounded ingredients list.

    Bigger dogs may have issues eating it as well, since the kibble is incredibly small. This can lead to gagging and choking, so you may want to monitor your mutt as he eats.

    Merrick made some smart choices when deciding what ingredients to skip, but their decision-making faltered somewhere along the way. The end result is food that barely makes this list.

    • Lacks many problematic ingredients
    • Filled with low-quality protein meals
    • High salt content
    • Lacks fruits and veggies
    • Small kibble poses choking hazard
    • Expensive for what you get
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    In addition to lean, farm-raised beef, Iams Proactive Health also has lots of fiber, not to mention L-Carnitine to regulate metabolism. The end result is a tasty food that will build muscle instead of fat, so you’re less likely to have to deal with weight management issues.

    Blue Buffalo’s wet food is also filled with cow, yet it somehow manages to be a budget-friendly option. We also like that it isn’t stuffed with problematic ingredients, as the manufacturers chose to replace those with superfoods like cranberries instead.

    We know that choosing a food for your dog isn’t easy, and we hope our reviews have helped you find a beef food that your pooch will love. Our top picks are delicious and nutritious, and we’re confident that they have everything a dog needs to stay healthy.

    Or if you prefer, you could just cook your dog a steak. We’re sure he’d appreciate it.

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    Featured Image: jagdprinzessin from Pixabay