Merrick Grain Free Dog Food Review: Recalls, Pros & Cons

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merrick grain free review

Our Final Verdict

We give Merrick Grain Free dog food a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.:

Introduction

It all started with a hungry dog. Merrick Dog Food was born in founder Garth Merrick’s kitchen in Hereford, Texas, in 1988. Merrick wanted to give his dog the best food possible, which meant cooking for her himself. Soon, he realized that his recipes were delicious and nutritious enough that he could sell them — and his new dog food company took off like a shot.

While he’s cooking for a lot more than one pooch now, Merrick still uses natural, high-quality ingredients as often as possible. The company also pairs with animal shelters and other dog-related charities to give back to the community.

Merrick’s grain-free line was started to accommodate dogs that have difficulty processing corn, wheat, and other grains, and it’s become a favorite of owners who don’t want to feed their dogs a bunch of empty calories. This is one of our favorite grain-free foods, but it’s not without its flaws, as you’ll see below.

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At a Glance: The Best Merrick Grain Free Dog Food Recipes:

Dog FoodPriceDry?Flavor
Merrick Grain Free Dry
Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food (Variety Flavors)
(Our Favorite)

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YesTexas Beef & Sweet Potato
Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight
Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food Recipes

Check Price
YesBeef, Chicken & Potatoes
Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed
Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe

Check Price
YesBeef & Sweet Potato
Merrick Grain Free Large Breed
Merrick Grain Free Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Check Price
YesChicken, Peas & Sweet Potato
Merrick Grain Free Senior
Merrick Grain Free Senior Dog Food

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YesChicken & Sweet Potato

Merrick Grain Free Dog Food Reviewed

Who Makes Merrick Grain Free Dog Food and Where is It Produced?

Merrick Grain Free Dog Food is made in Hereford, Texas. It started out as a private label, but in 2015 the company was acquired by Nestle Purina PetCare Company.

Which Types of Dogs is Merrick Grain Free Dog Food Best Suited For?

This food is good for dogs that have sensitive stomachs, as many grains can act as allergens.

Grains can also be filled with empty calories, so it’s a smart choice for pups that are struggling to maintain a healthy weight.

Other dogs should do well on it, too, as they’ll find it easier to absorb the nutrients without all those filler grains inside.

Which Types of Dogs Might Do Better with a Different Brand?

There’s not much fiber inside this food, so dogs that struggle to use the bathroom might need something with a bit more roughage in it, like Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food.

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Discussion of the Primary Ingredients

Before we can talk about what’s in Merrick Grain Free, we should recognize that this food is notable for what it lacks: namely, corn, wheat, and other cheap grain fillers.

Those foods offer lots of calories and little nutrition, and omitting them leaves plenty of room for the foods that did make it inside, like high-quality meats and more nutritious vegetables.

There’s usually a variety of protein sources in each bag, with the primary food (the one listed on the bag) being the first ingredient. Beyond that, there’s a variety of organ meat, animal meals, and animal fats inside, giving your dog a ton of essential vitamins and minerals.

The most common vegetable used in this line of food is sweet potato, but there are also peas, apples, blueberries, flaxseed, and more.

Many of the recipes in Merrick’s grain-free line are high in salt, so monitor your dog to make sure he’s not adding water weight or drinking excessively. 

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Merrick Grain Free Places an Emphasis on Fresh, Locally-Sourced Ingredients

When Garth Merrick began making his food, he relied on food that was locally available.

The company tries to stick to that principle as much as possible now that the food is mass-produced, and most of the ingredients (especially the meats) are among the highest-quality you’ll find anywhere.

dogs with dog food
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The Food Uses a Wide Array of Meats to Give Your Dog Balanced Nutrition

The first ingredient most people focus on is, well, the first ingredient. While this is important, it’s very difficult for your pup to get all the nutrition he needs from a single cut of meat.

Merrick Grain-Free uses all sorts of meat in their recipes, including animal meals, organ meats, and various fats. This gives your dog nutrients he can’t get from lean cuts of meat alone.

Merrick Grain Free is Low in Fiber

These foods are only about 3.5% fiber, which is fairly low, especially among higher-grade foods.

Your pup should still absorb more nutrients than he would from a grain-filled kibble, so it’s a bit of a wash, but we’d like to see more fiber added in the future. You might want to add a topper or some fruits and vegetables to give your dog a little more roughage.

A Quick Look at Merrick Grain Free Dog Food

Pros
  • Filled with high-quality protein
  • Good for dogs with sensitive stomachs
  • Has lots of omega fatty acids
Cons
  • Low amount of fiber
  • On the pricey side

Recall History

The Merrick brand has never had a recall on any of their kibbles as far as we can tell, but there were several voluntary recalls on their treats in the past ten years.

The first occurred in 2010, as several of their beef treats were recalled for possible Salmonella contamination. The first recall happened in January of that year, but there were several more subsequent recalls the rest of the year and into 2011.

No animals were reported to be ill as a result of eating the treats.

There was another recall in 2018, this time for elevated levels of a naturally-occurring beef thyroid hormone. This wasn’t believed to be life-threatening, but one dog did get sick from the treats; he later fully recovered.

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Reviews of the 3 Best Merrick Grain Free Dog Food Recipes

There are several different recipes in the Merrick Grain Free line. Below, we took an in-depth look at a few of our favorites:

1. Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food (Variety Flavors)

Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food
  • #1 ingredient: deboned meat, Fish or poultry: Merrick Grain free dog food recipes contain leading...
  • Healthy skin and coat, hips and joints: these grain free dog food recipes contain leading levels of...

This is the “standard” version of this food, and it’s available in a wide variety of flavors, including chicken, duck, bison, beef, rabbit, and more.

The food has a 70/30 balance of meat proteins and fresh produce, with about 38% of each calorie coming from protein. That’s a very high ratio, making this food excellent for active dogs that need to build lean muscle.

It also has several “superfoods” like blueberries, flaxseed oil, and salmon oil, all of which give your dog a host of antioxidants. This can slow down the aging process, boost the immune system, and nourish his coat and skin.

It has more salt than we’d like, and the food needs to be sealed tightly to prevent spoilage.

Pros
  • Extremely high protein count
  • Wide variety of exotic flavors available
  • Includes several antioxidant-rich superfoods
Cons
  • Has lots of salt
  • Food needs to be sealed tightly

2. Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food Recipes

Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food...
  • Age Range Description: Adult
  • Included Components: Pet Food

If your pooch is sporting a bit of a paunch, it may be a good idea to switch him over to Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight.

This food has a bit less protein than the regular variety, but it makes up for it by adding more fiber, which should help your dog pass some of that extra bulk.

It also has added glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which are essential for healthy joints. Since larger dogs usually suffer from joint problems, those added nutrients are a nice touch.

Just be aware that, if your dog isn’t used to a higher-fiber food, you may have to deal with some messy bathroom trips for a bit. Also, like anyone on a diet, your pup might grumble about the small portion sizes.

Pros
  • Good for overweight dogs
  • Has added fiber
  • Includes vitamins for joint health
Cons
  • May cause diarrhea
  • Recommends small portion sizes

3. Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe

Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe,...
398 Reviews
Merrick Lil Plates Grain Free Small Breed Recipe,...
  • #1 Ingredient Is Real Deboned Chicken
  • Grain-Free Nutrition With No Gluten Ingredients For Easier Digestibility. Recipe Also Includes...

Tiny pups can enjoy proper nutrition too, thanks to the Merrick Lil Plates line. This kibble is very small, which makes it easier for little mouths to eat it. It’s also specially-designed for small and toy breed dogs.

In addition to being grain-free, this recipe is also gluten-free. This should help keep the extra pounds at bay, which is important because little dogs really don’t have any room for added weight.

It’s also loaded with pre- and probiotics, which helps with digestion. Your dog should be able to better absorb the nutrients from this food after eating it for a while, and you may even see a reduction in the amount of waste he produces.

Like the flagship grain free recipe, this food is high in salt, and it’s also fairly expensive.

Pros
  • Designed for smaller breeds
  • Gluten-free as well
  • Filled with pre- and probiotics
Cons
  • High in salt
  • Fairly expensive

What Other Users Are Saying

  • HerePup: “In addition to the high-quality meat Merrick puts in their food, the company supplements it with incredibly healthy choices of vegetables as well.”
  • Dog Food Guru: “By the looks of the ingredients list, we concluded that there’s truth behind Merrick’s claims of keeping their ingredients list as short and wholesome as possible.”
  • Amazon: Pet owners should check Amazon reviews before we buy something. You can read these by clicking here.
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Conclusion

Merrick Grain Free is certainly a high-quality dog food, and it’s one that should be suitable for just about any pup — including those without sensitive dispositions. However, it’s the dogs with finicky stomachs that should enjoy it the most, as it can provide them with all the flavor they need with less risk of upsetting their digestive system.

This is pricier than some other foods out there, but that’s because the company skipped cheap fillers and replaced them with premium ingredients. If you want a food that will actually get digested instead of just running right through your dog, this is one to try.


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