Are Grain-Free Foods Taking Over the Premium Dry Dog Food Market?


I was in a chain pet supply store the other day, looking for a higher-quality food for some foster dogs from my local shelter who are a little chubby. For this reason, I was looking for a product that was not too high in fat.

I was a bit surprised to realize that grain-free foods have sort of taken over the shelves in the section of the store where the higher-quality foods are stocked. Many of the companies whose products appear in the “natural/holistic” or “premium” section seem to offer only grain-free foods. I had to go through several aisles before I found a product from a company that I like offering a food that contained grain and had a lower fat content.

After I got home, I did more research; are these companies discontinuing their dry dog foods that contain grain? The answer was no; the companies I was thinking of still offered those products, but the chain store where I was shopping that day didn’t stock them. That said, some of the companies have far more grain-free options than foods that contain grain.

Are Grain-Free Foods Taking Over the Premium Dry Dog Food Market?

For example, one whole aisle was devoted to Merrick, and only Merrick’s grain-free foods were being sold. Most of these foods contain a minimum of 38 percent protein and 17 percent fat. At home, I saw that Merrick still offers a “Classic” line of foods that contain grains, and these contain slightly less fat (15 percent) but also less protein (25 percent in the case of the lamb variety, and 30 percent for the beef and chicken varieties).

The marketing of foods has also gotten very focused on grains, whether pro or con. Merrick highlights the Classic line as containing “ancient grains like quinoa.” Quinoa is a favored ingredient in dog food advertising, perhaps because no one has yet launched a campaign against it. Never mind that quinoa appears fairly low down on the ingredients lists of these foods. For example, in Merrick’s Chicken variety, it appears 10th on the ingredients list, well below peas (3rd), brown rice (5th), and barley (6th).

Some dogs do better on grain-free foods than on a diet that contains grains, but this isn’t true of all dogs. I wouldn’t give grain-free foods a blanket recommendation for all dogs; I don’t think they are a superior diet, except for dogs that have a specific problem digesting grains. Other dogs might have difficulty digesting the carbohydrate sources that are in the grain-free foods!

How about you? Are you feeding grain-free? If so, why? Have you seen any changes in your dog’s health or digestion since using these diets?

Note: We published a great article on the issue of grain-free foods in 2010. Check it out!


  1. Most commercially grown grains — GMO soy, corn, wheat — are saturated with toxins like Round-Up herbicide and/or pesticides which trigger systemic severe reaction in allergy-prone dogs, unfortunately fast becoming the majority in the U.S.

  2. Actually – GMOs are grown without pesticides or insecticides.

    But – all GMO food products are harmful to humans and pets – there is no exception – none are safe. Our FDA approved GMOs in 1982 and seems to have completely ignored the consequences – whereas the majority of civilized countries (except the US) now ban GMOs for health reasons. Our FDA is protecting no one from GMO – it is all about food for profit for commercial growers and their downline producers. Any US grown commercial grain product that you consume (most everything) is GMO, so your bread, cereal, cookies, crackers, (anything made with wheat flour), corn, soy, barley, rye, bran, oats, brown rice, white rice are GMO products unless they are grown organically (which is non-GMO by definition). Consequently, any animals that are fed these GMO grains – which is the majority unless specifically grass-fed – have GMO in their animal protein.

    The GMO seeds are biologically modified to add an additional hard-core lectin protein that keeps insects from consuming and destroying the plant. The insects that do try to consume the plant usually die, which is the intention. GMOs alleviate the need for insecticides (saves money for the producers) and subsequently increases crop yield and gross margins. These GMO Lectins in corn, soy and many other grain products destroy the stomach biology of humans and animals (dogs- cats) and cause all sorts of digestion, inflammation and other medical problems – the list of problems is massive. For this specific reason, Whole Foods does not sell a single item that contains GMO grains or vegetables which is why virtually all of these products are organic and expensive, but absolutely worth it if you care about your health.

    For the last 6 months (better late than never) I no longer consume any American produced dairy or grain products but rather grass-fed eggs and grass-fed animal protein (beef, chicken, pork) – which is 2-3 times as expensive (something I have learned to accept) but most everything else out there is garbage because it contains GMOs. I am healthier than I have been in the last 20 years – perfect gut health and have lost over 20 pounds without doing anything else – just changed my diet. I no longer have any inflammation pain and haven’t taken an ibuprofen in months. My dogs get the same diet as I do with Visionary Pet – Keto Dog Food which is grain free and has no funky GMO vegetables which contain lectins. They also have never been healthier. Both are 12-13 years old, perfect weight now and plenty of energy and mobility. Bottom line – you are what you eat – that’s an absolute fact – same thing applies to your pets. All you have to do is look at what has happened to people since 1982 – over half of the population is overweight, a third are obese and experiencing record medical issues.


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