Merrick Cat Food Review

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Merrick Pet Food was founded in 1988 near Amarillo, Texas, starting with natural dog treats. The brand has expanded since that time to include dog foods. In 2012 the company introduced the Purrfect Bistro menu of 21 high protein, grain free canned and dry cat foods. Merrick also owns Castor & Pollux, ORGANIX, and Natural Ultramix pet foods; and Before Grain, and Whole Earth Farms pet foods.

Who Manufactures Merrick?

Merrick has canning and dry pet food operations in Hereford, Texas and they have organic certification under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for all of their Texas manufacturing facilities. Merrick Pet Care, Inc., is the only organic-certified manufacturer for both dry and canned food for pets.

Merrick Cat Food Recalls 2019

  • Merrick had a number of dog treat recalls in 2010 and 2011. However, this was before they made cat food and before they built their own manufacturing plant. They do not appear to have had any recalls since that time. According to the truthaboutpetfood.com site, there were reports  of canned cat food containing mold in 2013, but no recall was issued.

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Overall Merrick Cat Food Reviews and Analysis

Frankly, opinions are divided about the quality of Merrick’s pet foods. Some people who have fed Merrick foods for a long time feel that the quality of the foods has fallen in recent years. See the comment section on this page, for example.  Both dog and cat owners have expressed some dissatisfaction with the foods and said that their pets would not eat them. Even some pets that formerly enjoyed the foods did not want to eat them after what were perceived to be changes in ingredients made by the company. Numerous recalls in 2010 and 2011 raised doubts about the company’s manufacturing process.

Merrick appears to have an ongoing problem with their canning process which has led to mold in some canned foods, cans that are frequently dented, and other issues. Here is a comment from one (former) customer on the truthaboutpetfood.com site, discussing mold in Merrick cans:

Please…
This is a known issue and has been documented for several years.

Merrick’s cannery is in-house, and there is no excuse for the bad seals on these cans.
When I fed Before Grain (and do not feed any Merrick products now), many case lots would have bad can seals; upon opening the cans, the food would smell like feces or otherwise be “off”.

I’ve seen cans with bulging lids and bulges on the bottoms of the cans.

There are also many documented reports of foreign objects in the cans.

Handling and any subsequent denting would not necessarily cause this issue.

Dented cans are the norm for this company and I believe they get packaged this way before they are shipped out.

Having said that, they do appear to have an issue with their cannery not sealing the cans properly.

And yes, the formulas all changed once they acquired Castor & Pollux.

Complain to them and you’ll get the response “we have had no other reports of this issue”.

On the plus side, Merrick says they use local growers for their ingredients; no poultry by-product meals, no artificial preservatives, no corn, wheat, soy, or gluten. As far as their cat foods, Merrick makes two main product lines: Purrfect Bistro and Limited Ingredient Diet. Both lines are grain free. They both come in dry and canned foods. Merrick also makes Before Grain dry cat food which comes in two recipes.

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Purrfect Bistro recipes include five kibbles and 16 wet foods. The kibbles include a recipe for kittens, a senior recipe, a recipe for healthy weight, and recipes with chicken and salmon. Canned

recipes include beef pate, beef Wellington, chicken a la king, chicken casserole, chicken divan, chicken pate, cowboy cookout, Grammy’s pot pie, salmon pate, surf & turf pate, Thanksgiving Day dinner, tuna nicoise, tuna pate, turducken, turkey pate, and duck pate. (Note that there are a few other canned recipes but they don’t show up on the Purrfect Bistro page. You have to search for them on the Merrick site.) Purrfect Bistro uses deboned meat as their first ingredient in both their dry and wet foods. According to Merrick, their Purrfect Bistro formula is 74 percent protein and fat, and 26 percent carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Limited Ingredient Diets have a single source of (deboned) animal protein and are supposed to be for cats with food sensitivities. They have no grains, soy, or gluten. They have no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. The foods do not contain eggs, beef, dairy, or chicken, which can be allergy triggers for some cats. They do contain flaxseeds, potatoes, and peas, however, which can present their own problems for some animals.

Limited Ingredient Diet recipes include two kibbles – salmon and turkey. They have four wet foods: chicken, duck, salmon, and turkey.

The Before Grain dry cat foods appear to be a more meat-based line of foods. Merrick states:

Before traditional grain based diets were invented, mealtime for generations of cats was provided by nature. Our new Before Grain product line provides a diet rich in high quality meat and bio-available nutrients the way nature intended. We believe a diet based primarily on fresh meat, super blue fruit, nutrient dense vegetables and high quality oils contribute to overall health and longevity.

Meat is the first ingredient. The foods have no grains, no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and no by-products. However, Merrick does not have much information about these foods on their site. Customer comments suggest that these foods are hard to find in stores. They come in two kibble recipes: chicken and salmon.

Individual Recipe Review (Dry) Merrick Before Grain Chicken Dry Cat Food

Griffin @ Chewy.com says:

We were very happy with food until learning recently that Merrick has been bought by Purina. Have to find a new food now.

Looking through Merrick’s dry cat foods, peas are prominent in their Purrfect Bistro and Limited Ingredient Diet recipes. While peas are a good source of vitamins and minerals and can contribute some fiber to the diet, as a plant source of protein, they are not very desirable for your cat. Peas and other legumes (like soy) can also mimic estrogen and interfere with your cat’s endocrine system. For this reason, we decided to review Merrick’s Before Grain Chicken Dry Cat Food instead since it does not use peas or other legumes or lentils that might cause these problems.

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The first five ingredients in Before Grain Chicken are Chicken Deboned, Chicken Meal, Potato Dehydrated, Turkey Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols a source of Vitamin E). This food appears to be aiming at the higher protein/biologically appropriate diet niche for cats occupied by companies such as Orijen. Three meat proteins in the first five ingredients looks good and most cats will probably appreciate the meat.

Deboned chicken typically has 60-80 percent protein and 20-40 percent fat. It’s a good source of Vitamin B6 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Niacin and Selenium. However, if the moisture were removed from the deboned chicken, this ingredient would probably be located lower on the list.

Chicken meal is a dehydrated form of chicken that has had most of the moisture removed. The protein and other nutrients will be more concentrated in chicken meal. Most people believe that chicken meal is a good pet food ingredient. Taken together, the deboned chicken and chicken meal certainly seem to make up a great deal of this food.

The third ingredient is dehydrated potatoes. While most people agree that carbs shouldn’t make up a large portion of a cat’s diet, they are able to digest some carbohydrates. Potatoes, of course, are not a grain which can make them easier for a cat to digest in this form. Potatoes are about 92 percent carbs, 7 percent protein, and 1 percent fat. They are also a good source of Thiamin and Vitamin B6, and a very good source of Vitamin C. And they are a dietary fiber. Potatoes can help slow the digestion of sugar into the blood stream and keep blood sugar levels steady. So, you may not be excited about giving your cat carbs, but there can be some benefits.

The fourth ingredient in the food is turkey meal. Turkey is relatively low in fat and high in protein. Turkey breast meat has as much as 70 percent protein, 14 percent carbs, and 16 percent fat, though the figures for the whole turkey will be slightly different. Turkey is a a good source of Riboflavin and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Selenium. Since this is turkey meal, most of the moisture has been removed and the protein and other nutrients are more concentrated. This is a good ingredient for pet foods.

The fifth ingredient is chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). Chicken fat is a good named fat that is beneficial for cats. It’s also good for your cat’s skin and coat – and a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

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Other ingredients of interest in the food include dried egg product. Egg product is sometimes added to pet foods to boost the protein percentage. It’s not a bad ingredient and most cats can eat eggs without a problem, but a few cats have allergies or food sensitivities to eggs. The food also contains “yeast culture.” In pet food terms, this can be an active or inactive supplement that contains enzymes and B Vitamins. It is believed to encouraged “good” bacteria in the intestines. It is not to be confused with brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast. Some owners have reported that their pets were allergic to this ingredient but we don’t have any hard evidence to support these claims. It is used in many pet foods.

The food also contains a number of fermentation products, most of which are familiar and used in many pet foods today. However, we can’t say for sure what all of them do. In general, fermentation products act as pre- and probiotics to help beneficial bacteria grow in the intestines and help pets digest food better.

The food also uses amino acid complexes to bind minerals and make them more bioavailable. For example, you can see the description of the manganese amino acid complex here. Most pet foods use chelated or proteinated minerals today. This is just another form of mineral supplementation.

The food does contain salt, which is a questionable additive. And it contains added natural chicken and pork flavor, but as added flavors go, these are not usually too bad. Your cat will probably like the flavor they add.

Merrick Before Grain Chicken Dry Cat Food looks like a very good cat food, based on its ingredients. We don’t see much here to fault.

Calorie Content (calculated): 3780 kcal/kg (calculated) One pound provides 1719 kcal of metabolizable energy (calculated). 107 kcal per ounce.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein (Not Less Than)36.0%
Crude Fat (Not Less Than)18.0%
Crude Fiber (Not More Than)3.0%
Moisture (Not More Than)11.0%

Before Grain Chicken is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food nutrient profiles for all life stages.

Dry Matter Basis: This food has an estimated 40.5 percent protein, 20.2 percent fat, 3.4 percent fiber, and 28 percent carbohydrates. (AAFCO recommendations for protein for adult cats are a minimum of 26 percent and 30 percent for growing kittens; and 9 percent fat for both adult cats and growing kittens) Clearly this food is high in protein and fat and relatively low in carbs. The calories are also very high. Do pay attention to how much food you are feeding since your cat could quickly gain weight eating this food.

Final Thoughts

Some long-time Merrick customers seem to be unhappy with changes to recipes the company has made in the last two or three years. We also found many complaints about Merrick’s cans – dents, mold, spoilage and the like. Some of the product lines appear to use a lot of peas which we do not recommend for cats or dogs. However, we really liked Before Grain Chicken Dry Cat Food. Recommended.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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5 comments

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  • We have been feeding our cat their dry food from the first day we got him and he loves it. Our vet was amazed at how silky his coat is, compared to the ones that live in her office and eat the food they sell!
    We are now switching to Perfect Bistro’s canned food on the advice of our vet.
    It may cost more than Friskies at our local grocery store, but we love the ingredients and how healthy it is.

    • My kitten has eaten Merrick since he first came to me and he always get compliments on how shiny his coat is too! I just assumed he was a young healthy cat, but I do think it’s the food! I’m lucky to have found Merrick on the first try.

  • I have been finding black mold in many cans of Organix cat food. Does any one know of a good organic alternative? I feel like I’ve thrown out so many cans, but it is the only organic wet cat food I can seem to find.

  • I gradually switched my cats to canned Merrick limited ingredient. They all lost too much weight (observed by veterinarian) and my Maine Coon lost a lot of fur to the point of baldness (observed by veterinarian). I added another urinary tract health dry food and they gained weight again and the MC’s fur grew back. After a few months, all 3 cats refused to eat the canned Merrick. I got them another brand and all is well again. I also got some badly canned food that went rotten. No more Merrick for my kitties!

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