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Whole Earth Farms

Overview

Whole Earth Farms is owned by the Merrick Pet Care company, which is a subsidiary of Nestle Purina. As a subsidiary, it is allowed to do its own sourcing and formulating while taking advantage of Nestle Purina distribution and resources when necessary. Therefore, Whole Earth Farms should be considered as its own independent brand instead of an extension of Purina dog foods. Merrick pet care has been making pet foods since 2003 and Whole Earth Farms is a relatively new brand for the company. There is not much history yet in this brand so it can be difficult to find long-term loyalists. Those who have used and are using this brand, however, have many good things to say about it. Many consumers have switched their beloved pets over to Whole Earth Farms after having been failed by similarly priced brands that claim to cater closely to individual pets’ dietary needs.

The mission that drives Whole Earth Farms is to create natural foods for your dog that are made in America and adhere to higher quality standards than budget dog food. Though not necessarily a premium brand, Whole Earth Farms dry dog foods cost just under $2 per pound. This puts this pet food in the middle tier as far as price goes. To earn that price tag, Whole Earth Farms claims to focus on its quality and sourcing, promising no corn, no wheat, no soy, no by-products, no artificial colors, no artificial preservatives and no ingredients from China.

There are 11 dry dog foods to choose from for your beloved pet, with all but two labeled as grain-free dog food. There are also 15 wet dog foods with all but one being labeled as grain-free as well, so this is a line that is clearly targeting owners and pets that are conscious about what is going into their food. Most of the wet and dry products are general use for dogs of all life stages, though there are a couple of puppy products and some small breed wet foods. Whole Earth Farms also has three varieties of treats that comprise its Smokehouse Links line. They are each made of different proteins and have a minimal list of ingredients, with named quality proteins being the first ingredient for each of them.


Product Reviews

Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe

Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Dog Food

First five ingredients: Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Oatmeal, Pearled Barley, Brown Rice

Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis:

  • Crude protein (min.) 26%
  • Crude fat (min.) 13%
  • Crude fiber (max.) 3.5%
  • Moisture (max.) 11%

Overall Analysis: For a product that touts its natural goodness, it is discouraging to see that in the basic original recipe the two main protein sources are meal instead of higher quality muscle. Though not as undesirable as by-product meal, chicken meal, and turkey meal are allowed to have plenty of non-meat inclusions that degrade the quality of the protein source. On the plus side, meal tends to have three times the protein content as muscle since the water content is reduced. Chicken does make an appearance further down the list but it would have been nice to see it as a top ingredient. The next three ingredients of this dog food are all grain fillers. Though it is good to see that Whole Earth Farms is adhering to its no corn and no soy promises with this product, vegetable carbohydrates would be preferable. The protein and fat content are both good for an adult dog food since they are a bit above the minimum requirement set by the AAFCO. As a consolation, this non-grain free option does cost less than the grain-free alternatives so at least if cheaper ingredients are being used the savings is passed on to the consumer.


Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Healthy Puppy Recipe

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Healthy Puppy Recipe

First five ingredients: Chicken Meal, Dried Potatoes, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Dried Sweet Potatoes

Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis:

  • Crude protein (min.) 26%
  • Crude fat (min.) 12%
  • Crude fiber (max.) 4.5%
  • Moisture (max.) 11%

Overall Analysis: Though chicken and salmon can both be found further down the ingredient list, the main source of protein in this puppy food is chicken meal. Again, this is not ideal as a main source of protein. Potatoes make for nutritionally-lacking carbohydrate filler but the inclusion of peas and sweet potatoes does add in some nutrients. The fat content of this recipe is surprisingly low. Puppies generally need more fat and protein than adult dogs due to their higher energy and growing bodies. This may not be the best option for developing puppies. A veterinarian can always be consulted if you are unsure of what is best.


Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Recipe with Pork, Beef, & Lamb (Poultry-Free)

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Recipe with Pork, Beef, & Lamb (Poultry-Free)

First five ingredients: Pork Meal, Dried Potatoes, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols)

Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis:

  • Crude protein (min.) 26%
  • Crude fat (min.) 13%
  • Crude fiber (max.) 3.5%
  • Moisture (max.) 11%

Overall Analysis: Usually when a budget or middle-tier grain-free dog food is labeled as being made from an animal protein other than chicken, it is very common to still find chicken product somewhere on the label. That is not the case with this pork, beef, and lamb recipe. Unfortunately, the main protein source is still a meal instead of straight pork. Pork, beef, and lamb are indeed in the top ten ingredients of this recipe but the fact that they do not crack the top five is disheartening. Again, dried potatoes provide the bulk of the carbohydrate filler, followed by peas and sweet potatoes. The nutritional analysis is the same as the non-grain free adult food that we looked at earlier which makes one wonder if they are using the same basic recipe for all of their foods and simply swapping protein sources to match the labels. In any case, this mix of protein and fat is fine for most adult dogs.


Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Recipe Hearty Lamb Stew

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Hearty Stew

First five ingredients: Lamb, Beef Broth, Beef, Beef Liver, Peas

Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis:

  • Crude protein (min.) 8%
  • Crude fat (min.) 3%
  • Crude fiber (max.) 1.4%
  • Moisture (max.) 81%

Overall Analysis: Whole Earth Farms has more wet food varieties than dry, which is not common among dog food companies. Of the wet options, there are both pate and chunks-in-gravy style foods. This lamb stew recipe is particularly highly rated and is of the chunks-in-gravy style. It actually looks like lamb stew out of the can and a glance at the ingredient list makes it clear why. Unlike the dry dog foods, this stew contains a named whole protein as the first ingredient, in the form of lamb. The fact that this comes before even the liquid ingredient is a major plus. Whole Earth Farms uses beef broth in this recipe instead of water, which is a much more nutritious liquid additive. The inclusion of beef and beef liver in the top five ingredients further solidifies this as a high-quality protein dish. Peas offer plant-based carbohydrates as well as another source of protein, so this product is fairly high in protein overall. The protein and fat content convert to equivalent dry matter amounts at 42% and 16% respectively. Though the protein is a bit high the fat content is low enough that this can actually be eaten more regularly than many other wet dog foods.


Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Puppy Recipe

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food

First five ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Salmon

Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis:

  • Crude protein (min.) 9%
  • Crude fat (min.) 6.5%
  • Crude fiber (max.) 1.4%
  • Moisture (max.) 78%

Overall Analysis: The ingredient list on this puppy food is excellent. With four named whole protein sources and chicken broth instead of water, there is no doubt this is a high-quality option. Since this is a pate style wet food it would be easy to use one or two proteins as well as a meal protein source to keep the cost low but Whole Earth Farms has instead produced a formula that will no doubt help build strong muscles and bones. The dry matter protein and fat content convert to 41% and 29.5% which are on the high side, but that is typical of wet dog foods. Overall, this is much better than the dry puppy formula, though it is a bit high in protein and fat. Combining the two would probably be the best way to get the right nutritional balance for a growing dog.

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Small Breed Duck Recipe

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Small Breed Duck Recipe

First five ingredients: Duck, Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Salmon

Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis:

  • Crude protein (min.) 8%
  • Crude fat (min.) 5%
  • Crude fiber (max.) 1.4%
  • Moisture (max.) 78%

Overall Analysis: This is a newer product that Whole Earth Farms has created in response to consumers asking for food designed for small breeds. While they definitely get kudos for using high-quality protein sources as the top ingredients in this pate, it should be noted that since chicken and chicken liver are the third and fourth ingredient, it is quite possible that the major animal protein source in this product is actually chicken. It is hard to tell without seeing an actual breakdown but this type of nutritional label trickery is what is commonly referred to as “ingredient splitting.” Since ingredients must be listed in order of inclusion by weight, if the company wants ingredients to appear in a certain way they can legally split out ingredients (or conversely combine them) as long as they meet the guidelines to be labeled in the manner that the company chooses. In this case, it is not a major concern since all of the protein sources are high quality, but if a company is willing to engage in deceptive labelling for so minor a thing as the source of the primary protein then one must wonder what else they might be hiding. The fact that salmon is also a primary protein source here further muddies the waters. To their credit, Whole Earth Farms could have simply called this a “small breed with duck recipe” and blatantly put chicken first on the ingredient list (if that is indeed what happened here) but did not. Some would see that as more deceptive or even just lazy, though plenty of competitors do it. The protein and fat content convert to an equivalent dry matter percentage of 36% and 23%. This is higher than standard dry food but can easily be incorporated as a treat in a dog’s regular diet.

Conclusion

Though Whole Earth Farms paints a marketing picture of healthy and nutritious food, the truth is that it relies on less than premium protein sources and fillers in order to keep costs low. There is a variety of grain-free choices for the pet who is sensitive to these types of ingredients, so that is at least a benefit. This would be a decent choice for pets who are exploring grain-free options without having to break the bank. Since the Merrick brand that produces Whole Earth Farms has been bought by Nestle Purina, some longtime users of this brand have noticed a corresponding change in their pets’ reactions to the food or a change in their digestive functions.

The wet foods tend to be of higher quality ingredients than the dry foods since they contain whole named animal protein sources as their first ingredient and do not include any animal meal to bolster the protein content while keeping the price low. Surprisingly, when compared to less expensive brands with similar ingredient and nutritional profiles, the Whole Earth Farms wet dog foods are a much better quality for the price than the dry dog foods are. Both the wet and dry foods contain a large number of nutritional supplements and additives, though Whole Earth Farms sticks to its promise of no corn, soy, wheat, or by-products. Without seeing the actual sourcing orders we cannot verify that nothing has come from China, but based on how well they adhered to other promises it is probably a safe bet that Whole Earth Farms is sticking to that one as well.