UPDATE: Because of a flood of reader comments over the past few years alerting us to dogs becoming seriously ill, we can no longer recommend this brand. See the reader comments below. Use your best judgment.
For years I was firmly convinced that grocery stores would never stock quality dog food. The top grocery-store brands — Pedigree, Purina and Iams — all contain loathsome amounts of fillers, fats and animal byproducts. Corn is usually the main ingredient, distantly followed by meat protein.
When people have asked my advice about quality dog food, I’ve always told them to avoid buying food anywhere except pet-specialty stores, like Petco, PetSmart or their local feed barn. It’s one of my many animal welfare soapboxes.
Sometimes I could see a brief facial expression flicker across the person’s face, which I knew meant that if a grocery store didn’t carry it, the person’s pets didn’t eat it. Making an extra stop at a pet-supply store isn’t always convenient.
Grain- and Filler-Free
But now, thanks to celebrity chef Rachael Ray, I can change my little speech.
When I clipped two coupons ($4 off!) for Ray’s new pet food line, Nutrish, I checked out the food online.
Much to my surprise, her kibble focuses on grain- and filler-free ingredients, listing chicken as the first two ingredients; the beef kibble does the same for meat. Her treats, Just Six, contain only (you guessed it) six ingredients, making them far healthier than Milk Bonz.
Okay, so Nutrish isn’t a premium-quality kibble. It does have corn meal and animal fat, but in much smaller amounts than you’d normally find in a grocery-store pet food, only about 15 percent.
It’s No McDonald’s, But It’s No Whole Foods Either
Look at it this way: Alpo has the nutritional qualities of a Big Mac. Beneful and Iams are similar to El Pollo Loco. Costco brand food is on par with a healthy meal at Applebee’s, and premium-quality foods are comparable to Whole Foods. Nutrish lies somewhere between Iams and Costco, perhaps a Souplantation salad bar or a nice bowl of noodles and vegetables?
One of the reasons I’m so excited about this food is that it’s readily available where most people shop, which means that it will be easier for the average Jane or Joe to purchase more nutritious food for their dogs. It’s still more expensive than Alpo, but it’s reasonably priced and affordable for most households.
Another thing I like about Nutrish is that Rachael Ray donates a portion of sales to four animal rescue organizations: BADRAP (the best rescue in the world), the North Shore Animal League, the ASPCA and America’s Vet Dogs, a nonprofit that trains service dogs for military veterans.
UPDATE: In the past few years since this post was published, a number of readers have chimed in with their own reviews. Quite a few pet owners claim Nutrish has made their dogs very ill. You can read their comments below. If you have had personal experience with this food, we’d love to hear your thoughts as well, good or bad.