Dogs love a wide variety of proteins, but beef is surely one of the meats that canines crave most. Fortunately, it is easy to provide your dog with a beef-based diet as it is the primary protein used in many dog foods.
But that doesn’t mean you want to run out and buy the first beef dog food you see.
While a number of premium dog foods incorporate beef, there are also a number of very low-quality beef foods on the market too.
We’ll try to help you distinguish the good ones from the bad ones below and recommend a few of the very best beef dog foods available!
Quick Picks: Best Beef Dog Food
- Pet Plate Barkin’ Beef [Best Fresh Beef Option] This freshly-cooked, human-grade dog food features real beef as the #1 ingredient, along with a host of fresh veggies.
- American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato [Best Quality + Affordability]. This nutritious, grain-free recipe boasts a mix of animal protein sources such as deboned beef, chicken meal, and turkey meal.
- Honest Kitchen Ranch-Raised Beef [Best Dehydrated Option]. This beef-based recipe is made with human-grade ingredients and includes no byproducts, preservatives, GMO ingredients, hormones or antibiotics
Five of the Best Beef Dog Foods
There are a number of great beef dog foods on the market, but the following five are clearly among the best options.
Any of these should work well for your pup but be sure to choose the one that is likely to meet your dog’s specific needs.
1. Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato
High protein, meat-packed dog food
This premium recipe is made with 65% meat, meat meals, and nutritious fats with high quality deboned beef, lamb meal, and salmon meal as the first listed ingredients.
About: Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato is a protein-rich, grain-free dog food that provides the nutrition your dog needs and a taste that most dogs love.
Features: Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato is designed to provide your dog with the kind of meat-heavy diet dogs need and enjoy.
65% of the recipe is made up of meats, meat meals, and nutritious fats, while the other 30% is comprised of produce, nutritious carbohydrates, fiber, and other natural ingredients.
Deboned beef is the first listed ingredient, but lamb meal and salmon meal are also included to provide additional protein.
Because it is a grain-free food, Texas Beef & Sweet Potato derives most of its carbohydrate content from sweet potatoes and potatoes.
Peas, apples, and blueberries are included for the taste they provide, as well as the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain.
Flaxseed and salmon oil are incorporated in this recipe and provide omega-3 fatty acids, while four different probiotic strains are included to promote proper digestion.
Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes...,
Peas, Potato Protein, Pork Fat, Natural Flavor, Whitefish Meal, Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil, Beef Liver, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Apples, Blueberries, Organic Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Salmon Oil, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Niacin, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement) Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Citric Acid for freshness, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.
Merrick Texas Beef & Sweet Potato is a premium dog food that is made with the kind of high-quality ingredients most owners would be proud to feed their dog. This recipe also includes several of the bells and whistles that owners love, such as omega-3-rich ingredients and multiple probiotic strains.
While this is an impressive recipe, Texas Beef & Sweet Potato may not be a great choice for dogs who battle food allergies, given that it contains beef- and lamb-based proteins (it is usually a good idea to feed such dogs foods that feature a single protein). Additionally, this is a pretty pricey food, which may put it out-of-reach for budget-limited owners.
2. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Beef
High-quality mid-priced dog food
This grain-inclusive food beef and pork meal for protein along with hearty brown rice in a recipe that’s made in the USA with non-GMO ingredients.
About: Nutro Wholesome Essentials is a simple and wholesome food made real meats and healthy, wholesome grains to ensure your dog gets everything he needs, and none of the unnecessary additives he doesn’t.
Features: Nutro Wholesome Essentials features two different protein sources – beef and porkmeal – to tempt your dog’s palate and ensure he gets the full assortment of amino acids he needs to remain healthy and happy.
Most of the carbohydrate content comes from brown rice, brewer’s rice, and whole grain sorghum.
Chicken fat is also included in the recipe to provide additional calories and flavor, and flaxseed is used to provide some omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin and mineral supplements are included to protect your dog against nutritional deficiencies.
No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives are used in this food, nor are any chicken by-product meals, corn, wheat, or soy.
Neither probiotics nor any joint-supporting supplements are included in the recipe, but you can always add stand-alone supplements to the food if you like.
Beef, Pork Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Split Peas...,
Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Rice Bran, Barley, Chicken Meal, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Lamb Meal, Whole Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, Dl-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid (Preservatives), Pea Fiber, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Carbonate, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Selenium Yeast, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Nutro is a mid-priced, high-quality dog food that most dogs seem to enjoy. This is a good option for owners who prefer foods made from “natural” ingredients, as well as those who like to avoid foods that contain unnecessary supplements or additives.
Many owners may be happy to see that Nutro Wholesome Essentials is not a grain-free food, and instead offers hearty grains like brown rice and sorghum.
3. Honest Kitchen Ranch-Raised Beef
Grain-free, dehydrated dog food
This quality, dehydrated recipe is made with human-grade ingredients with real beef as first ingredient.
About: Honest Kitchen Ranch-Raised Beef Dog Food is a dehydrated, grain-free product that is made in the USA with only “human-grade” ingredients.
Features: Honest Kitchen foods are quite different from typical kibbles. To feed your dog one of these foods, you’ll need to mix it with warm water to rehydrate it and make it palatable.
The food expands significantly when mixed with water – a 10-pound box of the food will actually make 40 pounds of food once rehydrated.
Aside from being a dehydrated recipe, Ranch Raised Beef is like most other premium dog foods in other ways. It features real beef at the beginning of the ingredient list and relies on sweet potatoes and potatoes to provide most of the carbohydrates.
It includes several very nutritious fruits and vegetables, including parsley, chard, papaya, cranberries, and pumpkin, and it even features honey to appeal to your dog’s sweet tooth. Vitamin and mineral supplements round out the ingredient list.
No joint supplements or probiotics are included in this recipe, but owners can always purchase stand-alone supplements and add them to their dog’s food.
Dehydrated Beef, Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes, Dehydrated Potatoes, Organic Flaxseed, Dried Organic Coconut...,
Dried Parsley, Dried Papayas, Dried Cranberries, Dehydrated Pumpkin, Dehydrated Honey, Dehydrated Kale, Minerals [Tricalcium Phosphate, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Potassium Iodide, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite], Taurine, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), D- Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement], EPA, DHA.
The Honest Kitchen Ranch-Raised Beef is a good choice for owners who want to feed their dog a nutritious food, that is made with human-grade ingredients and manufactured in the USA. Most dogs seem to love the taste of Honest Kitchen recipes, and warm foods are almost always more appealing to dogs than room-temperature meals are. Because this recipe only contains a single animal-based protein, it may be an excellent option for owners of dogs with food allergies.
While Ranch-Raised Beef (as well as other Honest Kitchen foods) is not as expensive as it might initially appear, it is still a very pricey food. You’ll also have to put more effort into making your dog’s breakfast and dinner than you would with a typical kibble.
4. American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato
Affordable grain-free recipe
This recipe boasts a very impressive ingredient list with a variety of different protein sources such as deboned beef, chicken meal and turkey meal.
About: American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato is nutritious, grain-free dog food made with a variety of different protein sources and nutritious carbohydrates.
Features: American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato boasts a very impressive ingredient list, which satisfies almost every criteria owners would want in a food.
Deboned beef is the first listed ingredient, while chicken meal and turkey meal help provide additional protein. Chicken fat is also included to help boost the calorie count of the food and provide mouth-watering flavor.
A variety of fruits and canine-friendly vegetables, including blueberries and carrots, are incorporated into this recipe to provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, while sweet potatoes, peas, and chickpeas provide most of the carbohydrate content of this grain-free food.
Salmon oil and menhaden fish meal – two great sources of omega-3 fatty acids – also appear on the ingredient list. A variety of vitamin and mineral supplements and a single probiotic strain help round out the ingredient list.
Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Chickpeas...,
Sweet Potatoes, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Pea Protein, Flaxseed, Menhaden Fish Meal, Salmon Oil, Blueberries, Carrots, Salt, Dried Kelp, Fructooligosaccharides, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Selenite, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato is a nutritious dog food that provides almost everything owners want in a dog food. We love that it includes salmon oil and menhaden fish meal, as well as a probiotic strain. Most dogs appear to find the recipe quite tasty, and owners will appreciate the food’s reasonable price tag.
While we’d prefer to see multiple probiotic strains included with this recipe, many other foods don’t even include one probiotic. Additionally, we’d like to see a few more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables included in the recipe, but this is a relatively minor concern (and it does feature blueberries and sweet potatoes, which both provide a wealth of antioxidants).
5. Pet Plate Barkin’ Beef
Freshly-cooked, veterinarian-designed meals
This fresh human-grade recipe features real beef as the #1 ingredient, along with beef liver, and salmon oil – which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
About: Pet Plate is a subscription-based food service that sends you fresh-cooked, veterinarian-designed meals based on your pup’s breed and age. They have four different recipes available, including Barkin’ Beef, which we’ll discuss below.
Features: Pet Plate Barkin’ Beef is a simple and nutritious recipe made with a relatively limited number of ingredients.
Real beef is the first listed ingredient, while sweet potatoes and potatoes provide the bulk of the carbohydrate content.
Carrots, apples, peas, and pumpkin are included for additional flavor and to provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Barkin’ Beef also features beef liver, which most dogs love, as well as salmon oil, which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
A proprietary vitamin and mineral supplement rounds out the ingredient list and ensures that your dog won’t suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
Pet Plate meals come in pre-portioned containers, which means you can toss out your measuring cups. Note that you will need to store Pet Plate meals in the fridge or freezer, as they are not made with preservatives. You can heat these containers in the microwave if you like or serve them cold (not frozen).
Beef, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beef liver, carrots...,
apples, green peas, pumpkin, dicalcium phosphate, safflower oil, salmon oil, calcium carbonate, salt, proprietary supplement blend (vitamin E, ferrous fumarate, zinc oxide, manganese gluconate, thiamine mononitrate, magnesium oxide, potassium iodide, sodium selenite, vitamin D3)v
Pet Plate Barkin’ Beef is a great option for owners who want to provide their dog with freshly prepared meals but lack the time (or desire) to cook up their own food on a weekly basis. Additionally, because Pet Plate designs their recipes with the help of veterinarians, you don’t have to worry about making the kinds of mistakes many owners do when making homemade dog foods.
Frankly, Pet Plate’s Barkin’ Beef – as well as their other recipes – is a high-quality dog food that doesn’t have many short-comings. However, this kind of quality is not cheap. In fact, you’ll pay much more for Pet Plate meals than you will typical kibble or canned foods. The upside is that owners can get 30% off their first Pet Plate order. While it’s pricey, for those with the means and desire to give their dog the very best, Barkin’ Beef is certainly one of the best options.
The Benefits of Beef For Dogs
You don’t really need a special reason to feed your dog a beef-based dog food — beef is a popular and trusted meat protein for most dogs.
And because beef is a relatively affordable protein, many dog food manufacturers like using it in their recipes.
However, there are two situations in which beef may be the best option for your canine.
Beef is a great food for helping dogs to gain a bit of weight, as it is full of calories and fat. When compared to the other proteins commonly used in dog foods, beef ranks second in terms of calories and first in terms of fat per ounce.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all beef-based dog foods have more fat and calories than those made from chicken or some other protein – there are a lot of variables involved.
However, if you compare two similar recipes made by the same manufacturer, the beef-based food will likely provide more fat and calories than the alternatives.
So, if your dog is recovering from an illness or is otherwise in need of putting on some additional body weight, you may want to give beef-based dog foods careful consideration.
Beef is obviously a pretty popular protein among people, and most dogs find it tasty too. This makes it an excellent option for picky dogs, whose fickle taste buds often drive owners crazy.
It’s not entirely clear why dogs find beef so tasty. On the one hand, it may be the result of evolutionary adaptations, which cause dogs to favor fatty (and therefore calorie-rich) foods. On the other hand, it may just be a random quirk of nature.
Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter why dogs tend to like beef – just be sure to take advantage of this fact when dealing with a picky pooch!
Picking a Good Beef Dog Food: Things to Look For
As mentioned earlier, beef dog foods vary significantly. Some are fantastic foods that should help keep your dog healthy while pleasing his palette.
But others are full of low-quality ingredients, which may not provide the nutrition he needs or the high-quality flavors he deserves.
But don’t worry – it is pretty easy to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. Just try to pick foods that meet the following criteria:
1. Real Beef at the Top of the Ingredient List
The first thing you want to do when choosing a food for your pet is to look at the ingredient list printed on the bag.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to review all of the bizarre, five-syllable words found throughout the ingredient list.
Just look at the very first thing listed – you want this to be a real, whole protein. In this case, you want to see something like “beef” or “deboned beef.”
2. No Mystery Meat Products
Many modern dog foods contain things like meat meals and meat byproducts.
While these types of ingredients are often off-putting to owners, there is nothing wrong with these items, most dogs love them, and they usually provide more protein per ounce than whole proteins do (mostly because the water is removed from them).
In fact, aside from the fact that they’re dehydrated, these ingredients aren’t fundamentally different from the things used to make hotdogs, sausages, chicken nuggets, and other processed meat products that many people enjoy.
But there is one important thing you’ll want to verify: Any meat meals or meat byproducts used in a dog food should be properly identified. This will not only help ensure that you don’t give your dog a food containing proteins he may be allergic to, but it’ll also help ensure that the food doesn’t contain any unsavory or dangerous protein sources.
Put more plainly: “Beef meal” or “beef byproducts” are fine; “meat meal” or “animal byproducts” are not.
3. Made with Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Antioxidants are helpful for combating the damage caused by free radicals and they also help support immune function, so many of the best dog foods contain antioxidant-rich ingredients. These types of ingredients probably improve the flavor of a dog food too.
4. Fortified with “Bonus” Ingredients
The best dog foods usually contain important “bonus” ingredients that will help promote good health. Whenever possible, try to select foods that contain the following:
- Chondroitin and glucosamine are two of the most common supplements added to dog foods. Both chondroitin and glucosamine will help protect your dog’s joints and they may even help promote the production of cartilage.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are also important supplements to look for in dog foods. Omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent inflammation, which can help promote joint, skin and coat health, among other things.
- Probiotics – beneficial bacteria that will colonize your dog’s digestive tract – are also great bonus ingredients to look for, as they often help improve your dog’s digestion and elimination habits.
5. Made in a Country with High Safety Standards
You never want to give your dog a food that may be contaminated or otherwise harmful to your pup.
It’s impossible to completely eliminate these kinds of risks, but if you stick to foods manufactured in countries with high safety and quality control standards, you’ll avoid most of these problems.
In practice, this means sticking to foods made in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or Western Europe.
Our Recommendation: Pet Plate Barkin’ Beef or American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato
It’s pretty hard to beat a fresh-cooked, pre-portioned food like Pet Plate’s Barkin’ Beef recipe.
It’s made with nutritious, high-quality ingredients, and your dog will likely love the way the food tastes. However, it is a very expensive dog food that will simply not be a realistic option for many owners.
But fortunately for those of us without Swiss bank accounts, American Journey Beef & Sweet Potato is also a very nutritious food, and it is quite affordable too. And while it is probably not quite as appealing as a fresh-cooked dog food like Barkin’ Beef, most dogs appear to love the taste.
Hopefully we’ve adequately explained why beef is a great meat for your dog – and it’s common enough to be readily accessible for most owners.
Any of the beef dog foods above should work well for your pup. Just remember to consider your dog’s specific needs when making your choice, so that you end up with the best possible food for your pet.
Do you feed your dog a beef-based dog food? We’d love to know which one you buy. We’d also like to hear from any readers who feed one of the five foods discussed above!
Tell us all about your beef dog food experiences in the comments below.