Home > Blog > The Industry > The “Grain Free” Craze

The "Grain Free" Craze

The trends in the pet food industry closely shadow the trends in human food. “Organic”, “Grain-Free”, “Humane” are all phrases that have recently popped up on many labels, for humans and pets alike. But do these labels actually signify an improvement in the diet, or are they just trendy marketing ploys?

The "Grain Free" Claim

Dog Food Pyramid: primarily meat (organ & skeletal), some veggies, some fruits, little to no grains

Grain-free dog food has really taken off in the last couple years. People assume that because there’s no grains in their food, it must be better for their carnivorous dog. And that’s sound logic! In the dog nutrition pyramid, grains are the tiniest portion. But be wary: the grain-free label doesn’t necessarily crown that food the healthiest of foods.

In fact, when you do the math on many of the grain-free formulas and compare it to the same brand’s “grain FULL” alternative, grain-free diets actually have MORE starch and MORE sugar. How can this be?

These companies are simply just substituting out corn, wheat, soy, and putting in brown rice, oats, and potatoes. And while these may carry a “better” reputation than the original grains, they are still very high in starch and sugar (and when cooked at those incredibly high-temps, they’re no better nutrient-wise).

They’re still carbs!!

Essentially you’ve swapped gummy bears for gummy worms.

How to calculate carbs in a dog food

In her post about grain-free diets, Dr. Becker provides a formula to calculate the percentage of carbs in any food using the guaranteed analysis. It’s super simple, and can work with just about any pet food.

(As of right now, companies don’t have to include their carbohydrate percentage on the bag. In fact, we wanted to print our numbers on the bag, but we were actually advised against putting them on our label for compliance reasons). 

– the % of protein
– the % of fat
– the % of moisture
– the % of ash (if it isn’t listed, use 6% to 8%)
   the % of carbs

Using the example she gives in her post (an unidentified brand of “grain-free” kibble), she gets the following guaranteed analysis:

Guaranteed Analysis on a unidentified bag of pet food

So, using the formula on this particular bag of food:

– 20% Protein
– 8% Fat
– 10% Moisture
– 6% Ash (assumed)
   56% carbohydrates

Which means that MORE THAN HALF of this formula is made of carbs (aka sugar and starch). And this is a grain-free bag of food. That doesn’t sit so well with our food pyramid for dogs. 

In case you're wondering...

Obviously we wouldn’t harp on this if we didn’t feel like we did things differently. We’re not ashamed of our carb numbers. We display them on each product page, and we’ll point them out again below.

Chicken & Turkey Carb Percentage: 15%

1.5lb Beef & Salmon Recipe - food for dogs

Beef & Salmon Carb Percentage: 16%

1.5lb Duck & Trout Recipe - food for dogs

Duck & Trout Carb Percentage: 23%

Spread knowledge:

Joslin Lee: Content Writer and Editor, Graphic Designer for The Simple Food Project

About the Author

Joslin Lee is the graphic designer and content writer/editor for The Simple Food Project. She's got two dogs (Dr. Astronaut and Bevers), a ferret (Space Weasel 5000) and a goldfish (Sea Bean). Lately, she's been staying busy cookin' up the cutest little baby (coming Feb 2018).



1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

The Simple Food Project
1823 Executive Drive
Oconomowoc, WI 53066