Nutrition - 8/10
Ingredients - 8/10
Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato is a high-quality dry puppy food. Its nutrient profile is above average and it provides above average quantities of protein and fat. However, the proportion of carbohydrates in this formula is still too high and should be better reflect a dog’s natural diet. The formula contains a range of well-sourced high-quality ingredients with a focus on poultry ingredients such as Chicken. The formula also contains a range of Legumes and Potatoes. Legumes are considered a high-quality source of carbohydrates but Potatoes provide little past their carbohydrate content. Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato contains a wide range of vegetables and a small range of poultry which means it could be suitable for puppies with serious allergies or sensitivities.
High-Quality Chicken Ingredients No Grains
Excessive Carbohydrate Proportion Contains Potato Protein
A Full review of Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato By Merrick
The ideal nutrition for a dog is entirely dependant on their unique circumstances. However, a high proportion of protein and fat combined with a lower proportion of carbohydrates is most appropriate nutrition profile for the vast majority of dogs. Dog’s are very capable of consuming a high proportion of carbohydrates, but a diet high in protein and fat is more appropriate and a better reflection of their natural ancestral diet.
Carbohydrate Content Analysis
Dogs use carbohydrates as a simple energy source. Dogs do not require significant carbohydrates in their diet and they are commonly added to reduce cost and increase shelf life. As the chart above displays, a maximum of 38% of Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato calories are derived from carbohydrates. Please note that this is the maximum amount of carbohydrates as calculated by the guaranteed analysis. In reality, this value of carbohydrates is likely to be a lot lower. This is below average for a Puppy Food.
The majority of this carbohydrate content appears to be from the vegetable and starch content of this puppy food. Ingredients such as Peas, Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes will be discussed in-depth later on. This is above what we would consider the ideal proportion of carbohydrates. To better reflect a puppies natural diet this proportion should be noticeably lower.
Protein Content Analysis
Dogs use Protein for growth, development, and maintenance. Excess protein can be burned as calories. As the chart above displays, a minimum of 28% of Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato calories are derived from protein. Please note that this is the minimum amount of protein as calculated by the guaranteed analysis. In reality, this value of protein is likely to be higher. This is above average for a Puppy Food.
This will be a sufficient amount of protein for the majority of puppies but may be inadequate for those who are very active. This protein appears to be sourced from the small range of poultry ingredients such as Chicken. These are considered high-quality sources and contain the full range of amino acids. The minority of this protein proportion is from plant-based proteins. This protein is considered of a lesser quality.
Fat Content Analysis
Dogs use fat as a concentrated energy source. In addition, fats also play a role in development and maintenance. As the chart above displays, a minimum of 34% of Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato calories are derived from Fat. Please note that this is the minimum amount of fat as calculated by the guaranteed analysis. In reality, this value of fat is likely to be a lot higher. This is significantly above average for a Puppy Food.
The fat present in this puppy food appears to be sourced from the poultry ingredients which are an ideal source. Examples include Chicken and Chicken Meal. This low estimate of fat content is more than sufficient to fulfill the energy needs of even the most active puppies.
Overall Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato contains an average of 3,602 kcal/kg, 397 kcal/cup
Once again please note that the values in this section are calculated using the products guaranteed analysis. The guaranteed analysis only lists the minimum and maximum values and as a consequence, these can sometimes be an inaccurate representation. As a rule of thumb, most dog foods will contain slightly more protein and considerably more fat than their guaranteed analysis. This will have the knock-on effect of reducing the relative amount of carbohydrates present. However also note that every dog food is different and some will be considerably closer to the guaranteed analysis than others.
Guaranteed Analysis – Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato
Pet foods in the United States are legally required by the AAFCO to have a guaranteed analysis on their packaging. A guaranteed analysis must display certain nutritional information. This is similar to how nutritional values are now commonly displayed on food for human consumption. The information that must be displayed includes Crude Protein, Crude Fat, Crude Fiber, and Moisture. Some guaranteed analysis will contain additional information. The guaranteed analysis for this product is listed below.
- Crude Protein (Min) – 28.00%
- Crude Fat (Min) – 15.00%
- Crude Fiber (Max) – 4.50%
- Moisture (Max) – 11.00%
- Calcium (Min) – 1.2%
- Phosphorus (Min) – 1.1%
- Omega 6 Fatty Acids (Min) – 2.00%
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Min) – 0.30%
The ingredients of pet food are disclosed on the packaging of the product as a list in descending order. Therefore the ingredients at the start of the list make up the bulk of the pet foods content. As a consequence, the quality of these primary ingredients is the most significant factor in determining the quality of pet food.
However, ingredients listed further down the ingredient list should not be ignored, especially if they could have adverse or harmful effects on a pet.
- Chicken Meal
- Sweet Potatoes
- Potato Protein
Dangerous / Harmful Ingredients
In-Depth Meat/Fish Ingredient Review
The meat and fish ingredients of dog food are without a doubt the most important. They are critical as they provide the majority of the protein and fat that dogs desperately need. Also, these ingredients would have made up the bulk of dogs ancestors diet. Therefore, the quality of a dog food formulas meat and fish ingredients is crucial. Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato contains two sources of meat or fish.
The primary meat source present is Chicken. Chicken is considered a high-quality source of protein. In addition to being a fantastic protein source, chicken has high levels of Niacin and Vitamin B6. Unfortunately Chicken does contain a high concentration of water. Much of this water is evaporated during the cooking process leaving a lesser proportion of Chicken. However given that Chicken is the first listed ingredient, its proportion will still be relatively high even after the cooking process.
The secondary meat source present is Chicken Meal. Chicken Meal is considered a high-quality source of protein. Meat Meal is a concentrated form of meat that has already had the majority of its moisture removed. This means that gram for gram it is much richer in protein and other nutrients. Chicken Meal will contain the same vitamins and minerals as Chicken but in higher concentrations. This includes the high levels of Niacin and Vitamin B6.
In-Depth None-Meat Ingredient Review
Potatoes are a starchy vegetable and a dense source of complex carbohydrates. Also, Potatoes can provide fiber and a surprising number of minerals and vitamins such as Potassium, Copper and the Vitamin B6. Sadly, Potatoes are considered an average-quality ingredient as they provide minimal nutritional value beyond their carbohydrate content.
Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato contains Peas. These are members of the legume family of vegetables. Legumes are famous for having a relatively high amount of protein for a vegetable. Legumes also contain a high amount of fiber, which is important for healthy digestion. Pet foods often use legumes as a replacement for grains in grain-free pet food. Protein from vegetables such as legumes should not be a replacement for protein from meat. Instead, it should act as an additional protein source.
Sweet Potatoes are a starchy vegetable and a source of complex carbohydrates. Sweet Potatoes are considered superior to traditional Potatoes as they contain more fiber and a more extensive range of vitamins and minerals. Some examples of vitamins and minerals that are abundant in Sweet Potatoes are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Calcium. The higher amount of fiber and the range of micronutrients in Sweet Potatoes mean that they are considered a high-quality ingredient despite containing mostly carbohydrates.
Potato Protein is a by-product of Potatoes and is a protein-rich liquid. It is considered a low-quality ingredient due to its use as a cheap protein inflating ingredient. In addition, protein from plants such as Potatoes is considered less complete and doesn’t contain all the needed amino acids. Potato Protein is a common ingredient used in a technique known as Ingredient Splitting.
Alfalfa is a flowering plant that is closely related to Peas and other legumes. Alfalfa has a long history of use in livestock feed and as a supplement for humans. It has a similar proportion of protein to other legumes which means it can contribute to a minor sum if there is a sufficient quantity used. Alfalfa’s greatest strength is the vast range of vitamins and minerals it provides including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Beta Carotene, Potassium, and Calcium. Find out more about Alfalfa in our article Alfalfa In Dog Food.
Dried Chicory Root or Chicory Root Extract is an additive or supplement to dog food. It can provide a range of health benefits including soluble fiber to enable regular passage of stool, probiotics to aid and promote digestion, as well as potentially eliminate or prevent intestinal worms. While these benefits are not fully proven, there is strong evidence behind them. The proportion of Chicory Root used in most dog food recipes is tiny and does not contribute meaningful nutrition. Find out more in Dried Chicory Root In Dog Food.
Full Ingredient List – Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain Free Puppy Real Chicken + Sweet Potato
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Potato Protein, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed Oil, Salmon Oil, Apples, Blueberries, Inulin (from chicory root), Gelatin, Salt, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate), Dried Bacillius coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.