What Are Ancient Grains?
There isn’t really a technical definition behind Ancient Grains, but they are generally grain ingredients that have a long history of use, many in ancient times by civilizations such as the Romans or Greeks.
Some of the most common examples of Ancient Grains include Millet, Quinoa, Spelt, and Sorghum; however, there are others that are used less or not well-known.
Traditional grains that see widespread use in food for human consumption are not typically considered ancient grains. Examples of these would include Corn, Wheat, or Rice.
However, the reason you are researching Ancient Grains is almost certainly because you’ve seen them advertised or marketed by some of your favorite dog food brands. But what is the motivation behind this, and is it something you should consider?
Why Are Dog Food Brands Switching To Ancient Grains?
The primary that several dog food brands have recently released recipes with ancient grains is because of the concerning links between the high levels of legumes and potatoes, especially in grain-free dog food, and an increased rate of canine heart disease.
This became an extremely controversial topic, with many of the large grain-free brands coming out against the findings and denying any wrongdoing.
However, these brands and companies are worth millions of dollars, and they felt the need to react in case the research substantiated or reinforced these findings.
By releasing grain-inclusive products, this gave their customers an option without them being forced to go to another brand, and it also allowed them to gain new customers who were looking to move away from grain-free food.
While we believe this is the core reason why these ranges and formulas have been created, we can’t rule out the idea that these brands are just innovating and evolving their ranges naturally.
Many brands started out as grain-free only producers of dog food, and since then, many brands have grown, and they are now looking to expand their product offerings in a different direction, such as cat food, treats, and grain-inclusive food.
Are Ancient Grains Are Marketing Hype?
Despite what many pet food manufacturers and brands say, there is very limited evidence to support theories and statements that “Ancient Grains” are superior to other, more mainstream grains like Rice or Oatmeal.
While the nutrition provided by each grain ingredient varies, Ancient Grains provide a similar mix of carbohydrates, fiber, plant-based protein, and select vitamins and minerals.
The group of grains that used to be extremely prevalent in dog food recipes like Corn, Wheat, Rice, and more still come with a bad reputation.
This was caused by years of relentless marketing campaigns by brands to label grain ingredients as fillers or low-quality additions.
However, many see the shift to “Ancient Grains” as a way to create grain-inclusive dog food without bringing back these tarnished ingredients.
That being said, these ancient grains can still be advantageous in comparison to some lower-quality and lower-cost grain ingredients like Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, or even White Rice.
Our recommendation for grain-inclusive dog food recipes is to find one that makes consistent use of whole-grain ingredients, like Brown Rice or Oats, whether they are ancient or not.
Dog Food Brands That Use Ancient Grains?
As we mentioned earlier, several brands in the industry are making extensive use of these Ancient Grain ingredients in their dog food recipes.
Some of the biggest examples of brands that have recently launched “Ancient Grains” ranges include Taste of the Wild, Open Farm, The Honest Kitchen, and Earthborn Holistic.
You can see some of the marketing from Taste of the Wild for their new Ancient Grains range below.
Taste of the Wild’s Ancient Grain recipes are extremely similar to their grain-free options but have had the legumes and starches replaced with grains.
You can also see how Earthborn Holistic marketed their Unrefined range, which is their spin on Ancient Grains.
Earthborn Holistic’s Ancient Grain recipes are mirrors of their grain-free recipes, but they are not too dissimilar and share many of the same traits.
This advertising and marketing are in strong contrast to mentions of the “old” grain ingredients like Corn and Wheat, where many brands will go as far as specifically stating that their recipes are corn-free or wheat-free.
However, while some brands have introduced their grain-inclusive ranges and recipes because of the links between legumes and Canine Heart Disease, others have been using grains like Millet for years.
Nature’s Logic is one of the best examples of this as they’ve been using Millet as their primary plant-based ingredient in their dry dog food recipes since their inception.
You can see the ingredient list of a typical Nature’s Logic dry dog food recipe below, where Millet features as the second most abundant ingredient.
Should I Buy A Dog Food With Ancient Grains?
This is a tricky question to answer but based on our research; we don’t think there is any reason to buy a dog food recipe with “Ancient Grains” over other high-quality grain ingredients like Brown Rice or Oatmeal.
Instead, what we’d suggest is trying to purchase a dog food recipe with high levels of animal-based content, and as a consequence, animal-based protein and fat.
We go into detail in our Dog Food Guide about why this is important, along with several other factors to consider when choosing a dog food recipe.
As long as the recipe contains a plentiful supply of animal-based protein and fat, the plant-based ingredients present, such as grains, are of lesser concern.