As with many private label brands, information about 4Health is harder to find than for national brands. However, Tractor Supply Company does provide ingredients and nutritional information on their company web site, so you can find out more about this food than many other private label foods. They advertise the food in their store circulars, too. Since it is a private label brand you can only buy it at Tractor Supply Company stores.
Whitefish, Fish Meal, Pea Protein, Dried Peas, Tapioca, Whole Potato, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Choline Chloride, Manganese Proteinate, L-Carnitine, Copper Proteinate, Niacin, D- Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of Vitamin B6), Folic Acid.
While this is a grain free food, it is not as high in protein as some other grain free foods, coming in at 25 percent protein. The main sources of protein in the food appear to be whitefish and fish meal, the first two ingredients. Diamond Pet Foods, which makes 4Health for Tractor Supply, says, "Diamond Pet Foods sources all protein meals (chicken meal, fish meal, etc) from vendors that do not use ethoxyquin. As always, only natural preservatives are used in our manufacturing process to preserve the foods" (source).
Whitefish is a popular fish used in grain free foods. It's actually a fisheries term that refers to several species of fish such as cod, whiting, haddock, hake, pollock, and others (source). So, when you see "whitefish" on the label it can actually be a mixture of different fishes. It can also refer to several species of Atlantic freshwater fish. The mixed species kind of whitefish is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acid and protein. Fish meal, the second ingredient in the food, is also a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acid. You can learn more about fish meal in this Wikipedia article.
The third and fourth ingredients in the food are pea protein and dried peas. Peas are being used by many dog food companies today in place of grains such as corn because they look more appealing on the label to customers. They are also a good source of protein and dietary fiber, as well as a natural source of vitamin K and are high in vitamin C. However, some dogs have problems digesting peas and there haven't been any good studies done yet on their digestibility in dogs. Some dogs are able to digest them without much trouble but other dogs can have diarrhea after eating foods containing them. You can learn more about peas and pea fiber in dog food here.
The fifth and sixth ingredients are carbs - tapioca and whole potatoes. Some people mistakenly believe that grain free foods are also free of carbohydrates but this isn't true. For one thing, kibbles require some carbohydrates in order to keep their kibble shape and to go through the extruding machinery (source). And secondly, carbohydrates are not the terrible ingredient they have been alleged by some people. Along with protein and fats, carbohydrates provide nutrition that your dog needs. Carbs aren't merely empty calories (source).
With that said, tapioca doesn't have a lot in terms of nutrition. It's a starch made from cassava. It's gluten-free, almost completely without protein, and contains almost no vitamins. Tapioca is a food staple in many parts of the world and it's used to make breads and desserts in the U.S., Britain and some other countries. Tapioca is also used as a starch and is even used to make paper bags, so it should work well with the extrusion process (source). Similar to humans, it is sometimes added to the diet when they have to have a carb source that is gluten-free or when you are trying to provide more calories, say, in the case of a dog (or person) who needs to add weight, especially if the dog (or person) is allergic to other carbs (source). You should also be aware that it's a moderate glycemic food.
The potatoes are considered to be a good dietary fiber (source). They have more nutrition than the tapioca, being a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese (source). In their natural form potatoes are also considered to be gluten-free so this dog food is looking like it would be a good choice for a dog that absolutely has to have a food that is gluten-free, and perhaps for dogs that need to gain some weight.
Along with the whitefish and fish meal, the fat in the food is provided by sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols). Sunflower oil provides a great deal of omega-6 fatty acid (source). While this is an essential fatty acid and necessary to your dog's health, it's usually found in much greater abundance in dog foods than omega-3 fatty acids. The proper ratio for these fatty acids is 5:1 or 10:1, depending on the source you check (omega-6 to omega-3). Too much omega-6 fatty acid can be counterproductive and cause or worsen some health problems, so it's important for dog foods to try to maintain the correct ratio (source). One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids is fish and fish meals, while omega-6 fatty acids are often found in plant sources such as seeds and nuts, among other things (source).
This food also contains whole flaxseed – an enormous source of omega-3 fatty acid, and fish oil (source). At this point people start to disagree about whether plant sources of omega-3 are as good as animal sources and they can devolve into particular points about different fats. You can read more on this subject here.
The food also contains vitamins and chelated minerals ("proteinated") which allow your dog to absorb the minerals more efficiently (source).
*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profile.
Tractor Supply Company states the following in their description of this and other 4Health foods:
"4Health Grain Free Whitefish & Potato Formula for Adult Dogs is specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of your adult dog." (source)
However, this is NOT the same as an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy and I couldn't find one listed for the food on the Tractor Supply Co. web site. This raises concerns about the nutritional adequacy of this food.
4Health Grain Free Whitefish & Potato Formula for Adult Dogs looks like a good food for adult dogs, especially if they absolutely must have a food that's gluten-free. The tapioca in the food does look like empty calories in this case but it's gluten-free and so are the whole potatoes. The protein percentage is moderate for a grain free premium food and the fat percentage is within acceptable parameters. The ingredients seem to be of good quality. It is troubling that the company doesn't include the actual AAFCO statement on the site. However, overall, it looks like this food would provide good nutrition for a dog that needs a grain free and gluten-free diet.
4Health Whitefish and Potato has received our 4 paw rating.