Bil-Jac Dog Food is produced by the Bil-Jac company. The company was started in 1947 by Bill and Jack Kelly and the company is still family-owned and operated by the Kelly family. They have manufacturing facilities in Berlin, MD and Medina, OH.
The company's original food was raw, frozen Bil-Jac and they still sell this product today. This product is a fresh, vacuum-dried dog food made with ingredients no more than about two weeks prior to sale. They were the only product in the fresh pet food category until about 2007 when Freshpet came on the scene. According to Information Resources, Inc. U.S. sales in the fresh pet food category declined between 2003 and 2006 but increased 119 percent that year, possibly in reaction to the serious pet food recalls that affected many other brands. Bil-Jac, which does not use any glutens or other protein concentrates, did not have any recalls. All of their meats and grains are sourced in the U.S. The fresh pet food category is expected to continue to grow at a strong rate. This is still a small segment of the market compared to the overall pet food market - it makes up less than 1 percent of sales - but the fresh/refrigerated, raw/frozen and dehydrated pet food market is expected to grow by 25 percent through 2015.
Frozen Bil-Jac is not readily available in many places because it needs to be kept frozen during transport and frozen at the store where it's sold. But Bil-Jac also makes dry dog foods and many popular treats. They also have a good distribution system through individual sales agents, in addition to selling through pet stores and grocery stores in some areas. (I can find Frozen Bil-Jac in my grocery store but I know many pet owners in other parts of the country can't. You probably won't find dry Bil-Jac in grocery stores. You can often buy it from people selling it at dog shows and other dog events.)
Bil-Jac produces dry food for puppies, adult dogs, and for dogs with special needs - reduced fat, senior select, sensitive solutions. The also produce several popular treat products. Their foods for puppies and adult dogs come in select, small breed, and large breed formulas.
The company emphasizes the freshness of the ingredients they use and they like to point out that they use 12 pounds of chicken to make 15 pounds of dog food. This same ratio applies to larger bags of dog food (25 pounds of fresh chicken to make 30 pounds of dog food). This includes chicken organ meats. Of course, it also includes the moisture in the chicken, so once the moisture is removed the chicken will weigh a lot less, but it's still a good starting point for any food. Over half of the dry food recipe is chicken. Like their frozen food, Bil-Jac says that their dry food is only made about two weeks before it is distributed so it is very fresh.
Chicken, Chicken By-Products (organs only, source of arginine), Corn Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Oatmeal, Dried Beet Pulp, Brewers Dried Yeast, Flaxseed, DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, Sodium Propionate and Mixed Tocopherols (preservatives), Salt, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Niacin, Biotin, Choline Chloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganous Oxide, Inositol, BHA (a preservative), Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Cobalt Carbonate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Extract.
For the purposes of this review I've chosen Bil-Jac Amino Acid System Adult Select Formula Dog Food. This is a dry food and it seemed like a typical Bil-Jac product for adult dogs.
You'll notice that the first two ingredients are chicken and chicken by-products (organs only). Chicken by-product meal is the fourth ingredient. As mentioned already, Bil-Jac says that over half of the recipe they use for their food is made up of fresh chicken and it comes from chicken processors close to their plants. They say that 12 out of 15 pounds of food, prior to making the food, is chicken. That certainly speaks well for the food, even when you include the chicken by-products since they are organs. Anyone who feeds their dog a raw food diet or cooks for their dog will tell you that organ meat is an important part of the diet. I have no problem with these first two ingredients and think they sound good.
The third ingredient is corn meal. Many pet owners will balk at this ingredient for a number of reasons: it's corn, it's a carbohydrate, they will think it's a filler, they will say that corn causes allergies, and so on. But Bil-Jac does state that they slow cook the corn meal. I've read another dog food or two which slow cook corn ingredients and they claim it makes a difference in how much of the nutrients in the corn a dog is able to digest - slow cooking makes corn more digestible for your dog. Certainly cooking corn fast at high temps the way it is processed in most dog foods is not going to make it easy for your dog to digest, so this might be true. Bil-Jac cites studies from Cornell University and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, so I'll go along with their assertions until I find out something different.
Oatmeal rounds out the top five ingredients. These are ground oats, heated and cooled. They are a source of slow-burning carbs and fiber.
Other ingredients of interest include dried beet pulp which is an insoluble fiber. It is a by-product of the sugar beet industry but it is used in many dog foods for fiber, to keep the colon healthy, and to provide some energy. It is not a source of sugar since the sugar has already been removed from the beets.
Flaxseed is present in the food. This is a plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids, though it's not as good as fish sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for a dog's skin, coat, heart, brain functions, and other body systems. You also find rosemary extract in the food. Rosemary extract is often used as a natural preservative in dog foods today. This is only a problem if you have a dog with epilepsy, in which case rosemary can sometimes trigger episodes.
The overall quality of ingredients looks like they are moderately good. The fresh chicken and chicken organs that make up so much of the food are, by far, the best part of this food. The other ingredients look like they are average. BHA is a problematic ingredient.
It should be noted that Bil-Jac says they use a low temperature vacuum process to make their foods which does less damage to the amino acids in proteins and keeps the food more nutritious for dogs. They are the only company that uses this process. They say it makes a big difference in their foods. Again, it's worth mentioning that all of their meats and grains are sourced here in the U.S. since this is unusual for many dog food companies and it can make a difference to many pet owners. Pet food is the company's only business.
The food uses BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) as a preservative. This is an artificial preservative though Bil-Jac refers to it as an antioxidant to prevent spoilage, especially of fats. It keeps foods from become rancid. BHA is a very stable preservative so it doesn't break down in food processing. It is used in foods such as lard, shortening, vegetable oils, and so on. However, the National Institutes of Health has reported that BHA can be expected to be a human carcinogen based on studies with experimental animals. Especially in high doses in the diet, BHA causes papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas in the stomach of rats and hamsters. There is no significant association with cancer with the usual low intake levels of BHA in humans. But the state of California has listed it as a carcinogen anyway. It is perfectly legal to use BHA in pet foods (and in human foods) and many foods do use it as a preservative, but it's something you should note and decide for yourself whether you want to use pet foods that contain it.
*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles
Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Bil-Jac Select Dry Dog Food provides complete and balanced nutrition for All Life Stages.
Bil-Jac Amino Acid System Adult Select Formula Dog Food has 27 percent (Min) crude protein. This is a nice amount of protein for most dogs. The government recommends 18 percent as a minimum for adult dogs.
The food provides 18 percent fat (Min) which is quite a lot, but most dogs should be fine with this amount. The government recommends 9 to 15 percent fat for adult dogs. Fat from good sources is healthy for dogs. They don't have to worry about heart attacks or their cholesterol.
You will probably find that this food is quite rich for your dog. Follow the recommended label amounts for feeding but keep an eye on your dog's weight and condition. You might have to cut back on the amount of food you feed if your dog begins to gain too much weight.
Bil-Jac's reputation may depend on the part of the country you live in. I live in the mid-South and the food and company have always enjoyed a good reputation here, even when their only product was their frozen food. I'm not sure how widely known they are throughout the country. Bil-Jac has rarely ever had a recall, though they had a limited recall of a small lot of food in August 2012 due to mold. Overall their company seems to have a very good record as far as quality control and it's a definite plus that they manufacture their own food.
Bil-Jac Amino Acid System Adult Select Formula Dog Food is an above average dog food that uses lots of fresh chicken and chicken organs. It looks like your dog will get good meat protein from this food. The only real concern is the BHA used as a preservative. You'll have to decide if that's an ingredient you mind in your dog's food.
Bil-Jac dog food has received our 2 paw rating.