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Beneful Healthy Growth for Puppies Dog Food Review

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1 1/2 Paws

1 1/2 PAWS

You can find detailed information about Nestle Purina, manufacturer of Beneful, in our main review of Beneful Brand Dog Food. There you will also find information about how the food is made, recalls, and their quality control. These shorter reviews provide some information about the main ingredients and any ingredients that stand out, the guaranteed analysis, and any special concerns about each food.


Product Overview

Beneful advertises the fact that it is made from “wholesome grains,” real beef, and vegetables, so if you’re looking for a grain free dog food, or a food with less grain, this is not the food for your dog. You can find Beneful in any grocery store. It is priced for most budgets. It looks like a nice food in terms of packaging and it is marketed as such. Certainly when it was introduced a few years ago, many choosy dog owners were willing to try it simply based on the nice packaging and promotion. In terms of price, it is one of several of Purina’s modestly-priced grocery store brands. The food is marketed to appeal to pet owners who want their dogs to eat a healthier diet and who probably try to eat healthier themselves.

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Some Information About Puppy Food

In order to meet AAFCO approval, puppy foods have to meet the nutritional guidelines for growth as formulated by AAFCO. The other guideline for dog food is adult maintenance. The latest AAFCO standards were set in 2008, though they are currently working on new ones that are due out soon. According to the current guidelines a puppy food should have a minimum of 22 percent protein (dry matter basis). It should have a minimum of 8 percent fat (dry matter basis). It should have a minimum of 1 percent calcium (DMB) and maximum of 2.5 percent calcium (DMB). It should have a minimum of 0.8 percent phosphrus (DMB) and a maximum of 1.6 percent phosphorus (DMB). The Ca:P ratio should be 1:1 with a maximum of 2:1. You can see all of the current standards here. Remember that AAFCO is in the process of revising these standards so there may be some changes in the coming months.

Beneful Healthy Growth for Puppies meets all of the current nutritional guidelines for a puppy food formulated for growth. (“Growth” is the same as “all life stages” on the label since the food has to be formulated for puppies, lactating mother dogs, and adult dogs. “Adult maintenance” is different from “all life stages/growth.”)

Of course, just because a food meets nutritional guidelines and is complete and balanced doesn’t mean that it’s the best food for your dog or puppy. Many or most of the dog foods you see for sale today are “complete and balanced” and meet AAFCO approval. They manage to provide nutrients that meet the minimum (and maximum, when specified) levels required. But there’s more to dog food than these figures. As someone has pointed out, shoe leather also has a protein percentage but your dog won’t get much nutrition from it. The ingredients used in dog food, and their bioavailability, do matter. It makes a difference if your dog is able to digest the food easily and how the ingredients interact with each other, for example. The taste of the food matters – if your dog won’t eat the food, it doesn’t matter how nutritious it is. It matters whether or not your dog is absorbing the nutrients in the food or passing a lot of the food as waste. A lot of things have to be considered when making dog food and when choosing it.

Ingredients in Beneful Healthy Growth for Puppies

Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), chicken, rice flour, soy flour, milk, water, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, animal digest, phosphoric acid, salt, potassium chloride, tricalcium phosphate, sorbic acid (a preservative), calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, dried peas, dried carrots, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, DL-Methionine, Yellow 5, ferrous sulfate, Red 40, manganese sulfate, niacin, Blue 2, Vitamin A supplement, Yellow 6, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite


Ingredients Overview

In the case of Beneful Healthy Growth for Puppies, most of the basic ingredients are very similar to their adult foods. There are some extra sources of calcium and some milk, which you would expect in a food for growing puppies. There is also the addition of meat and bone meal which is an added source of inexpensive protein. Meat and bone meal is typically 48 to 52 percent protein, 33-35 percent ash (minerals), 8 to 12 percent fat, and 4 to 7 percent moisture. It improves the amino acid profile of the food – provides amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that are not otherwise in the food. AAFCO defines meat and bone meal as “the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” Most dog food experts will tell you to avoid foods that use this ingredient since it’s several steps removed from whole meat. It’s not a desirable ingredient.

Tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phosphate are all calcium supplements, though they could have other uses in dog food that I’m not aware of. There are some other “calcium” inclusions in the ingredient list but they are not calcium supplements. For example, calcium pentothenate is actually vitamin B5, a water-soluble vitamin that the body needs to produce hormones, energy, store fat, and for other bodily processes. So, some names can be deceiving. Some of these calcium supplements appear in other Beneful foods (and many other dog foods), but they seem to have been increased in this puppy formula.

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Top 5 Ingredients Breakdown

The first ingredient in the food, and so the heaviest by weight before cooking, is ground yellow corn. Coupled with the third ingredient – corn gluten meal– corn appears to be the primary ingredient in the food. Ground yellow corn has about 7 percent protein which isn’t a lot; but corn gluten meal contains as much as 60 percent protein. It’s also relatively inexpensive so you can see why dog food companies like to use it in their foods. These two ingredients suggest that most of the protein in this food is probably plant-based. It’s still protein but it’s less desirable for your dog. Protein from good animal sources contain the essential amino acids that dogs need. Plant-based proteins can be lacking some of those amino acids. So, not all protein is the same.

The food also contains chicken by-product meal and chicken. According to AAFCO, chicken by-product meal is: “the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.”

So, your dog probably wouldn’t mind eating these parts, but they are not the best parts of the chicken. They are not the muscle parts that we usually like to feed our dogs. These chicken by-products do come in a meal so it’s concentrated with the moisture removed, which means it contains more protein. The chicken is whole chicken. AAFCO defines whole chicken as: “the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.”

So, AAFCO can make even good ingredients sound unappetizing. Chicken is a good source of Vitamin B6 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein, Niacin and Selenium.

Whole wheat flour is included in the first 5 ingredients as well. This ingredient doesn’t provide much nutrition value, if any, but is used more as a binder to hold the mixture together.

A large portion of the fat in the food comes from animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E). The problem with this form of fat is that it is unnamed so you don’t know what kind of animal it comes from. It could be anything. That’s probably not something you want to feed your growing puppies. It does use a natural preservative.

Additional Ingredients of Interest

Propylene glycol is a chemical relative of ethylene glycol – anti-freeze. However, it is not the same thing! Propylene glycol was once used in cat food but, at the insistence of the FDA, it is no longer used in cat food because it was shown that it was associated with Heinz Body Anemia, a deadly disease. However, research has not shown that there is any connection between propylene glycol and this condition in dogs. Some people still prefer to avoid feeding dog food that contains this food. It is used in dog foods to control moisture, to help with the effects of the breakdown of fats, and as a solvent for food coloring. This ingredient is found in 4 percent of all dog foods.

The food also contains sugar which, of course, your dog doesn’t need for any reason.

And it contains animal digest. Animal digest is also an undesirable ingredient. AAFCO defines it as: “material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.”

This is something you probably don’t want to feed to puppies. Again, this is one of those cases where the ingredient contains protein but you have to ask yourself if this is providing the nutrition you want.

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DL-Methionine is an essential amino acid found in many dog foods. It acts by reducing the pH of the dog’s urine so grass isn’t damaged when the dog urinates on it.

Calcium propionate (a preservative) is also found in this food. This is not a calcium supplement. This is an anti-fungal preservative that is often used in preserving breads to prevent mold. In humans it has been linked to damaging the stomach lining by exacerbating gastritis and inducing severe ulcers. Of course, dogs have much stronger stomach acids than humans do, so they may not be at risk for these problems. Some dog owners still choose to stay away from this ingredient. Further, this ingredient has also been linked to behavioral changes in children and migraines. Does it have negative effects on dogs? There is no evidence of these effects at this time. It is found in about 3 percent of dog foods. Make your own decision about feeding your puppy this ingredient.

The food also contains a number of added colors which dogs don’t need. Coloring is typically added to dog food to impress the owner. The added colors include: Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 2. Some of these colors have been linked to tumors and allergic reactions.

In addition to wheat flour, this food also contains soy flour, and rice flour. These ingredients are used as binders by petfood companies to hold the mixture together during the extrusion process. They don’t provide much nutrition, however. Because they are relatively inexpensive they are sometimes overused by manufacturers and act as filler ingredients.

The food also contains menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity) which is synthetic vitamin K. This ingredient can cause immune problems, allergic reactions, and it’s toxic in high doses, among other issues. AAFCO and the FDA do not require dog food companies to include any vitamin K in their products. Natural vitamin K is easy to obtain in liver, kelp, and fish meal, among other foods.

Finally, the food also contains added vitamins and minerals.

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Crude Protein (Min) ….. 28.0%
  • Crude Fat (Min) ….. 12.0%
  • Crude Fiber (Max) ….. 4.0%
  • Moisture (Max) ….. 14.0%
  • Calcium (Ca) (Min) ….. 1.1%
  • Phosphorus (P) (Min) ….. 0.9%
  • Iron (Fe) (Min) ….. 175 mg/kg
  • Vitamin A (Min) ….. 10,000 IU/kg
  • Vitamin E (Min) ….. 100 IU/kg
  • Linoleic Acid (Min) ….. 1.5%

Calorie Content: Metabolizable Energy (ME) 3878kcal/kg; 1759kcal/lb. This food has 390kcal/cup.

Nutritional Adequacy Statement

Beneful Healthy Growth For Puppies is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.

Dry Matter Basis

Figured on a dry matter basis, this food contains approximately 32.6 percent protein, much of it plant-based (corn); and about 14 percent fat. It contains approximately 4.6 percent fiber, which is an average amount for dry kibbles; and about 40 percent carbohydrates. Other kibbles have similar amounts of carbs but this is definitely a lot of carbohydrates.

The ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 1.1 to .9 and this is what is the precise range specified by the National Research Council and the Subcommittee on Dog and Cat Nutrition for growing puppies.


Beneful Healthy Growth For Puppies is a complete and balanced food that meets nutritional guidelines for growing puppies. It contains a moderately high percentage of protein, though much of the protein appears to be plant-based. The fat percentage is moderately low. The calcium to phosphorus ratio appears to be correct for growing puppies. However, the food contains some undesirable ingredients that you probably don’t want to feed to puppies.

Beneful Healthy Grow for Puppies has received our 1.5 paw rating, significantly below average.


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