It’s hard to escape chicken-based dog food as it seems to be the most popular protein source in many brands today.
For some dogs, this is unacceptable, and a poultry-free alternative is necessary. While many brands make dog foods with different protein bases, they’re not all created equal. Even some that looked great on paper didn’t pass our pup’s sniff test.
We’ve searched for a chicken-free dog food that’s as healthy for our furry friends as it is tasty. After testing many of these dog foods with our dogs, we wrote these reviews to share what we learned.
Hopefully, you’ll have everything you need to make the right choice for your four-legged companion.
A Quick Glance at the Winners of 2022:
The 11 Best Chicken-Free Dog Foods:
1. The Farmer’s Dog Beef Recipe Fresh Dog Food – Best Overall
The Farmer’s Dog is a dog food subscription service that produces premium, fresh food customized for your dog and delivers directly to your door. The Farmer’s Dog is made at USDA-inspected facilities, and its Beef Recipe was our 1st best overall pick for the best dog foods without chicken. The Farmer’s Dog does not subject its food to a high-temperature oven but uses a low-temperature process to gently cook the ingredients to retain nutrients.
The first five main ingredients of the Beef Recipe are beef, sweet potatoes, cooked lentils, carrots, and beef liver. We’re confident your pup will enjoy the Farmer’s Dog Beef Recipe.
In the end, this was our favorite dog food without chicken and which is why it has earned our highest recommendation for best dog foods without chicken.
2. Instinct Be Natural Chicken-free Dog Food – Best Value
The Be Natural dry dog food from Instinct is one of our favorites and our dogs loved it even more than we did. We love its no-filler formula that’s all natural, and features animal protein that’s responsibly sourced as the first and second ingredients. Though it’s not grain-free dog food, it’s made with natural fruits and vegetables to keep your furry friends healthy. Moreover, it’s the first Raw-coated kibble. This means that every piece is coated with Raw that’s made from real meat and whole food ingredients, adding in more protein to this food to help it achieve its high 25% crude protein composition.
With several available options, you can vary your dog’s diet between salmon, lamb, and beef. Our dogs loved all three. Since it’s free of ingredients known to trigger food sensitivities but it’s packed with protein and natural ingredients, we think it’s the best dog food without chicken for the money. Affordable and crafted from the finest ingredients from around the world, we feel confident recommending it in our number two position.
3. Natural Balance Ingredient Diets
Feeding your dog a limited ingredient diet can have many benefits, and this Limited Ingredients Diets dog food from Natural Balance is an ideal choice. It’s completely grain-free and uses no artificial flavors or colors. There are many protein sources to choose from, including fish, duck, bison, lamb, venison, and beef. With 20% protein, it’s sure to meet the demands of your active dog. It’s also packed with natural fiber to promote healthy digestion.
With such high-quality food for your canine, you can’t expect it to come cheap. While it’s priced pretty high, we don’t think it’s outrageous considering what it does for your dog. It features healthy, natural ingredients, and it’s also full of vitamins and minerals that help your dog live a long and healthy life while promoting a shiny coat and strong joints. Overall, we think it’s one of the best out there, which is why it’s earned our pick as the third best dog food without chicken. Our dogs loved the taste and we loved the nutritional benefits of this grain-free recipe.
4. Purina Pro Plan Adult Dog Food
Purina is a well-known name in dog food, but they’re sold at big box stores, which tends to make us wary. However, their ProPlan FOCUS adult dry dog food is several steps above their traditional formula. To start, it’s a high-protein formula with 26% of the total calories coming from protein. This is one of the highest of any food we tested and we appreciate the benefits this brings for our dogs. You can choose salmon or lamb as the protein source and it will be listed as the first ingredient.
Free from corn, wheat, and soy, this blend is great for dogs with a sensitive stomach. Despite what it’s missing, it’s packed with fiber, Omega-6 fatty acids, and zinc for a healthy coat, and to improve the overall well-being of your dog. For dogs with skin problems, this food didn’t introduce any new problems. In fact, it helped to reduce the existing conditions’ severity in our case. However, we discovered several bugs by the bottom of our bag, an issue that prevents this dog food from reaching our top three.
5. Whole Earth Farms Dog Food without Chicken
This all-natural dog food from Whole Earth Farms is a healthy and delicious alternative to chicken-based dog foods. With multiple sources of protein in each formula, you can be sure that your dog’s needs are adequately met. Devoid of by-products, artificial colors, artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, and soy, this dog food will provide your dog with the nutrition it needs to maintain the highest level of health. Packed with vitamins and minerals, it will help keep your dog’s coat shiny and beautiful while helping them maintain strong bones and joints.
While many dog food brands stick to a single source of protein in each formula, Whole Earth Farms has gone with a different approach by including several types of protein in each to keep your dog’s diet varied. Our dogs loved the pork, beef, and lamb recipe, but there were other options to choose from. Completely grain-free and with added vitamins and minerals, we liked the focus on our dog’s good health.
6. Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Dog Food
Unlike lower quality dog foods that use cheaper substitutes instead of quality protein sources, the Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet dog food lists its quality protein as the first ingredient. Instead of chicken, you can pick from lamb, turkey, duck, and salmon to treat your dog to a varied and healthy diet. All of them are grain-free to support gentle digestion making this dog food excellent for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
The limited ingredient formula means this dog food is a great option for dogs with allergies, food sensitivities, or other health concerns. We were a bit disappointed with the protein level, though, which is just 20%. While this is adequate, we prefer the higher protein formulas available on foods such as the Instinct Be Natural dog food in our second spot. The Blue Buffalo was also priced at a premium and we just didn’t think it offered quite as much value as competing brands at the same price.
7. Nature’s Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food
Some of our favorite dog foods without chicken list a high-quality protein source as the first ingredient. Nature’s Recipe lists lamb meal as the first ingredient. While this isn’t a deal-breaker, we do prefer a higher quality protein such as deboned lamb. That said, Nature’s Recipe is one of the more affordably priced dog foods, likely due to the use of lamb meal, at least in part. There is no grain-free formula, but healthy and high-fiber vegetables were used such as oats, barley, and brown rice.
For your dogs’ health, this food has added vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for healthy digestion and optimal muscle strength. Unfortunately, some of the calories are coming from poultry fat, which is listed as one of the ingredients. Though it’s lamb based, the inclusion of poultry fat means the Nature’s Recipe dog food may not be a good choice for dogs with allergies or sensitivities to chicken, which is one of the major flaws that kept this food from reaching a higher position on our list of best dog foods without chicken.
8. ACANA Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
ACANA is known for its premium dog foods, but we feel that this one missed the mark. It does use real meat from premium protein sources such as freshwater fish, which provides your dog with a variety of protein sources in the same formula. The freshwater fish includes wild-caught rainbow trout, yellow perch, and blue catfish. There is also a red meat option that has no chicken. We appreciate the quality and unique protein sources used for this dog food, but you will be paying an absolute premium for it, as this is one of the most expensive ones we tried.
With a composition that’s 60% meat inclusions, we knew there would be a lot of protein, but there’s also more. In the red meat blend, we found lots of hair in all of the kibble. This suggests that carcasses are being ground up as well, which isn’t our first choice of what we’d like to feed our dogs. Some of the dogs we fed it to had adverse reactions and ended up with diarrhea or vomiting. Obviously, this is something we never want our dogs to experience. Despite the quality protein, we don’t recommend the ACANA dog food.
9. Merrick Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
We’ve enjoyed Merrick pet products in the past so we had high hopes for their grain-free dry dog food. The one we tried was real Texas beef and sweet potato, which sounded great to us, but some of our dogs disagreed and wouldn’t eat it. Since it’s grain-free, we thought this would be a great choice for our dogs with sensitivities. However, it actually ended up causing some skin allergies in a few of our dogs!
After just a few days on this food, their skin seemed to dry out and get flaky and they became very itchy. Switching back to their previous food seemed to remedy the issue. Packed with Omega-3 and 6, this food should be great for your dog’s coat, though that wasn’t our experience. It’s also very expensive, and since we got better results with some lower-priced foods we tried, we think the Merrick is overpriced for what it is and would recommend something like the Whole Earth Farms grain-free dog food in our top position instead.
10. GENTLE GIANTS Natural Dog Food
Made by Burt Ward who played Robin the Boy Wonder in the Batman TV series, the GENTLE GIANTS natural dog food is a non-greasy formula that’s meant to help your dog live a healthy and long life. It’s advertised as smelling great, which we can all agree is quite subjective. To us, the smell was atrocious! Even our dogs didn’t like it. Well, we’re making that assumption since none of them really wanted to eat it. Our dogs will eat almost anything, but they didn’t like this food! This was a real downer since it’s very expensive. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive dog foods we tried. It’s likely this is because they used wild-caught salmon and non-GMO vegetables. We do appreciate this care taken with the food, but if our dogs don’t like it, then it was all for naught!
11. Zignature Goat Dry Dog Food
Another premium priced dog food, the Zignature brand food is made with goat as its protein source. It makes sense for it to be so high-priced with goat listed as the very first ingredient. We love dog food formulas that prioritize quality protein, but the price of this one is pretty hard to overcome. Thanks to the limited ingredient formula, this food is an excellent choice for any dog with allergies or food sensitivities. None of our dogs had any problems digesting this food and it seemed to be easy on the stomach, even for the ones with digestive issues. That said, it did cause some very rank breath, which we didn’t enjoy. Between the breath and the high price, we recommend choosing a different brand that won’t turn you off from your dog when it tries to give you love!
Buyer’s Guide – Picking the Best Dog Food Without Chicken
After reading our reviews and recommendations, you could feasibly go out and purchase a bag of chicken-free dog food right now that will keep your dog happy and healthy. However, we think it’s a good idea to get a bit more information first. In this section, we’re going to cover what things we were looking for in the best chicken-free dog food that make it better or worse in our eyes. After reading, you should be able to make an informed decision about what dog food best suits you and your fur-covered partner.
What is the First Ingredient?
When you look at the ingredients list of any dog food, they will be listed in the order in which they are present. Therefore, the first ingredient is the most prevalent in the formula, and the second listed ingredient will be found in the second-highest quantity, and so on. In this way, you can easily tell the quality of the food and the protein source used. If the first ingredient is something like deboned lamb, you can be sure that high-quality lamb meat was used, and there should be sufficient amounts for your dog’s health.
On the other hand, if lamb meal is the first ingredient, you know that a lower-quality protein source was used since lamb meal is a conglomerate of lamb parts and not just the good meat. The lowest quality foods will often use by-products of protein sources to boost the crude protein rating without greatly increasing production costs. We’d suggest staying away from dog foods that use animal by-products as these are just lower quality and less healthy for your dog.
Limited Ingredient Diet
Limited ingredient diets have become popular recently, and with good reason. Some dog food brands contain so many ingredients that it can be hard to pinpoint which one may be the culprit when your dog experiences adverse reactions. Dogs are susceptible to allergies and food sensitivities just like humans, and when it happens, you need to be able to figure out which ingredient is causing it. Limited ingredient foods contain only a few ingredients, which makes it easier to pinpoint food allergies, as well as avoiding them altogether. If your dog has known sensitivities or allergies, we’d recommend sticking to foods that are built for a limited ingredient diet.
Dogs need high protein content in their food since they’re carnivores. Getting sufficient quantities of protein will help your dog maintain a healthy, happy, and long life. For us, the minimum is 20% protein, though we prefer higher concentrations. Many dog foods today offer protein levels of 25% or higher, which is excellent, especially for more active dogs. We always look for the higher protein dog foods and think it’s definitely the best choice for our furry friends.
Just like us humans, our dogs are susceptible to a myriad of health issues as they age. Also, just like us, these can be mitigated with proper nutrition. High-quality dog foods will often fortify their formulas with important nutrients that will boost your dog’s health. Vitamins and minerals are often added, which can help keep your dog’s bones strong and is great for their overall well-being. Moreover, joint supplements such as glucosamine are often included which can help stave off joint problems that many older dogs experience. Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are also often built into dog foods to help keep their coat shiny and luxurious. We suggest finding a dog food that contains all of these great nutrients to keep your dog in optimal health throughout their lifetime.
Our Final Thoughts
Lots of dog foods are made without chicken, but for our canine companions, only the best will do. That is why we’ve tested as many different dog foods without chicken as we could find. You’ve read our reviews of the ten best, but before you make your decision, we want to quickly review our top recommendations so they’re fresh in your mind. Our choice for the best chicken-free dog food was The Farmer’s Dog. Each recipe includes a diverse selection of high-quality protein sources, it’s all natural, and it’s free of by-products, artificial colors, and artificial preservatives. The dogs loved the taste, and we loved the health benefits.
For the best value, we think it’s hard to beat the Be Natural dog food from Instinct. Devoid of fillers, raw coated, and with 25% protein content, it’s a great choice for any dog and we think it’s worthy of our second-choice recommendation. In the third position, the Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Diets dog food was grain-free, 20% protein, and contained limited ingredients for dogs with allergies or sensitivities. Plus, they had a great selection to choose from. We’re confident that you and your dog will love all three of these foods.
Featured image credit: mattycoulton, Pixabay