Marketed as a premium dog kibble, Black Gold Explorer Dog Food contains some nutritional nuggets that are sometimes hard to find in other dog foods, such as prebiotics, probiotics, and healthy grains. Although some recipes are grain-free, we chose to review the ones that were the most popular on Chewy and contained heart-healthy grains like oatmeal and brown rice since grains should be included in a well-balanced diet unless a grain-free diet is recommended by a vet.
Some of the recipes are only average, not quite living up to their premium reputation. For example, the recipes are only feed-grade and rely on meat meals for protein instead of whole, human-grade meats most commonly found in fresh, frozen diets. However, the lower-quality ingredients are somewhat countered by a spotless reputation. Since 1995, Black Gold has been a family-owned and operated company based in Missouri with no recalls to date.
Click to skip ahead:
- Black Gold Explorer Dog Food Reviewed
- At a Glance: The Best Black Gold Explorer Dog Food Recipes
- Discussion of the Primary Ingredients (Good & Bad)
- Pros & Cons
- Recall History
- Reviews of the 3 Best Black Gold Explorer Food Recipes
- What Other Users Are Saying
At a Glance: The Best Black Gold Explorer Dog Food Recipes
|Our Favorite||Black Gold Explorer Chicken Meal & Brown Rice||
|Black Gold Explorer Beef Meal & Barley||
|Black Gold Explorer Original Performance||
Black Gold Explorer Dog Food Reviewed
Who Makes Black Gold Explorer and Where Is It Produced?
Black Gold Explorer was founded in 1995 in Missouri, where it continues to be family-owned and operated today. All of their recipes are made in the USA from globally sourced ingredients.
What Types of Dogs Can Eat This Food?
Although Black Gold Explorer is marketed towards active dogs who like to hike, any dog may benefit from their recipes. You’ll just need to make sure to buy the correct formula for their age because their recipes aren’t formulated for all life stages. There’s a specific one for puppies, another one just for seniors, and several choices available for all adult dogs.
Discussion of the Primary Ingredients (Good & Bad)
Black Gold Explorer digs deeper than surface-level nutritional needs. All of the recipes we reviewed provide your pup with prebiotics and probiotics to set them up with a healthy gut, which influences their overall health. Prebiotic fibers assist your dog’s gut in making probiotics, good bacteria that help balance their gut flora. Inulin and chicory root are a good source of prebiotics. These recipes include probiotic supplements, too.
We really don’t like how Black Gold Explorer calls themselves a premium food yet relies on chicken and beef meal for protein. Meat meal is the rendering leftovers that remain after the protein has been processed—in other words, the humanly inedible leftovers such as bones and necks. Proponents of meat meal claim that it’s a protein-dense, cheap way to give dogs essential nutrients. However, opponents argue that processing the meat under extremely hot temperatures renders some of these nutrients useless and allows questionable meat sources.
Unless the food is marked as human-grade, it can be assumed that your dog’s food is held to animal-feed standards which are considerably low. According to the FDA, animal-feed grade formula may legally contain 3D or 4D meats—animals found diseased, dead, dying or destroyed.
How Important Are Grains in Dog Food?
Although Black Gold Explorer offers grain-free formulas, the three recipes we chose to review are grain-inclusive. We believe grains shouldn’t be left out of your dog’s diet unless they’re allergic. The reason is that heart-healthy grains like oatmeal provide fiber, which is an essential part of your dog’s diet. Plus, a 2018 study by the FDA linked grain-free diets to cardiomyopathy in dogs, which is a type of heart disease. The study also correlated popular grain substitutes such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes.
Is Black Gold Explorer Expensive?
Not really. Even though it’s marketed as a premium, the price is average for dog food.
A Quick Look at Black Gold Explorer Food
Black Gold Explorer displays exceptional integrity in their products. All of their products are made in Missouri from globally sourced ingredients, and they’ve never experienced a single recall to date.
Reviews of the 3 Best Black Gold Explorer Food Recipes
1. Black Gold Explorer Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Formula Dry Food
|Main ingredients:||Chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain sorghum, chicken fat|
This is our favorite recipe because it features flaxseed, salmon oil, and several fruits and veggies such as dried spinach and blueberries that are a good source of Omega 3’s. These fatty acids nourish your dog’s skin and coat and give them extra support for their joints and cognitive abilities. Chicken Meal & Brown Rice contains several heart-healthy grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain sorghum, which are good sources of fiber. We like how these grains are included in the first five ingredients, instead of corn gluten meal or wheat like in the Original Performance Formula.
Like the other recipes, Chicken Meal & Brown Rice uses insulin and chicory root as sources of prebiotic fiber and also adds vitamin supplements, taurine, and probiotics.
However, also like the other formulas, there isn’t a real source of whole meat. Instead, chicken meal and chicken fat are used to pack the food with protein and flavor. Meat meal is still a controversial subject because it’s a protein-dense, cheap way to make dog food, but the quality may not be the best.
While Chicken & Brown Rice doesn’t list peas as one of the main ingredients, they are featured further down the list. We’re not a huge fan of peas in dog food because of the 2018 study on grain-free diets.
2. Black Gold Explorer Beef Meal & Barley Formula Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Beef meal, brown rice, pearled barley, chicken meal, whole grain sorghum|
Oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and whole grain sorghum form a quintessential quartet of beneficial grains in this Beef Meal & Barley medley. Aside from using a different meat meal, the ingredients are very similar to Chicken Meal & Brown Rice, such as how this food uses a blend of flaxseed, salmon oil, fruits and veggies to provide nutrients like Omega 3 fatty acids. The vitamin blend is also very inclusive, and this food doesn’t skimp on prebiotics and probiotics.
Two meat meals, beef and chicken, provide the only animal protein. We don’t think meat meals are the most holistic choice for your pet, but they do help lower the cost of the food. Pea protein is also on the list, although it’s near the end so there isn’t much.
Beef & Barley has slightly less protein and fat than the other two formulas, but the biggest difference may be in taste. The best choice for your dog between Beef & Barley and Chicken Meal & Brown Rice may be whether they prefer predominantly chicken or beef.
3. Black Gold Explorer Original Performance Formula 26/18
|Main ingredients:||Beef meal, ground corn, ground wheat, corn gluten meal, chicken fat|
Like the other Black Gold Explorer Recipes, Original Performance Formula contains a healthy supply of prebiotics, probiotics, taurine, and vitamins. However, we consider this food to be of lesser quality than the other two choices, which is why we’re bringing it up last.
Although the Original Performance Formula is the top-selling product by Black Gold Explorer on Chewy, we question the quality of some of its ingredients. The other two recipes used whole grains, but this recipe relies on ground corn and ground wheat, which isn’t as nutritious. While we don’t necessarily believe corn is bad in dog food, it depends on how it’s grown. For instance, corn is a common genetically modified crop and farmed with a host of pesticides unless it’s specifically non-GMO and organic.
Corn gluten meal in particular is a cheap protein source that can replace some meat. Dog food manufacturers can make their food cheaper by using corn gluten meal to “fill in” for some of the meat. This practice makes the protein content look nice but doesn’t give your dog a nutritionally complex protein.
This Original Performance Formula also lacks any fruits or vegetables except for beet pulp. While your dog can live without fruits and vegetables as long as the missing nutrients can be sourced through vitamins, we like to see produce included as part of a well-balanced diet.
What Other Users Are Saying
Here’s the scoop on Black Gold Explorer from fellow pet parents:
- Amazon – You can read the buyer’s reviews here before you decide to have a bag shipped to your door.
- Chewy – We like how you can buy Black Gold Explorer once on Chewy or set it up for an AutoShip box. However, you might want to check the reviews here before committing to a bag.
Black Gold Explorer stands out from the pack by including a diverse mix of vitamins, minerals, taurine, prebiotics and probiotics. Every recipe we reviewed here includes grains, which we believe are part of a healthy diet. Chicken Meal & Brown Rice was our favorite formula because it featured a vast array of fruits, vegetables, and other natural sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
Even though Black Gold Explorer depicts their doggie customers enjoying the pure wilderness, presumably after eating their food, we won’t go so far as to call it holistic. Meat by-products and corn gluten meal are cheap, lower-quality substitutes for real meat such as deboned chicken, which don’t belong in a “premium” diet.