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Merrick Backcountry Dog Food Review: Recalls, Pros & Cons

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

merrick backcountry review

Our Final Verdict

We give Merrick Backcountry dog food a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.


The Merrick brand was born in founder Garth Merrick’s kitchen in 1988. Merrick wanted to feed his dog the best nutritional diet possible, but he was frustrated by the commercial dog foods available. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands and prepare his dog’s meals himself.

Merrick soon realized that his foods had commercial appeal, and he started to sell them locally. Demand soared, and before long he was mass-producing kibble for dogs all over the world.

While Merrick doesn’t make all the ingredients in his kitchen anymore, the food still comes from his hometown of Hereford, Texas, and an emphasis is still placed on using fresh, premium ingredients. Many of their recipes are grain-free as well, so even dogs with sensitive stomachs can enjoy his food without paying the price later.

We tend to like most of what the Merrick brand puts out, but the Backcountry line is our favorite of the bunch, as it’s a grain-free kibble with bits of raw, freeze-dried meat mixed in. We have one quibble with this food, which we’ll get to shortly, but overall, we believe it’s one of the best foods available today.

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At a Glance: The Best Merrick Backcountry Dog Food Recipes:

Rating Image Product Details
Our Favorite
Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Red Recipes Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Red Recipes
  • Full of omega fatty acids
  • Lots of protein and joint support
  • Great choice for larger breeds
  • Second place
    Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Raw Infused Game Bird Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Raw Infused Game Bird
  • Made with multiple kinds of bird
  • Filled with lean protein
  • Lots of iron
  • Third place
    Merrick Backcountry Wild Fields Recipe Grain Free Merrick Backcountry Wild Fields Recipe Grain Free
  • Balanced nutritional profile
  • Good for building muscle
  • Filled with nutrient-rich organ meat
  • Merrick Backcountry 96 Merrick Backcountry 96
  • Features real deboned beef & beef liver
  • Helps successfully build healthy muscles
  • Helps maintain a high level of energy
  • Merrick Backcountry Chunk Merrick Backcountry Chunk
  • Packed with high-quality protein
  • Features real deboned lamb
  • Merrick Backcountry Dog Food Reviewed

    Who Makes Merrick Backcountry and Where is It Produced?

    Merrick Backcountry is made by Merrick Pet Care, a label that was privately-owned until 2015, when it was acquired by the Nestle Purina PetCare Company. The food is still produced in Hereford, Texas.

    Despite being purchased by a corporate behemoth, the company insists that no changes have been made to either its management or day-to-day operations.

    Which Types of Dogs is Merrick Backcountry Best Suited For?

    Merrick Backcountry is a good choice for pups that need a lot of protein, or for those who are considering transitioning to a raw food diet.

    The raw meat chunks make it attractive to picky eaters, and the kibble itself is free of grains and other common allergens. What’s more, it’s filled with a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, flaxseed, and more.

    Which Types of Dogs Might Do Better with a Different Brand?

    Merrick Backcountry is extremely high in protein, which is generally a good thing for most dogs. However, it may have too much protein for dogs with kidney or liver issues.

    If your dog has a preexisting kidney or liver condition, you should consult your doctor for suggestions on what to feed him. For our part, we recommend Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Multifunction Renal Support + Hydrolyzed Protein.

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    Discussion of the Primary Ingredients

    The first ingredient is deboned beef, which also makes up the freeze-dried chunks inside. Beef is a great source of protein for dogs, as it’s lean, has many important vitamins and minerals, and has plenty of fatty acids as well.

    After that, you have a variety of animal meals listed, including salmon meal. This meat usually isn’t as high-quality as non-meal protein — but that typically just means that you wouldn’t want to eat it. It has lots of important vitamins and minerals for your dog, while also ramping up the protein counter.

    The next ingredients listed are sweet and regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a fair amount of fiber in them, as well as important nutrients like vitamin A. Regular potatoes, on the other hand, often cause gas and other digestive issues in dogs, while only contributing a limited amount of nutrients.

    Two other ingredients we have slight problems with are pea protein and potato protein. There’s nothing wrong with these in and of themselves, but it’s likely that the manufacturer included them so that they could brag about the protein content without adding a lot more expensive meat. Plant proteins contribute lots of empty carbs to each serving.

    Raw Meat Bits Hearken Back to Your Dog’s Ancestral Diet

    Let’s face it — dogs evolved to eat fresh, raw meat. For most dogs nowadays, hunting and killing other animals is frowned upon, but their bodies don’t realize it yet.

    The raw meat chunks in Merrick Backcountry give your dog essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that he can’t get from regular kibble. Plus, most dogs love the taste, so it should encourage your pooch to wolf down his food.

    Merrick Backcountry is Filled with Essential Vitamins and Minerals

    In addition to all the naturally-occurring nutrients found in the chunks of raw meat, the manufacturers added a host of other important compounds.

    These include a variety of amino acids, potassium, a vitamin pack, choline, various probiotics, and salmon oil.

    These nutrients are essential for everything from building healthy bones, skin, and teeth to ensuring that your pup’s immune system is turbo-charged.

    This is a Premium Food at a Premium Price

    As you might expect from a food that includes chunks of real meat in it, this food isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive foods you’ll find anywhere.

    That’s especially true of some of the more exotic flavors, like those that have wild boar or quail. Those ingredients aren’t cheap, and the costs are definitely passed down to you.

    Now, you may feel it’s worth it, given all the other advantages the food has, but for some owners, this line will simply be out of reach.

    Chunky Wet Dog Food-Merrick Backcountry-Amazon
    Image: Amazon

    A Quick Look at Merrick Backcountry Dog Food

    Calorie Breakdown:

    merrick backcountry

    • Incredible amount of protein
    • Low carb count and few allergens thanks to lack of grains
    • Filled with essential vitamins and minerals
    • Extremely expensive
    • May not be good for animals with kidney or liver problems

    Recall History

    The company has a limited recall history, and what issues they’ve had have been limited to their treats.

    In January 2010, they issued a voluntary recall out of fear that their beef treats were contaminated with Salmonella. No animals were reported sick as a result of eating the treats, but the company issued subsequent recalls for the same reason several times that year and into 2011.

    In 2018, they recalled a wide range of treats due to elevated levels of a naturally-occurring beef thyroid hormone. This wasn’t a life-threatening issue, but one dog became ill as a result of eating the treats (that animal later made a full recovery).

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    Reviews of the 3 Best Merrick Backcountry Dog Food Recipes

    There are several different recipes in Merrick’s Backcountry line. Below, we put three of the most popular under the microscope:

    1. Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Great Plains Red Recipe

    5Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Great Plains Red Recipe with Beef, Lamb & Rabbit Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

    Made with deboned beef, the Great Plains Red Recipe is full of omega fatty acids, as well as important nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin, which help promote healthy joints.

    This makes it a smart choice for larger breeds, as the high protein count (38%) and joint support are excellent for dogs that carry a little extra weight.

    In addition to being grain-free, it also eschews gluten, and ingredients containing gluten can contribute to weight gain. If your dog is trying to shed some weight, this food is a smart choice.

    Just don’t expect to see it chock-full of raw meat, as the chunks are few and far between. Good thing the regular kibble is just as full of meat and protein.

    • Full of omega fatty acids
    • Lots of protein and joint support
    • Great choice for larger breeds
    • Limited amount of beef chunks

    2. Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Raw Infused Game Bird Dry Dog Food

    8Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Raw Big Game Recipe with Lamb

    You get three birds in one package with the Game Bird recipe, as it’s made with turkey, duck, and quail.

    The primary ingredient is turkey, which has a ton of protein and is extremely lean, so your dog shouldn’t get too chunky eating this stuff. There’s even some chicken meal and liver thrown in for good measure.

    Duck has a ton of iron in it and is typically easy for dogs to digest, while quail is a great meat for allergy sufferers.

    Our biggest issue with this food is the high salt content, but it’s not enough to worry about, given all the other qualities this kibble brings to the table (er, floor).

    • Made with multiple kinds of bird
    • Filled with lean protein
    • Lots of iron
    • More salt than we’d like

    3. Merrick Backcountry Wild Fields Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food

    Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused

    The Wild Fields Recipe gets its name from the fact that all the animals used to make it are those your dog would have had to hunt down in the open field centuries ago — animals like ducks, rabbits, and quail.

    This mix of protein creates a very balanced nutritional profile, as each source adds a little something the others lack. All are extremely lean, though, and should help your dog build muscle without adding pudge.

    In addition to the listed protein sources, there’s a lot of chicken organ meat inside, which contains essential nutrients you can’t find in leaner cuts of meat.

    The recipe relies heavily on white potatoes, though, and they add a lot of carbs without also adding a lot of other nutrients. Plus, some dogs have issues processing them, so your pooch might be a little gassy after meals.

    • Contains lots of high-carb potatoes
    • May cause gas

    What Other Users Are Saying

    • HerePup: “The food is so healthy the benefits to [your] pup’s health will be obvious…”
    • Dog Food Guru: “They spent years conducting nutrition research and taste tests to develop a collection of top-notch recipes that contain as few ingredients as possible.”
    • Amazon: It’s a good idea to read Amazon reviews before making a purchase. You can read these by clicking here.
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    Merrick Backcountry is one of our absolute favorite foods — and there’s a good chance it will be one of your dog’s favorites, too. The kibble is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, and that’s before they add in the freeze-dried chunks of raw meat.

    You’ll be hard-pressed to find a food that offers a more balanced nutritional profile, and the fact that it’s grain-free means that it should be easy on your dog’s stomach, too. Of course, all this quality will cost you, but we have a sneaking suspicion that your dog is well worth it.

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