You won’t find two more massive titans in the pet food world, as Pedigree and Purina are the biggest and second-biggest pet food brands in the world, respectively. You’ll find their brands anywhere pet food is sold — but does the fact that they’re ubiquitous mean that they’re good?
And more critically, when it comes to Pedigree vs Purina, which one is better?
We took a deep dive into both brands to determine a winner so that you can give your dog food you can trust. And while there was one brand we prefer over the other, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t uncover a few surprises along the way (more on that in a minute).
A Sneak Peek at the Winner: Purina
Pedigree seems to be focused more on providing affordable food than it is making sure that food is high-quality, whereas Purina manages to achieve both aims with much more success.
However, it should be noted that since both manufacturers make such a wide array of foods, you’ll be able to find some at one brand that compares very favorably to a few at the other, and vice versa. So why would we feed our dogs Purina foods over Pedigree? Read on to find out.
Pedigree is a subsidiary of the giant Mars, Inc. corporation, a brand that’s best known for making a wide variety of candy bars. And as you might expect from a candy company, nutrition isn’t necessarily their biggest concern.
Instead, the brand focuses on making food that’s affordable, regardless of whether it meets every single dietary need your dog has. It’s not quite junk food — but no one will ever accuse it of being a health food, either.
Pedigree Had the Pet Food Market Cornered for a Long Time
In addition to making dog food, the company is also known for its Whiskas brand of cat food, among others. They were also notable for popularizing canned food, although dry kibble was still by far their best-selling product.
For a long time, the pet food market was made of Pedigree and a lot of smaller, regional brands, most of which made the same boring, cheap kibble. As a result, there was little pressure on Pedigree to improve or diversify.
That began to change in the 1980s and ‘90s, however. At that time, Purina began to become a viable competitor to Pedigree, and many other boutique brands started to rise to national prominence as well.
This forced Pedigree to change with the times, but they also left their ideology unchanged, at least as far as their basic kibble goes: they wanted to make dog food that anyone could afford to feed their pet.
Pedigree is Still the Biggest Petcare Company in the World
Operated out of England, the company sells more pet food than any other organization in the world.
They held a stranglehold on the global market for some time and then strengthened their grasp on the U.S. market by acquiring Los Angeles-based Kal Kan in 1968.
In addition to their flagship Pedigree line, the company also owns brands like Sheba, Eukanuba, Cesar, IAMS, and Nutro, among others.
Pedigree’s Focus is on Affordability
The company tries to ensure that their kibble is affordable for all dog owners, which is why you can find it in grocery stores and big-box stores as well as boutique pet markets.
To keep their food affordable, however, they tend to skimp on the meat and rely on cheap fillers like corn and wheat. Also, what meat they do include is often heavily reliant on animal by-products, which are the leftover parts of the animal that would otherwise have been discarded.
Pedigree Pushes Wet Food as Hard as Kibble
When they think of Pedigree, most people likely picture their big yellow cans. The company has long pushed wet food as a healthy alternative to dry kibble, even though the science doesn’t necessarily back them up in that regard.
Some of their lines — like Cesar, for example — are primarily wet food-based.
Purina comes in second to Pedigree in terms of worldwide sales, but it’s the biggest U.S.-based pet care company. Many of their products seem focused on the American market as a result, and almost all their manufacturing is based in the USA.
The quality of their food varies wildly depending on which line produces it. As a result, you can buy anything from dirt-cheap kibble that rivals what Pedigree makes to high-end recipes designed to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.
Purina Has Placed an Increasing Emphasis on Nutrition
For a long time, Purina was as laser-focused on price as Pedigree continues to be, and their food was as inexpensive as their bigger rival’s.
However, as the pet market (especially in the United States) began to drift towards healthier, natural foods, Purina began to shift their focus as well. They began to introduce specialized lines that were more expensive but used higher-quality foods as well.
Their ONE line was the first large-scale premium pet food ever made, and while it can’t quite rival some of the human-grade foods made today, it nevertheless represented a seismic shift in the pet food industry. ONE is still one of their top-performing brands.
Despite their continuing emphasis on high-quality, nutritious foods, the company still makes many affordable options that use cheap fillers and animal by-products. Recently, though, they’ve been trying to offer foods that use healthy ingredients at prices that rival those of their competitor.
Purina Boasts a Wide Array of Specialized Brands
While Pedigree seems to believe that dog food is dog food, Purina has gone the other direction to become one of the most specialized dog food companies in the world.
They have several different brands (like ALPO, Beneful, and Mighty Dog, among others), but their primary Purina brand is largely divided into three major lines: Purina Dog Chow, Purina ONE, and Purina Pro Plan.
Purina Dog Chow is just basic dog food, with recipes as imaginative as its name. The latter two brands, however, boast a wide variety of sub-brands, each of which is targeted at specific issues your dog may face.
As a result, there’s a Purina recipe for just about anything you want to focus on with your dog, whether that’s making sure he ages gracefully, giving him gentle food for his sensitive stomach, or ensuring he gets the maximum amount of nutrition to fuel his active lifestyle.
Purina Generally Uses Healthy Ingredients — But There’s Plenty of Room for Improvement
You’ll find a few recipes in their cupboard that use only high-quality ingredients, with no questionable foods or additives.
For the most part, however, each food has room to improve. The vast majority use cheap fillers like wheat and corn, and many use at least some sort of animal by-product.
That being said, real meat is usually the first ingredient, so at least the rest of the food is built upon that healthy bedrock.
Purina is Made Almost Exclusively in the United States.
Purina was founded in the United States, and even though it merged with the global Nestle corporation in 2001, its focus is still on the American market.
It owns several manufacturing plants in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest and Northeast. Almost all its food is made domestically.
While that’s a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is sourced domestically, too. With a few exceptions, the company is tight-lipped about where its ingredients come from.
3 Most Popular Pedigree Dog Food Recipes
1. Pedigree Adult Dry Dog Food
This is the company’s basic kibble, and it’s extremely affordable. You can buy a large bag for cheap, making it a great choice for owners on a budget or those trying to feed several dogs without going broke.
Why is it so cheap? A big reason is that the first ingredient is corn. This is a pretty cheap filler, and it’s full of empty calories, too. The second ingredient is meat and bone meal, which is full of important nutrients, but it feels incomplete without also having lean meat in there as well.
Most of the other ingredients are either animal by-products or grain meal, so don’t expect a ton of nutrition. There’s only 21% protein and 10% fat in here, too — which is not ideal for keeping your dog lean and trim.
There’s a decent amount of fiber inside, largely due to the dried beet pulp they include. While fiber’s important, it’s a distant second to the protein. We’d say we want them to increase the amount of protein inside, but given the ingredients list, we’re afraid of where they’d find the meat to do so.
2. Pedigree High Protein Adult Dry Dog Food
We complained about the minimal amount of protein in their basic kibble above, and this recipe is their reply to that criticism. However, “high protein” to them appears to be “average protein” to most other food manufacturers.
The protein levels are at 27%, which is good — but hardly outstanding, especially for a food that bills itself as high protein. There’s a little more fat and the same amount of fiber as in the regular kibble.
The ingredients list is just as problematic, although this does have real beef inside. Unfortunately, it’s buried so far down the list that we wonder how much is inside.
You’ll find lamb meal down there in the vicinity of the beef, which adds a little more animal protein. It’s just not enough to excite us, though.
3. Pedigree Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
While nominally designed to address the unique nutritional needs that bigger dogs have, this food is hard to distinguish from the basic kibble.
It has 1% more protein than that food does, which is good, although hardly worth writing home about. The overall levels are still low.
The meat and bone meal swaps places on the ingredients list with chicken by-product meal, as the latter has higher levels of glucosamine, which is good for joint health. This is extremely important for big pups and we’re glad to see it but getting that glucosamine from low-grade meat is still very off-putting.
Also, all the cheap fillers are full of empty calories, so your mutt may end up putting more stress on his joints due to adding extra pounds. There’s only 10% fat in here, too, so most of his energy will come in the form of basic carbs.
We’d definitely feed a giant dog this kibble over their basic one, but it wouldn’t be hard to find a non-Pedigree brand food that was better than both.
3 Most Popular Purina Dog Food Recipes
1. Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Natural Grain-Free Formula Adult
This is one of Purina’s higher-end foods, and it costs roughly twice as much as a basic bag of Pedigree. However, you get at least twice as much nutrition, if not more.
There are no cheap fillers like corn or wheat inside, nor are there any animal by-products. In their place, you’ll find real chicken, chicken meal, and starches like cassava root flour and lentil meal. This gives you longer-lasting energy, as well as fewer empty calories.
The protein levels are way higher, too — there’s 30% protein in here, which is more than Pedigree’s “high protein” kibble. There’s an equal amount of fiber, but significantly more fat. As a result, this is a better choice for both active and overweight dogs.
This food is far from perfect, though. It has ingredients like dried egg product, which many dogs have trouble digesting, and it uses a lot of plant proteins. Also, as we mentioned, it will cost roughly twice as much.
However, if you can afford it, it’s a vastly superior food.
2. Purina Beyond Grain Free Natural Adult
Another of the brand’s grain-free offerings, this one is a tad more expensive than the ONE option above. Even so, we prefer the above food to this one.
The biggest change happens in the first three ingredients. While the ONE food has animal proteins as the first two ingredients with starch in third place, this food moves the starch up a notch. As a result, you’ll get a bit less protein (27% compared to 30%) but more fiber (5% versus 4%).
Picky dogs may prefer this food, though, as it has tender bites of protein mixed in with the regular protein, that improves the flavor while being gentle on teeth.
This food has many of the same issues as the ONE variety, including reliance on plant proteins and ingredients that dogs may have problems digesting.
Purina Beyond Grain Free is a particularly good food, but we think you could do just as well and save a few bucks by purchasing ONE Grain Free instead.
3. Purina Pro Plan SPORT Formula Adult
While there are a variety of recipes in their Pro Plan SPORT line, this is one of the few that’s grain-free. As a result, it’s the one we like the best. Of course, we may just have expensive tastes, as this is also one of the most expensive.
It’s high in both protein and fat (30% and 20%, respectively), so it’s a great choice for active or energetic pups. There’s quite a bit of animal protein in here (as well as some plant protein), but they also add fish oil to give your dog valuable omega fatty acids.
It’s a very calorie-dense food, so if your dog is sedentary, it might be too rich for him. Also, there’s more salt than we’d like.
You won’t find many better foods in Purina’s entire lineup than this one, but just be aware that you’ll be paying a premium as a result.
Pedigree vs. Purina Comparison
Now that you have a better idea of what each brand stands for and how some of their foods stack up, it’s time to compare them on a variety of important metrics.
This will vary depending on which specific recipes you compare, but broadly speaking, most dogs will prefer real meat to cornmeal. As a result, Purina should be the clear winner more often than not.
As we wrote above, Pedigree often sacrifices nutrition to create budget-friendly food. That means that they use filler grains and animal by-products instead of high-quality meats and starches.
Purina isn’t always stellar in this regard, but they almost always out-perform Pedigree.
This is the one area where Pedigree has a clear advantage over Purina. Almost all their foods are inexpensive and well within most dog owners’ price range.
You get what you pay for, and what you’re paying for with Pedigree is cheap ingredients.
Purina has a much bigger selection than Pedigree. You can find entire recipes designed to address a single concern, and many recipes are offered in regular, high-protein, and grain-free varieties.
However, all that selection can get a bit overwhelming, so if you just want a basic kibble, Pedigree is much less likely to flummox you.
Unless you’re extremely price-conscious, when pitting Pedigree vs Purina for the best dog food option, Purina is the clear winner.
It’s better food, and it uses higher-quality ingredients. Most dogs seem to prefer it as well.
Recall History of Pedigree and Purina
Pedigree has suffered numerous recalls in the past few years. There were several in 2008 due to potential salmonella contamination, although no dogs were reported to be affected by eating the food.
There was another in 2012 due to concerns that there might be bits of plastic in the food that could pose a choking hazard. Two years later, another recall was issued due to the possible presence of foreign material — specifically metal fragments. We couldn’t tell if either issue affected any dogs, but neither incident is very reassuring.
Purina has had two recent recalls. In 2013, a possible Salmonella outbreak triggered a recall, although the contamination was limited to a single bag; no pups were harmed.
In 2016, they recalled some of their wet food over concerns that the food may not have the listed number of vitamins and minerals. The food was not considered to be dangerous.
Pedigree vs Purina Dog Food: Which Should You Choose?
In some ways, it feels unfair to compare Pedigree and Purina dog food, as they both have different aims. Pedigree is designed to be affordable, while Purina is intended to be nutritious and delicious.
However, given that Pedigree is the biggest pet care company in the world, it hardly feels like we’re picking on David at the expense of Goliath here. The company could easily boost the nutritional profile of their food if they so desired.
At the end of the day, the only reason to feed your dog Pedigree over Purina is if your budget requires you to make sacrifices. If your primary concern is your dog’s health and well-being, though, you should pick Purina just about every time.