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Kirkland Dog Food Review

is kirkland a good dog food
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Kirkland dog food is a private label brand made for the large retailer Costco by Diamond Pet Foods Inc, owned by Schell and Kampeter Inc. 

Diamond Pet Foods was founded by two brothers-in-law (Schell and Kampeter) in 1970 when they bought Milling Meta Co, a livestock feed, and dog food producer in Missouri. In those days, they produced only 5% dog food. They expanded their production by opening plants in Lathrop, CA, Gaston, SC, and 2 plants in Arkansas. 

Other brands owned by Diamond include Diamond Naturals, Nutra-Gold and Taste of the Wild. Diamond Pet Foods is a co-packer and manufacturer of dog food for a wide variety of other companies. All their foods are made in the United States.

For our Kirkland dog food review, we’ll look at the food ingredient quality and safety. Our dog food reviews are based on these criteria.

Kirkland Signature Dry

Score: 3.4/10

Package Ingredients For Signature Chicken, Rice & Vegetables Adult Dog Food Recipe: Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, cracked pearled barley, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), egg product, dried beet pulp, potatoes, fish meal, flaxseed, natural flavor, dried yeast, millet, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, carrots, peas, dried kelp, apples, cranberries, rosemary extract, parsley flake, dried chicory root, glucosamine hydrochloride, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, chondroitin sulfate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid

Using our evaluation criteria, Kirkland Signature Dry dog food is considered a high risk dog food. Here are our concerns. 

Ingredient Quality

There are many concerns when it comes to ingredient quality: 

High Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates in this line average 40% as calculated ,which is excessively high. Excessive carbohydrate is an indicator of low quality foods as it’s often used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. High carbohydrate diets also lead to a lower protein diet which holds true here with 26% protein.

Excessive Added Vitamins And Minerals: This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Added Amino Acids: One recipe has added amino acids. Protein from animals is more complete in amino acids than protein from plants – plus it’s more expensive. Foods with lower amounts of animal protein often need to add amino acids to compensate, so 2 or more added amino acids can be a marker of cheap, lower quality ingredients.

Plant Protein: Plant proteins are used as a less expensive substitute for quality animal protein. You want to see animal sources because they’re more digestible and contain a wider array of amino acids than plant based protein sources.

Unnamed Animal Protein: Unnamed animal ingredients are a sign of low quality. These recipes contain fish meal that can be made from any type of fish (you want to see a named species of fish). Unnamed animal ingredients are often a less expensive, low quality ingredient that can be made from rendered waste of many proteins. 

Cellulose: Cellulose is low quality, insoluble fiber made from wood pulp. It’s the least expensive and least functional form of fiber since it’s very poorly fermented. Dog foods often include it to firm stools and add bull, especially to weight management recipes, as is the case here. Dogs have no known need for fiber, unless it’s fermentable fiber that supports gut health. 

Ingredient Safety

There are just as many concerns about ingredient safety.

Ultra Processed: This line loses significant points for being an ultra-processed dog food. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticides/Herbicide Foods In The Top 5 Ingredients: These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Peas, oatmeal and barley (unless organic) are crops that are spray-dried with Roundup, leaving them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases.  

GMO Ingredients: Potatoes are a known GMO crop used in all of these recipes. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off. 

Rice: Arsenic contamination is a significant concern with rice since it naturally absorbs arsenic which can contaminate the water it’s grown in. Arsenic is linked to chronic health issues.

Natural Flavor: Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Read more Kirkland Dog Food Reviews

Kirkland Nature’s Domain Signature Dry

Score: 3.7/10

Package Ingredients For Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato Recipe: Salmon meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, ocean fish meal, pea protein, potato fiber, natural flavor, flaxseed, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

Using our evaluation criteria, Kirkland Nature’s Domain Signature Dry dog food is considered a high risk dog food. Here are our concerns. 

Ingredient Quality

There are many concerns when it comes to ingredient quality:

High Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates in this line average 44% as calculated, which is excessively high. Excessive carbohydrate is an indicator of low quality foods as it’s often used to keep costs down. Large amounts of starch can increase insulin levels, cause obesity and negatively impact gut balance. High carbohydrate diets also lead to a lower protein diet which holds true here with 23% protein, which is about half the amount of carbohydrates. 

Excessive Added Vitamins And Minerals: This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Added Amino Acids: One recipe has added amino acids. Protein from animals is more complete in amino acids than protein from plants – plus it’s more expensive. Foods with lower amounts of animal protein often need to add amino acids to compensate, so 2 or more added amino acids can be a marker of cheap, lower quality ingredients.

Seed Oil: All but one recipe contains canola oil, a highly processed and inflammatory seed oil. It’s an inexpensive alternative to higher quality animal fats and oils.  

Contains 3 Or More Plant Proteins: Plant proteins are also used as a less expensive substitute for quality animal protein. You want to see animal sources because they’re more digestible and contain a wider array of amino acids than plant based protein sources.

Unnamed Animal Protein: Unnamed animal ingredients are a sign of low quality. Several recipes contain ocean fish meal that can be made from any type of fish. Unnamed animal ingredients are often a less expensive, low quality ingredient that can be made from rendered waste of many proteins. 

Ingredient Safety

There are also several issues when it comes to ingredient safety.

Ultra Processed: This line loses significant points for being an ultra-processed dog food. The individual ingredients in dry dog foods are heated several times during processing, which can cause a significant loss of enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Foods In Top 5 Ingredients: These recipes contain foods in the top 5 ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Peas and legumes (unless organic) are crops that are spray-dried with Roundup, leaving them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases.  

GMOs In Top 5 Ingredients: These recipes contain known GMO ingredients in the top 5 ingredients that include potatoes and canola. There are limited safety studies on genetically modified and Roundup Ready crops although they are lacking in nutrients compared to non-GMO foods. GMO crops also strip nutrients from soils, require increased pesticide risk and may be involved in bee die-off.

Natural Flavor: Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Read more Kirkland Dog Food Reviews

Kirkland Nature’s Domain Canned

Score: 7/10 

Package Ingredients For Nature’s Domain Turkey and Pea Stew Canned Recipe: Turkey, turkey broth, vegetable broth, natural flavor, dried egg product, peas, agar-agar, carrots, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, spinach, choline chloride, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, iron proteinate (a source of chelated iron), zinc proteinate ( a source of chelated zinc), vitamin E supplement, copper proteinate (a source of chelated copper), manganese proteinate (a source of chelated manganese), riboflavin supplement, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, thiamine mononitrate, niacin supplement, calcium panthothenate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, potassium iodate, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement

Using our evaluation criteria, Kirkland Nature’s Domain Canned dog food is considered a moderate risk dog food. Here are concerns. 

Ingredient Quality

There is only one issue when it comes to ingredient quality:

Excessive Added Vitamins And Minerals: This line loses ingredient quality points for excessive added vitamins and minerals. This usually reflects poor quality or overly processed ingredients. Ideally, these nutrients should come from whole food sources. Vitamin and mineral excesses, especially vitamin D and copper, can also result from vitamin premixes.

Ingredient Safety

There are several concerns about ingredient safety.

Highly Processed: Canned foods are heated before and during canning, which will cause significant losses in some active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and phytonutrients. Processed foods are also linked to higher mortality rates in many species. 

High Pesticide/Herbicide Ingredients: The recipes in this line contain ingredients that are known to carry a large pesticide/herbicide residue. Spinach and peas (unless organic) are spray-dried with Roundup, leaving them with more glyphosate/herbicide residue than other crops, even genetically modified ones. Glyphosate is an antibiotic that can kill beneficial gut bacteria and has been linked to cancer and other diseases.  

Natural Flavor: Recipes in this line contain natural flavor, which is added to make processed food more palatable. But natural flavor is often either MSG or animal digest, both low quality ingredients with limited safety studies.

Read more Kirkland Dog Food Reviews

Is Kirkland A Good Dog Food?

Overall, Kirkland’s dry dog foods are considered high risk. There is a single canned recipe that is considered moderate risk.  

Kirkland’s recipes don’t include wheat, corn or soy. However, that doesn’t mean they have low carbohydrates. Average carbohydrates within the 2 lines of dry foods is 40% as calculated, which is excessively high. Kirkland has a single canned food with carbohydrates of 14%, which is reasonable for wet dog food. High levels of carbohydrates often result in low levels of protein and that is the case here with average protein under 26% for the dry recipes. The canned recipe has a respectable level of protein at 44%.

Nature’s Domain Signature Dry offers grain free recipes but grain has been replaced with starchy ingredients that include peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, fava beans, sweet potatoes, potatoes and canola meal. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate, but starch is required for extrusion in dry dog foods. Foods that are high in carbohydrate can raise insulin and cause obesity and changes to the gut bacteria.

All Kirkland recipes have similar ingredient safety and ingredient quality concerns as listed earlier. Kirkland’s canned recipe scores better with low carbohydrates and less processing. But there are no whole ingredients or vegetable matter beyond the first few ingredients, reflecting limited nutrients.  

Despite having a lengthy, descriptive list of ingredients on the Costco website, there is limited information about the origin, source and quality of ingredients. They state that most of the ingredients originate in the United States, and that they are tested prior to being accepted at the manufacturing facilities. With this type of commitment to ingredient testing, it’s curious to see that of Kirkland’s 13 recipes, only one uses organic ingredients. All Kirkland recipes would rank higher in safety if the ingredients were organic and avoided GMOs and pesticide/herbicide residues. 

There are a few things worth noting among these 3 lines that don’t affect the score.

Glam Ingredients: Most of the Kirkland recipes contain glam ingredients. These are expensive or desirable ingredients like blueberries, kale or apples that are listed after salt. They’re often added to appeal to consumers but because they’re below the salt, are present in minuscule amounts, so they contribute little or no nutritional value to your dog. 

Ingredient Splitting: This is a technique of splitting ingredients into sub-categories to move certain ingredients higher or lower on the ingredient list. This is often used to disguise the amount of lower quality ingredients in the food, such as corn, potatoes or peas, and moves desirable ingredients, like animal proteins, higher.

Does Not Provide Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio: This omission is true of most foods. However it is a concern because omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, and AAFCO allows a very inflammatory ratio of 30:1. 

Does Not State Farmed Vs Wild Caught Fish: Ocean fish meal and salmon meal and oil are used but the company doesn’t specify whether the fish is farmed or wild caught. Farmed fish is less nutritious than wild caught fish and does not contain the same healthy fatty acid balance. 

Kirkland Dog Food Recalls

05/2012: Voluntary recall by Diamond Pet Foods due to potential Salmonella contamination.

03/2007: Widespread recall of Kirkland Signature Super Premium Canned Food due to melamine contamination in vegetable proteins.

Diamond Pet Foods, which makes Kirkland Dog Foods, has a long history of recalls and lawsuits:

Diamond Pet Foods was recalled in 2005 due to aflatoxin contamination in foods at their South Carolina facility. More than 100 dogs became ill or died due to aflatoxicosis.  

Diamond Pet Foods had several recalls in 2012 due to Salmonella contamination. All foods were made at their South Carolina facility:

4/10/12 – Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal and Rice dry dog food – possible Salmonella contamination

4/26/12 – Diamond Pet Foods Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food – Salmonella contamination

4/30/12 – Diamond Pet Foods , Diamond Puppy Formula dry dog food – voluntary recall due to possible Salmonella contamination

5/4/12 – Diamond Pet Foods, possible Salmonella contamination in the following brands:

  • Canidae Pet Foods
  • Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
  • Country Value
  • Diamond
  • Diamond Naturals
  • Natural Balance
  • Premium Edge
  • Professional
  • 4Health
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Kirkland Signature Dog Food
  • Solid Gold
  • Wellness 

This was a massive recall and in July 2018 the CDC announced a link to Salmonella poisoning in 49 individuals (no deaths) from Diamond Pet Foods production facility in Gaston, South Carolina.

Class Action Lawsuits
Filed February 2019, Jackson et al v Schell & Kampeter Inc, d/b/a Diamond Pet Foods et al, alleging failure to disclose positive tests for arsenic, lead, pesticides and other toxic materials in Taste of the Wild dog food.

Filed August 2018, Grossman v Schell & Kampeter Inc, d/b/a Diamond Pet Foods et al., alleging failure to disclose the presence of heavy metals, pesticides, acrylamide and bisphenol A (BPA) in Taste of the Wild dog food.

Settled Lawsuit
Filed May 2012, Marciano v Schell & Kampeter Inc, d/b/a Diamond Pet Foods et al, alleging negligence following the salmonella-related recall of many Diamond-manufactured pet food brands, including Taste of the Wild. The case was settled for $2 million. Some consumers received reimbursement for veterinary costs. 

Evaluation Criteria

We evaluate and score dog foods based on two criteria:

Are the Ingredients High Quality?

Here are some common low quality ingredients or markers we look for:

  • Is there excessive carbohydrate content, which can cause gut imbalances?
  • Does the food contain unnamed proteins, which are low quality?
  • Does the food use cellulose (wood pulp) as a source of fiber instead of real food?
  • Are there excessive vitamins and minerals added in place of real food nutrition?
  • Are there excessive added amino acids or plant proteins instead of expensive meat protein?
  • Does the food contain inflammatory processed seed oils?

How Safe Are the Ingredients?

Many ingredients come from unhealthy, inflammatory sources or are full of pesticides so we look for:

  • How processed is the food?
  • Does the food contain known genetically modified foods?
  • Does the food contain ingredients known to be high in pesticides?
  • Does the food contain natural flavor, which are often MSG or animal digest?
  • Does the food contain rice, which is high in arsenic?

Each food is objectively evaluated by these criteria and a score is assigned using the average of ingredient quality and safety. This is NOT a paid list and there are no affiliate links. We’ve partnered with DogFoodReviews.com to make sure dog owners have unbiased, objective criteria to help them choose the best dog food on the market. You can view the full Evaluation Criteria at DogFoodReviews.com.

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