Bone appetit! The great New Zealand dog food taste test

Is it worth forking out for deluxe snacks for your pooch, or are budget brands the business? Critic reviews eight dog food varieties, rating each on appearance, aroma, mouthfeel, taste and the all-important ‘aura’. 

This article was first published in the Otago University student magazine Critic Te Arohi.

Luxurious images and buzz words like “succulent” and “delicate” have a way of raising our expectations when it comes to food. As humans, we can hold these companies to account, but dogs can’t boycott brands or send disappointed emails. Critic was willing to go the extra mile to make sure your dog is getting the quality you think you’re providing. Ignoring how cancerous the ingredients probably are (that’s another investigation for another time), Critic evaluated the appearance, aroma, mouthfeel and taste differences between the most budget and the most deluxe-looking dog foods available in your local supermarket. 

Across our culinary journey, with palate-cleansing pit stops between every district of flavour town, Critic learned some things. It happens that ground-up bones make for an immediately recognisable texture in essentially all dog food, and Pams had the audacity to give their dog kibbles the aroma of Chicken Crimpy Shapes, with no follow-through on the taste or texture.

Every dog is beautiful and every dog is different, so finding the affordable food option that makes your dog say “mmm, outstanding, thank you” may take years of healthy and productive human-dog communication.  

Photo: Getty Images

THE CHEAPIE: VALUE CASSEROLE WITH 5 MEATS

Appearance: Blocky, mucousy. 4/10
Aroma: Sweet pudding. 6/10
Mouthfeel: Sandy. 2/10
Taste: Could not identify any of the five meats. 3/10
Aura: Like a scratch behind the ear. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 5/10 (C-) winner

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THE FANCY ONE: GOURMET LAMB AND VENISON BANQUET

Appearance: Little chunk blocks. 4/10
Aroma: Smells like cat food. 5/10
Mouthfeel: Rubbery. 4/10
Taste: Initial flavour made me say “Eugh!”, followed by a distinct bitter moment. 1/10
Aura: A satisfying hour of howling at sirens. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 4.8/10 (D)


THE CHEAPIE: VALUE CHICKEN DOG ROLL

Appearance: Monotonous. 4/10
Aroma: Nostalgic. 6/10
Mouthfeel: Gritty. 2/10
Taste: Bland. 3/10
Aura: Quivering chihuahua. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 5/10 (C-)

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THE FANCY ONE: BUTCH WHITE LABEL CHICKEN DOG ROLL (KELP AND OMEGA 3 ENRICHED)

Appearance: The Belgium biscuit in the lunch box of the child with the transparent skin. 5/10
Aroma: Boiled. 4/10
Mouthfeel: Smooth. 5/10
Taste: Peppery. 6/10
Aura: Like curling up in front of a warm fire and falling asleep. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 6/10 (C+) winner

Quivering chihuahua (Photo: Getty Images)


THE CHEAPIE: PAMS DOG KIBBLES MEATY BEEF FLAVOUR

Appearance: Delightfully round. 7/10
Aroma: Chicken Crimpy Shapes. 9/10
Mouthfeel: Like a cracker made of bones. 4/10
Taste: The aroma gave me false hope. 3/10
Aura: Gave me the zoomies. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 6.6/10 (B-) winner

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THE FANCY ONE: MYDOG DOG KIBBLES WITH GOURMET BEEF AND SUCCULENT MEAT PIECES

Appearance: Vibrant and colourful. 8/10
Aroma: Classic. 5/10
Mouthfeel: The “succulent meat pieces” looked like the rest of the biscuits but were unexpectedly soft and pillowy, and not in a good way. The rest of the biscuits were crunchy as nature intended. 3/10
Taste: The “succulent meat pieces” were rank. The rest of the biscuits were relievingly bland. 2/10
Aura: Car ride home from the beach, too tired to stick head out the window. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 5.6/10 (C)


THE CHEAPIE: ESSENTIALS DOG FOOD WITH CHICKEN

Appearance: A savoury mousse. 2/10
Aroma: Not unpleasant. 6/10
Mouthfeel: Softened bones in a light, airy bed. 4/10
Taste: Sudden urge to vomit, but not quite sure why. 1/10
Aura: That feel when you get away with eating the cat’s vomit. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 4.6/10 (Fail D)

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THE FANCY ONE: GOURMET CHICKEN IN A DELICATE GRAVY

Appearance: Light chunks. 4/10
Aroma: Strong, but again, not unpleasant. 6/10
Mouthfeel: Like the texture of all the other dog foods blended together and recompacted. 4/10
Taste: Could be worse. 4/10
Aura: A dog sitting on top of another dog, and both are happy. 10/10

TOTAL SCORE: 5.6/10 (C) winner

So, there you go. With Pams meaty beef-flavoured dog kibbles a clear overall winner at a modest 6.6/10, and Essentials dog food with chicken the overall loser at a frightening 4.6/10, it seems that dog food advertising quality is not in fact a reliable indicator of quality. But what would we know? We are only human. 


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