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Specialty, Premium and Grocery Store Brand Dog Foods

The following is an excerpt from’s The Adopted Dog Bible

What food should I feed my dog?


The major differences between premium foods and grocery store brand foods are the level of substantiation used to support label claims (calculation vs. feeding trials), the overall quality of ingredients that are used, and the amount of research that stands behind product claims.

However, after the massive pet food recall initiated by Menu Foods in 2007, consumers were shocked to learn the same company that produces many grocery store brand dog foods (known as “private label”) also manufactures the supposedly higher quality pet foods (referred to as “specialty” or “premium”).

There is no national organization that regulates the use of words like “specialty” and “premium” on dog foods, so you should research the manufacturer of a given brand before deciding that it is safe and healthy for your dog.

With this caveat in mind, here are the basic differences between specialty, premium, and grocery store brand dog foods:

  • Specialty foods contain the highest quality ingredients and tend to be more digestible, therefore providing a higher proportion of essential nutrients (and energy) for your dog. There are also many specialty foods formulated for inactive and overweight dogs; these have reduced energy densities and do not contain higher levels of fat than comparable premium products. Specialty foods are sold in pet specialty stores and veterinary offices, and generally carry the highest price of the three types of products.
  • Premium foods contain higher quality ingredients than grocery store brand foods. They are traditionally sold at pet supply and grocery stores and are moderately priced.
  • Grocery store brand foods are sold under a store’s own name as opposed to a national brand name, though they generally offer ingredients and nutritional guarantees similar to the nationally advertised brands. Feed stores and warehouse-type outlets often carry grocery store brand foods, which are the least expensive of the three different types of products.

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