Orijen brand dog food is kibble reimagined. They promise real, biologically appropriate ingredients without preservatives or fillers. While all of this may sound familiar, a closer look at the ingredients list and an exploration into how the company operates as a whole tell a very different story from anything we’ve seen before in dry dog food.
Of course, in the end, none of that really matters if the food itself doesn’t actually help our pets thrive.
In this article, we’ll take a critical look at the unique ingredients that make Orijen dog foods, how the food is sourced and produced, and what varieties are available. All in the hopes of answering the question: Is Orijen dog food really GOOD for my dog?
What’s In the Bag?
The sole purpose of any dog food is to provide whole, balanced nutrition to your dog. And whether a dog food actually lives up to that promise isn’t something you can answer by reading the flashy marketing claims and loaded words presented on the front of the bag.
To find out what the food is truly delivering, you have to go straight to the ingredients list.
What you choose to feed your dog will have lasting effects on their health and longevity. Choosing a diet with a nutritional profile as close to the one dogs evolved eating is the best thing you can do for your best friend.
A Long List of Animal Products
The first thing you’ll notice about any bag of Orijen dog food is that the ingredients list starts out with a long string of animal products. The list is so long, in fact, that it immediately sets Orijen apart from other kibbles.
To put it in perspective, Orijen’s original recipe contains 15 animal-sourced ingredients before the first listed plant ingredient. Compare this to Acana, their sister company and one of their closest matches on the market, which lists only between three and six animal ingredients upfront.
While the amount and type of animal ingredients vary based on the flavor of food, most follow the same basic recipe and contain fresh ingredients like deboned chicken and turkey, cage-free eggs, mackerel, and herring.
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Even more important in terms of packing in a lot of nutrition, are ingredients like dehydrated meats, fish, and poultry.
Ingredients are always listed by weight, with those weighing the most listed first. This is why the inclusion of dehydrated animal ingredients so high up in the list is so impressive. Dehydrated meats don’t weigh a lot, but they are apparently used in such a high quantity in this food that they still earn a spot above the weightier fresh plant ingredients.
Fresh, whole-sourced meats that include muscle, bone, and organ meats provide just about all the nutrients your dog needs to thrive. Diets high in animal protein with varied meat sources and fresh or raw ingredients are your best bet to support your dog’s health.
Overall, all Orijen flavors contain a minimum of 85% animal ingredients. This is an important fact when you consider that dogs are carnivores at heart and were built to extract nutrients from meat. It’s true that dogs are more skilled at surviving off of plant foods than their wild wolf cousins, but it’s not the diet they were built for.
The unique blend of different muscle meats, ground bones, organ meats, whole fish, and animal fats provides dogs with a full spectrum of nutrients that their bodies can easily utilize.
But what about the other 15% of the ingredients?
The Right Amount of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Much like Stella & Chewy’s and other fresh and freeze-dried diets, Orijen utilizes a lot of nutrient-dense veggies, fruits, and herbs to provide additional vitamins and minerals. Because of the combination of quality meat ingredients and these nutrient-dense plant foods, this food does not need to contain any synthetic vitamins or minerals. Which means it is truly an “all-natural” pet food.
Even better, things like collard and turnip greens, carrots, apples, and pumpkin seeds all add a unique nutritional profile without adding too much starch. This is important because dogs’ short intestines were not made to digest starch-heavy foods.
Some dogs like raw veggies. And some dogs don’t. But dog foods that include the right amount of nutrient-dense, low-starch fruits and veggies can help your dog stay healthy by providing them with trace vitamins and minerals and fiber not readily available in processed animal products.
Ingredients like white potatoes and sweet potatoes are often added to dog foods to add weight in place of cheaper grains that consumers no longer like to see. But Orijen contains no potatoes or grains.
>>>Wondering if a grain-free diet is right for your dog? This article has all the answers to your grain-free dog food questions.
Instead of filling their recipe with empty calories from starch or indigestible fiber from whole-grains, they have filled the vast majority with animal products and low-starch plant matter.
But there is still one major ingredient type left on the list. And whether it’s a good or bad food to include, is something that’s still hard to decipher.
Includes Some Legumes
Many grain-free foods also like to utilize legumes in place of corn, wheat, and other fillers. While things like beans and peas are certainly more expensive than grain, they may not necessarily be any better for dogs.
For one, legumes are packed with protein. This is great if you are a human trying to cut down on your red meat consumption, but for dogs, animal protein and plant proteins may not be so interchangeable.
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We know from recent headlines about DCM in dogs, a heart condition often caused by nutrient deficiencies, that taurine is an especially important piece of a balanced dog diet. And legumes are not only lower in taurine than meat, but they appear to even block the uptake of the nutrient in the gut.
Legumes provide a lot of nutrition and protein, but they aren’t necessarily something you want to give your dog. These harder-to-digest plant foods aren’t well suited for the canine digestive tract and should be used sparingly in their diet, if at all.
For this reason alone, it disheartens me to see ingredients like lentils, beans, and peas listed at all in Orijen’s recipes.
But, it is worth keeping in mind that their foods contain 85% animal products, which means legumes likely only make up a fraction of the remaining 15% of ingredients. So even though there a number of different legumes listed, overall they are only a minor player in what is otherwise a nutrient-packed, bioavailable diet.
A Few Other Powerful Additions
In addition to all the major ingredients listed above, Orijen does employ some powerful minor ingredients to help balance out the nutrient profile of their foods and add a little extra kick.
Turmeric provides a powerful antioxidant boost while kelp brings a host of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals to the table.
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The food also includes chicory root, juniper berries, probiotics, and more, all meant to help aid in digestion and prevent gas and upset stomach. This is great for any dog, but especially helpful if your dog has stomach issues or has trouble transitioning onto new foods.
Want your dog to feel their best? Diets high in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, slow the aging process, and even fight cancer. Orijen’s recipes contain multiple high antioxidant ingredients to help your pup thrive.
Overall, Orijen lives up to the hype in terms of the ingredients they use. A dry dog food made of 85% animal ingredients is almost unheard of. Add to that the fact that the food contains no synthetic vitamins or mineral or added chemicals or preservatives, and you certainly have the right recipe for a diet to help your dog thrive.
But what the ingredients are is only part of the story. Almost as important, is where the ingredients come from.
>>>Looking for more dog food options for your medium-sized dog? Here are our top picks for diets for medium breeds.
Looking Beyond the Ingredients List
One of the things that makes the Orijen company so unique has surprisingly little to do with its outstanding recipes.
Most quality dog foods are made in the US, but with ingredients from “around the world.” While this isn’t inherently a bad thing–after all, it isn’t possible to get premium New Zealand lamb or free-range kangaroo in the states–but buying meat sourced in other countries does carry some risk.
Looking for dog food made and sourced in the US isn’t just about being patriotic. Historically, these foods are safer and fresher ways to feed your pet. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to find companies like Orijen that choose products from American farms and ranches over cheaper imported ingredients.
Some places, like China, have very lax pet food regulations that have led to pet illness and even deaths in the past.
Even beyond questionable processing methods and added chemicals, getting meat from the other side of the ocean means it is often anything but fresh by the time it arrives at the processing plant.
This is where Orijen really pulls away from the competition. Most of their meat is locally sourced in Kentucky and arrives at their Kentucky plant within three days of processing. This not only means the meat itself is fresher, but it also eliminates the need for long-term freezing, which can reduce nutritional content.
Animal products and produce that can’t be sourced locally are almost all still sourced within the US including fish from the New England coast and free-range turkey from across the country.
This commitment to US sourced ingredients not only means fresher, safer, and more nutritious food for your pet but also more American jobs and fewer resources consumed during travel.
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Has Orijen Ever Been Recalled?
Of course, dedication to fresh, local ingredients only means so much if a dog food is still experiencing recalls due to safety issues or dangerous ingredients.
Luckily, Orijen has never experienced any recalls since its founding in 1985.
Looking for a food to satisfy your dog’s inner wolf? Each of Orijen’s recipes is packed with 85% fresh, minimally processed animal products. And they have a variety of recipes so you can find the right one (or ones) for your dog’s needs.
Orijen Dry Food Options
One other great thing about the Orijen line of dog foods is there are a lot of flavors to choose from. Not only is this important in keeping your dog interested in their food, but it provides a simple way to rotate foods to maximize the number of beneficial nutrients your dog consumes without worrying about stomach upset caused by vastly different food types.
Below are all the current Orijen dry food flavor options along with a brief description so you can pick the right bag for your dog.
This high-calorie food is made to nurture your growing small and medium breed dog. It has 38% protein and 20% fat to provide energy and more omegas than the original adult formula. With the exception of containing a little higher fat content, this food has a very similar ingredient content compared to their adult food, making for an easier transition once your puppy has reached physical maturity.
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Large Breed Puppy
The large breed specific puppy food also contains a high 38% protein but with a much lower 16% fat to help regulate your large breed’s growth. Preventing rapid growth and weight gain is important in protecting your giant’s joints and bones as they age. This recipe also contains the recommended calcium and phosphorous amounts to help build strong bones.
The original formula contains a wide variety of meat types including chicken, turkey, and fish as well as organs and bone meals in a naturally occurring amount to provide your adult dog with all the nutrition they need to thrive. This recipe contains 38% protein and 18% fat, perfect for the active pooch who needs some extra fuel to fetch balls or run around with the kids.
This recipe is a salt and freshwater take on their original adult recipe. As the name implies, it contains six fish varieties including mackerel, herring, monkfish, redfish, flounder, and silver hake. Like all other flavors, it includes plenty of full fish meals to provide your dog with plenty of natural calcium and other necessary nutrients. And because this recipe doesn’t contain any chicken, lamb, or beef, it is the perfect whole-food, meat-packed diet for the dog with allergies. Similar to the original formula, it has 38% protein and 18% fat.
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This recipe includes many of the meat types missing from the original formula as well as a few more you would have never considered before. Beef, wild boar, goat, and lamb add not only a sweep of specific nutrition but also a novel taste your dog will love. It also contains the standard 38% protein and 18% fat to energize your active adult dog and support their system the way nature intended.
Tundra is another more specialized recipe you can include in your dog’s rotating favorites. It includes a wider variety of less common meats including goat, boar, venison, Arctic char, trout, and duck. This is another great choice for dogs that are sensitive to more commonly used animal ingredients. It also has a touch higher protein content at 40% and the standard 18% fat, making it an excellent choice for working dogs and those that compete in dog sports like agility.
Fit & Trim
Just because your dog is less active or a bit overweight doesn’t mean they have to forgo great dog food packed with quality ingredients. Orijen’s weight management recipe contains a higher protein content at 42% to support metabolism and a lower fat content at 13% to aid in weight maintenance. The recipe is similar in ingredients compared to the original formula and contains meats like chicken, turkey, cod, and herring.
While many senior dogs do very well on regular adult foods, others need more specialized nutrition. If your older dog has lost a step or gained a little weight, Orijen’s senior food is a great choice. It is designed with a poultry and fish-based recipe similar to the original formula but with slightly less fat at 15% and about double the fiber to aid in digestion. It does still contain the high 38% protein to help your dog maintain proper muscle mass as they age.
>>>Looking for more options for your senior dog? Here are our top 10 food choices for aging hounds.
Is Orijen Dog Food Right for Your Dog?
When it comes to what is the right dog food for your particular canine, only you can know for sure. But, there is no doubt that Orijen dry dog food is one of the best products on the market.
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Their combination of multiple animal product types along with their focus on fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients gives their kibble a boost that few others in the industry can touch. And the fact that almost all ingredients are locally sourced in the US with most coming from the same state that the factory is in, makes this company better all around.
If you have ever wanted to feed your dog a homemade raw or cooked diet but have never had the time, then this kibble is a great option. It’s as close to the nutrient profile of a home-cooked, protein-heavy diet that you can get in dry food form.
Finding the right dog food is key to your dog’s satisfaction. But remember, anytime you switch up your dog’s diet, make sure to do so gradually to avoid any stomach upset. Even high-quality foods can cause issues if your dog isn’t used to them.
This food does come with a higher price tag but when compared to freeze-dried diets that contain very similar ingredients and quality, this kibble is far more affordable, especially if you are feeding a big dog or a house full of dogs.
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The only time I would hesitate to feed this food is if I had a large breed dog with a predisposition for DCM. While it would seem that these recipes contain more than enough meat to cover a dog’s taurine needs, the inclusion of legumes in place of grains would not be worth the risk in a dog with a high chance of developing taurine related heart issues.
But for the average dog, whether fit and active, a bit lazy, or just getting older, Orijen’s line of dry dog foods is one of the best ways to deliver biologically appropriate nutrition in kibble form.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.