Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Georgia Jeremiah

Reviewed by Georgia Jeremiah

Updated: January 18, 2024

Merrick Backcountry Dry Cat Food Review

Updated: January 18, 2024

Our Verdict



Merrick Backcountry dry cat food receives the Cat Food Advisor rating, 4.5 stars.

Merrick Backcountry uses high-quality protein meats, fresh caught fish and real fruit and vegetables in its dry cat food, nothing artificial is added.

  • No grain, wheat, corn or gluten
  • Protein-packed kibble
  • Freeze-dried raw meat
  • Expensive

Each recipe includes its AAFCO nutrient profile: Growth (kitten), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

Merrick Backcountry dry product line has two dry cat foods.

Product line Rating AAFCO
Backcountry Raw Infused Kitten Recipe 4.5 G
Backcountry Raw Infused Mature Recipe 4.5 M

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Recipe and Label Analysis

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Kitten Dry Recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.

Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Kitten Dry Recipe

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content







Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, potatoes, peas, natural flavor, salmon meal, potato protein, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), sweet potatoes, deboned turkey, salmon oil (source of omega-3 fatty acids), dried yeast culture, salt, organic dried alfalfa meal, choline chloride, minerals (iron amino acid complex, zinc amino acid complex, sodium selenite, manganese amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, potassium iodide, cobalt proteinate, cobalt carbonate), phosphoric acid, taurine, yucca schidigera extract, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A acetate, D-calcium pantothenate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, biotin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride), dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, dried lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.5%

Red denotes any controversial items

Ingredients Analysis

The first ingredient is chicken. Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin… derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”. 1

Chicken is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

The second and third ingredients are chicken meal and turkey meal. Meal is considered a meat concentrate which contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken and turkey.

The fourth ingredient is potatoes. Potatoes can be considered a gluten-free source of digestible carbohydrates. Yet with the exception of perhaps their caloric content, potatoes are of only modest nutritional value to a cat.

The fifth ingredient is peas. Peas are a quality source of carbohydrates. And like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber. However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this cat food.

The sixth ingredient is natural flavor. Natural flavors doesn’t give us much information about the particular ingredients included in this cat food for flavoring purposes.  

We’re pleased that the flavorings used are natural, but more details are required to give any further information about these natural flavoring ingredients. Flavorings are used to make the foods more appealing and tasty for our cats.

The seventh ingredient is salmon meal. Because it is considered a meat concentrate, fish meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh fish itself. 

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations. 2

The eighth ingredient is potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato. Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat. 

Less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this cat food.

From here the list goes on to include a number of other items. But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of the product.

However, this recipe contains sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium, sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast.

It also contains dried yeast which can be a controversial item. Dried yeast contains about 45% protein and is rich in other healthy nutrients. Fans believe yeast repels fleas and supports the immune system.

Critics argue yeast ingredients can be linked to allergies. This may be true, but (like all allergies) only if your particular cat is allergic to the yeast itself.

We note the inclusion of dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added as probiotics to aid with digestion.

This recipe receives a 4.5star rating.

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Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Kitten Dry Recipe looks like an above-average dry product.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 47.2%, a fat level of 16.9% and an estimated carbohydrate level of 28%, alongside a fat-to-protein ratio of 36%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 44.9% and a mean fat level of 15.7%. Together these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 31.5% for the overall product line, alongside a fat-to-protein ratio of 35%.

This means the Merrick Backcountry dry product line contains above-average protein, near-average carbs and near-average fat when compared to typical dry cat food.

Final Word

Merrick Backcountry is an all-natural, grain-free ancestral diet. With the nutrients a cat needs by mixing protein-rich kibble with freeze-dried raw pieces of real meat, poultry or fish.

Has Merrick cat food been recalled in the past?

Yes, Merrick has had two recalls, these were limited to their treats.

In January 2010, they issued a voluntary recall out of fear that their beef treats were contaminated with salmonella. No animals were reported sick as a result of eating the treats, but the company issued subsequent recalls for the same reason several times that year and into 2011.

In 2018, they recalled a wide range of treats due to elevated levels of a naturally-occurring beef thyroid hormone. This wasn’t a life-threatening issue, but one dog became ill as a result of eating the treats (that animal later made a full recovery).

You can view a complete list of all cat food recalls since 2021 here.

To stay on top of any cat food product recalls, sign up for our free email alerts, here.


Merrick was founded in 1988 by Garth Merrick in his family kitchen in Hereford, Texas. Garth began home cooking for his beloved dog, Gracie, to make sure she was eating the most nutritious and wholesome food possible. 

Nestle Purina Petcare purchased Merrick in July 2015.


1, 2: Association of American Feed Control Officials

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