⚠ Important recall information appears below.
In 1988, Garth Merrick of Hereford, Texas, started making dog food in his family kitchen. Today, the Merrick brand is still named after him, although it has undergone a number of transformations.
Merrick now has more than 125 recipes. The company manufactures wet and dry pet food and treats. In 2015, Merrick was acquired by Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.
Below, we share more information about this brand’s history — including up-to-date Merrick pet food recall information.
Merrick Quick Facts
Brand line includes: Merrick Classic Healthy Grains, Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused, Merrick Grain Free, Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet, Merrick Purrfect Bistro, Merrick Purrfect Bistro Bon Appétits, Merrick Fresh Kisses, Merrick Power Bites, Merrick Kitchen Bites (Brauts-N-Tots, Cowboy Cookout, Grammy’s Pot Pie, Turducken, Wingalings)
Where to buy: [easyazon_link keywords=”Merrick pet food” locale=”US” tag=”petsadvi-20″]Latest deals on Merrick[/easyazon_link]
Company: Merrick Pet Care Inc. (a subsidiary of Nestlé Purina PetCare Company)
Headquarters: 101 SE 11th Ave., Amarillo, TX 79101
Contact info: 1-800-664-7387, email, website
At about 40 years old at the time, Garth Merrick undertook what seemed like a Herculean task: to formulate a dog food that was not just “natural” but also lived up to the high standards of the organic movement.
The meat and vegetables that went into Merrick’s dog food had to be raised without the assistance of fertilizers or pesticides. The Merrick family kitchen tested their new line of foods on their dog Gracie.
Merrick dipped his toes in the pet food industry by producing a single line of treats. Supported by his wife, Susie, and their 4 children, he invented what would come to be known as Flossies dog treats. Made of beef tendons, the treats were designed to clean dogs’ teeth.
Emboldened by the success of the treats, the Merrick family then developed dog food products. “We like to believe that we’re offering the finest dog food on the market at the lowest possible price,” Merrick told The Associated Press in 1990.
The Merricks helped consumers anthropomorphize their dogs by naming their dog foods after dishes that humans serve themselves, like “Smothered Comfort” and “Grammy’s Pot Pie.”
A Meteoric Rise
Riding the tall wave of increasing demand for organic products, Merrick pet food became a bona fide mom and pop success story, growing to employ 350 staffers and occupy facilities in Hereford and Amarillo, Texas, as well as Evanston, Illinois. The company manufactured both dry and canned food for dogs and cats.
Swander Pace Capital, a private equity company, bought Merrick Pet Care in 2010.
Under its new ownership, Merrick Pet Care expanded its share of the organic pet food market, absorbing several other companies, including Castor & Pollux, Zuke’s and Whole Earth Farms.
By 2012, Merrick pet food and treats were available at both PetSmart and Petco as well as smaller specialty pet stores and groceries. That same year, the brand became the only line of organic wet and dry pet foods certified by the USDA National Organic Program.
Nestlé Purina Acquires the Merrick Line
In 2015, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company bought Merrick from Swander Pace Capital, a deal that was met with howls of protests by pet parents.
The gist of these complaints was that consumers had loved both the small local production and the guarantee of natural ingredients that Merrick had offered.
Here’s a sample of blistering customer criticism after the buyout:
- “I am very sad by the news that Merrick sold out to Purina. I will be finding a different food. I work for a large pet supply retail store, and I can only push product I believe in. What I believe is that Purina will ruin this once great dog food like they do with all their products just so the company can make more of a profit.” —April
- “They’ll continue to make their food as usual with no changes, just like they promise. That is, until Purina starts insisting they make their foods with lower-quality ingredients (and from China) in order to increase the bottom line. It may not happen next week or even next year, but it will happen.” —Linda H.
- “DONE! No more Merrick for my dog. I’m so furious I can hardly think straight. I placed so much trust in Merrick products for my pets.” —Katherine D.
Nestlé Purina spokespeople responded, on Twitter, that it would continue to make the dog food using only fresh ingredients. A news release stated that there were “no planned changes” to the product line.
Garth Merrick went on record as saying he had complete faith in Nestlé Purina to carry on the tradition of quality pet food that he had spearheaded.
“I believe Nestlé Purina is the right company to take what I along with others have built to the next level,” he said. “I’m proud my name will continue to be on the door as we remain committed to making the best food for the best pets ever.”
In the next section, we discuss Merrick’s pet food recall history.
Has Merrick Ever Been Recalled?
Yes. In May 2018, some Merrick beef-based dog treats were recalled because of potentially elevated beef thyroid hormone. The company said it was aware of a single customer complaint of a sickened dog. The affected treats were sold around the country through pet specialty, grocery and online retailers, with limited distribution in Canada.
Several years earlier, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted routine testing and found salmonella in some Merrick pet treats, triggering other recalls. Those recalls were in August 2011, January 2011 and July/August 2010. No illnesses had been reported around the time of these recalls.
In October 2003, there was a recall situation that did not directly involve any Merrick brands, but it did involve a dry dog food that had been manufactured by Merrick at its facility in Texas. The food was Go! Natural, and it was tied to the deaths of 20-plus dogs in the San Francisco Bay area.
Go! Natural (a brand belonging to Petcurean, a Canada-based company) had contracted with Merrick in June 2003 to manufacture the pet food. Just months later, complaints were rolling in of dogs being sickened with serious liver problems after eating the food. Petcurean issued a recall. After an investigation, the FDA found that the food contained undisclosed BHA, though this alone was not “a definitive cause” of the liver problems experienced by the dogs — in fact, no such definitive cause was ever found.
However, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Petcurean, Merrick and the retail chain where the pet food was sold, Pet Food Express. That lawsuit was dismissed. Later, though, Pet Food Express served Petcurean and Merrick with a reported multimillion-dollar lawsuit, seeking reimbursement of refunds and veterinary bills it had paid out to customers. That suit was settled out of court in 2007.
In September 2002, consumers in Canada were warned not to buy or use certain Merrick beef steak patty pet treats because of possible salmonella contamination. Canadian health officials were following up on reports that at least 5 people in Calgary were sickened after handling dog treats. This appears to have been a Canada-only recall of a few hundred cases of the beef patties, and no other Merrick products were affected.
2019 Heart Disease Investigation
We also want to alert readers to the fact that, in late June 2019, the FDA identified Merrick as one of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs and cats. None of those 16 brands have been recalled as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation, though. Most, but not all, of the pet foods are “grain-free” and/or dry (kibble) dog food formulations.
The FDA says this is a “complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors,” and that it cannot even be certain that diet is a cause of the heart problems.
The full list of Merrick pet food recalls appears below.
List of Merrick Pet Food Recalls
Cause: Potential for elevated beef thyroid hormone. Announcement: Company news release dated May 23, 2018 (archived here). What was recalled: The following beef dog treats, but only the ones with “best before” dates falling between May 1, 2017 and Sept. 1, 2019 :
- Castor & Pollux Good Buddy Prime Patties Real Beef Recipe, 4 oz., UPC #780872510806
- Castor & Pollux Good Buddy Sausage Cuts Real Beef Recipe, 5 oz., UPC #780872510745
- Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Real Beef Jerky, 4.5 oz., UPC #022808786160
- Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Real Beef Sausage Cuts, 5 oz., UPC #022808786047
- Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Real Steak Patties, 4 oz., UPC #022808786078
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report dated Aug. 8, 2011 (archived here). What was recalled: Merrick Doggie Wishbone pet treats, UPC #2280829050, Lot #11031, best by Jan. 30, 2013.
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report dated Jan. 28, 2011 (archived here). What was recalled: Merrick Jr. Texas Taffy pet treats, UPC #02280827077, all lot numbers up to and including 10364. No “best by” date given.
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA reports dated July 2, Aug. 3 and Aug. 16, 2010 (archived here). What was recalled: All lots of the following Merrick treats:
- Merrick Beef Filet Squares, 10 oz.
- Merrick Texas Hold’ems pet treats, 10 oz.
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) news release dated Sept. 19, 2002, and FDA Enforcement Report dated Jan. 29, 2003 (archived here). What was recalled: Merrick Delicatessen Style Beef Steak Patties, distributed in Canada.
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Have You Had a Problem With Merrick Pet Food?
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- “Our Story.” Merrick. https://www.merrickpetcare.com/our-story.
- “Merrick Pet Care Company Background.” Merrick. March 2014. https://www.merrickpetcare.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Merrick_Company_Backgrounder_March2014.pdf.
- Brown, Chip. “Merrick Petfoods Putting Rover in Bow-Wow Bliss.” The Odessa (Texas) American. Nov. 19, 1990. 14A.
- “Merrick Pet Care Announces Purchase Agreement by Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.” Merrick. July 21, 2015. https://www.merrickpetcare.com/news-room/merrick-pet-care-announces-purchase-agreement-by-nestle-purina-petcare-company/.
- Bernier, Lisa. “Purina Just Announced It’s Taking Over This Popular Natural Dog Food Company.” BarkPost. 2015. https://barkpost.com/discover/purina-just-announced-its-taking-over-this-popular-organic-dog-food-company/.
- “Nestlé Purina PetCare Company Announces Successful Completion of Acquisition of Merrick Pet Care Inc.” Purina News Center. Sept. 2, 2015. https://newscenter.purina.com/statements?item=29949.
- Arnold, Brandy. “Customers Furious as Purina Buys Merrick Pet Care.” The Dogington Post. July 22, 2015. https://www.dogingtonpost.com/breaking-customers-furious-as-purina-buys-merrick-pet-care/.
- Anderson, Brian. “Livermore Couple Sues Pet Food Firm.” Contra Costa Times. Jan. 14, 2004.
- Rosynsky, Paul T. “Pet Food Express Suing Supplier.” East Bay Times. April 5, 2007. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2007/04/05/pet-food-express-suing-supplier/.
- Nestle, Marion. Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. University of California Press. 2008. 20. https://books.google.com/books?id=KgJvbjIHavMC&pg=PA20#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- “Questions & Answers: FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Investigation Into a Possible Connection Between Diet and Canine Heart Disease.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). June 27, 2019. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/questions-answers-fda-center-veterinary-medicines-investigation-possible-connection-between-diet-and.
- “Merrick Pet Care Voluntarily Recalls Limited Amount of Good Buddy and Backcountry Treats Containing Beef Due to Potentially Elevated Levels of Thyroid Hormone.” Merrick. May 23, 2018. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Merrick-Treat-Recall-Press-Release-5.23.18-Final.pdf.
- “Merrick Pet Care Recalls Doggie Wishbone Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk.” FDA. Aug. 8, 2011. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ucm267247.pdf.
- “Merrick Pet Care Recalls Jr. Texas Taffy Pet Treat Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk.” FDA. Jan. 28, 2011. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ucm241476.pdf.
- “Merrick Pet Care Recalls Filet Squares & Texas Hold’ems 10 oz. Bag Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk.” FDA. Aug. 16, 2010. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ucm222585.pdf.
- “Safety Alert: Presence of Salmonella Bacteria in Merrick Brand Pet Treats Delicatessen Style Beef Steak Patties.” Canada NewsWire. Sept. 19, 2002.
- “Enforcement Report.” FDA. Jan. 29, 2003. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2003-ENF00780-M-errick-dog-food-recall.pdf.
- Williamson, Kerry. “Dog Treat Warning Issued.” Calgary Herald. Oct. 10, 2002.