Ol’ Roy Dog Food

Important recall information appears below.

Ol’ Roy Dog Food recall information

For years, Ol’ Roy was the best-selling dog food in the United States. And it wasn’t just edging out its competitors — it was outselling them by a solid 20%.

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Where did Ol’ Roy come from? And why does it still dominate the pet food market? That’s what we will discuss below. Plus, we’ll share up-to-date information about every single Ol’ Roy recall since this dog food first appeared in stores in 1981.

Ol’ Roy Quick Facts

Brand line includes: Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition, Ol’ Roy High Protein, Ol’ Roy Puppy Complete, Ol’ Roy Cuts in Gravy, Ol’ Roy Meaty Loaf, Ol’ Roy Bright Bones, Ol’ Roy Munchy Bones, Ol’ Roy Soft & Moist, Ol’ Roy Bark’n Bac’n Dog Treats, Ol’ Roy Puppy Mini Morsels, Ol’ Roy Rawhide Chews, Ol’ Roy Porkhide Rolls, Ol’ Roy Jerky Sticks, Ol’ Roy Natural Marrow Bone Slices, Ol’ Roy Dog Biscuits
Cost: $
Company: Walmart Stores Inc.
Headquarters: 702 SW 8th St., Bentonville, AR 72716
Contact info: 1-800-925-6278, website (chat feature)

Ol’ Roy History

Ol’ Roy was named after Sam Walton’s bird dog. If Walton’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he was the founder of Walmart, the world’s retail leader.

But hold up! Despite what you may have heard about the myth of this dog, there wasn’t actually one Ol’ Roy — there were multiple such dogs, according to one of Sam Walton’s hunting buddies.

“He had several dogs named Ol’ Roy. When one Ol’ Roy would die, he’d name another dog Ol’ Roy. Sam loved quail hunting and we had some great hunts in south Texas, but his dogs weren’t any more pampered than he was,” said billionaire businessman Drayton McLane in a 2011 interview with the Dallas Morning News.

When Did Ol’ Roy First Appear? In 1981.

Many Ol’ Roy customers have no idea their dog food of choice is a private label brand, sold only at Walmart.

Sam Walton saw an opening for a Walmart-only dog food, and commissioned Doane Pet Care Company to manufacture a product that matched the quality of other foods on the market. He wanted a dry dog food that was just as good as other brands, for a few pennies less.

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“How could Walmart create a private label that was equal to, or better than, comparable national brands in terms of quality while undercutting them on price? The answer was simple: There would be no marketing budget, no television commercials, no circulars,” explains the book Walmart: Key Insights and Practical Lessons From the World’s Largest Retailer.

Ol’ Roy dog food had its debut in 1981, and being available “only at Walmart” was most decidedly not a drawback.

The results were probably better than Walton’s wildest dreams: “Walmart’s scale, combined with its focus on quality and price, enabled Ol’ Roy to surpass Purina to become the No. 1–selling dog food brand in the United States.”

Ol’ Roy and Walmart: A Profoundly Successful Pairing

The growth of the Ol’ Roy brand was, from the beginning, tied to Walmart’s wagon. And the dog food kept pace with the legendary rise of Walmart. Ol’ Roy was, in fact, an important brick in Walmart’s rising star.

Another factor that propelled Ol’ Roy to the top of the market was an increasing consumer trust in generics. Market research shows that between 1997 and 2002, shoppers increased their purchase of store brands by 38%.

“Private label [pet food] has come a long way,” Colette Dahl, a private label manager, said in 2009. “The average consumer isn’t always even aware that a particular brand is a private label.”

Sam Walton with bird dog
Walmart founder Sam Walton, pictured here with one of his bird dogs, died in 1992. Photo: Walmart Museum

Manufacturing, Then and Now

Executives at Doane Pet Care Company must have felt like they had won the lottery when Walmart gave them the green light to begin manufacturing its all-new dog food line, Ol’ Roy, in 1981.

Doane, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, would become the largest manufacturer of private label pet food and the second-largest manufacturer of dry pet food overall in the United States. It produced pet food for a number of national brands, as well as around 175 store brands.

Among the store brands in its portfolio were Walmart’s private label brands: Ol’ Roy dog food and Special Kitty cat food. In fact, Walmart was Doane’s biggest customer, accounting for roughly two-thirds of Doane’s revenue.

That sort of business was too good for the corporate giants to overlook. And in 2006, Doane’s U.S. business was acquired by Mars Inc., parent company of Pedigree.

Mars quickly set about closing many of Doane’s 20 plants — moves that sent shockwaves across the industry, according to a report in the magazine Private Label Buyer, which described “significant disruptions in supply as [retail chains like Walmart] scrambled to find a new private label vendor” to make their private label pet food.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” one private label supplier told the magazine. The source “wondered whether the shutdowns were actually an attempt by Mars to protect its national brand business from a perceived threat from private label.”

After the Mars acquisition of Doane, Ol’ Roy was manufactured for Walmart by Mars Petcare US, Del Monte Foods’ pet division, Simmons Pet Food Inc. and Sunshine Mills Inc., depending on the product.

In 2014, following a sale of all of Del Monte Foods’ people-food assets, the Del Monte pet division got a new name: Big Heart Pet Brands. Just a year later, J.M. Smucker Company acquired all Big Heart properties in a $5.8 billion deal.

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Which brings us to today. Ol’ Roy appears to be manufactured today by J.M. Smucker and its subsidiary Big Heart Pet Brands.

Realizing Cost Savings by Shunning Advertising

In lieu of paying for exorbitantly priced TV and glossy magazine ads, Walmart markets Ol’ Roy by creating visually impressive pyramids of its own bagged dog food.

The bags’ bright-red labels come together to create attention-grabbing monoliths that are difficult to overlook. The hurried or absent-minded shopper often loads up on Ol’ Roy just because it’s so prominently there.

At the same time, this marketing strategy costs Walmart nothing more than what it costs to shelve products anyway. So the 15–20% percent of profits that other brands spend on marketing continues to form a discount on the product that Walmart’s budget shoppers cannot ignore.

In the early 1980s, you could find 15-ounce cans of Ol’ Roy dog food in Walmart stores for as low as 17 cents each, or you could pick up a 25-pound bag of the dry stuff for around $4.

Over the past decade, Ol’ Roy has lost its enviable lion’s share of the dog food market. According to research published in 2019, Purina and Pedigree have pushed generic brands from the top spot.

The same research shows that generic dog food has constituted only about 15% of dog food sales in recent years.

Photo of Ol' Roy dog food
Walmart says its Ol’ Roy dog food line is designed to give you “peace of mind that you are providing your dog with quality food for a happy life.”

Has Ol’ Roy Ever Been Recalled?

Yes. Independent testing in February 2018 by a TV news investigative team reportedly turned up traces of sodium pentobarbital — often used as a euthanasia drug — in samples of Gravy Train. Pentobarbital can be deadly when consumed by dogs or cats.

As a result of that investigation, the J.M. Smucker Company announced a recall of various flavors of Ol’ Roy, Gravy Train, Kibbles ’n Bits and Skippy canned dog foods. It wasn’t the first time pentobarbital had turned up alongside mentions of Ol’ Roy. More on that in a bit…

A recall in October 2008 was expanded a few weeks later. The manufacturer, Mars Petcare US, had been alerted to potential salmonella contamination of dry pet food products, which included certain packages of Ol’ Roy dry dog food produced in a Mars Petcare facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The previous month, September 2008, had also seen a recall of Ol’ Roy dry dog food for the same reason: potential salmonella contamination. That recall involved many other brands of dog and cat foods, too — such as Pedigree, Special Kitty, PMI Nutrition, Red Flannel, Members Mark and Retriever — all of which had been produced at Mars Petcare’s manufacturing facility in Everson, Pennsylvania.

In June 2007, a single lot of 55 lb. bags of Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition was recalled for the same reason: possible salmonella contamination. However, this dog food had been manufactured at Doane Pet Care’s Manassas, Virginia, plant. No other Ol’ Roy products were affected. The recalled food had been distributed to Walmart locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

In March 2007, as part of the larger Menu Foods/melamine recall that shocked the country, various sizes and varieties of Ol’ Roy dog foods and treats were recalled because of potential melamine contamination.

In June 2006, certain Ol’ Roy canned dog foods were recalled because of lining separation in the cans. According to Simmons Pet Food, the manufacturer, there was “random flaking” from the inside coating of the cans. Simmons said the incidence of flaking was extremely low, involving less than 0.1% of cans, but the company still felt it was “in the best interest of our customers to voluntarily recover this product from the marketplace.”

Finally, there was a large recall of Ol’ Roy in November 1998, following reports of sickness in pets and the deaths of “around 25 dogs.” The food was thought to be contaminated with aflatoxin, a toxic byproduct of a mold that attacks corn under certain temperature and moisture conditions. Drought, insect damage to crops, and improper storage and handling can all increase the risk of contamination.

The recall involved at least 17 brand names of dry dog food manufactured by Doane Pet Care at its Temple, Texas, plant between July 1 and Aug. 31, 1998 — names included Country Acres, Dura Life, Exceed, Feedin Time, Golden Boy, Grand Paw, Hill Country, Maxximum Performance, Ol’ Roy, PMI Nutrition, Remarkable Menu, Retriever, Slick, Sportsman Choice, Wendland, Winchester and Winner. Corn was the primary ingredient in the foods.

In all, nearly 1.4 million bags of dog food were recalled that had been distributed to Texas and Louisiana. Doane Pet Care incurred $3 million in expenses because of the recall.

“We sincerely apologize if any of the products we make contributed in any way to family pets dying,” said Douglass J. Cahill, Doane’s CEO at the time. He noted that “since the first hint of the problem” the company had initiated its own “around-the-clock investigation.”

Full details about all Ol’ Roy dog food recalls appear below.

2002 Pentobarbital Investigation

In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) released the results of its investigation into the presence of pentobarbital in popular dog foods. This euthanasia drug was finding its way into dog food by way of euthanized, rendered cattle and horses.

“Rendered” means some of the meat ingredients were created from the process of byproducts and other materials being cooked together and then centrifuged. Rendered ingredients can include animal digest, animal fat, beef and bone meal, beef tallow, and meat and bone meal.

A previous study (by the University of Minnesota in 1995) had already demonstrated that pentobarbital survives the rendering process virtually intact. In other words, high-temperature cooking does not destroy it.

CVM scientists analyzed nonrepresentative samples of dozens of dog foods purchased from retail stores in 1998 and 2000. Brands that ended up testing positive for the presence of pentobarbital included Ol’ Roy, Dad’s, Purina Pro Plan, Nutro, Kibbles ’n Bits and Gravy Train. Yes, all of these brands were shown to contain some level of pentobarbital, a deadly drug.

According to the CVM, its researchers concluded, however, that “the low levels of exposure to pentobarbital that dogs might receive through pet food [was] unlikely to cause them any adverse health effects.” Also, the center stressed that there was “a complete absence” of dog or cat DNA in the samples — meaning that, contrary to decades-old, horrifying rumors and myths, no euthanized dogs or cats had been rendered into the pet food.

The lab results released upon completion of the CVM’s investigation in 2002 showed that, along with several other dog food brands, samples of Ol’ Roy tested positive for the presence of pentobarbital — but not in amounts thought to be harmful to dogs. Here are the varieties that tested positive:

  • Ol’ Roy Krunchy Bites & Bones
  • Ol’ Roy Premium Formula With Chicken Protein and Rice
  • Ol’ Roy High Performance With Chicken Protein and Rice
  • Ol’ Roy Meaty Chunks and Gravy
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Formula Beef Flavor
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Formula Chicken and Rice
  • Ol’ Roy Lean Formula

Understand that these tests results from 2002 simply reflect “a snapshot in time,” as the CVM describes it. The investigation took place many years ago, and the pet food formulations have most certainly changed since then. Therefore, “the data cannot be used to draw inferences about dog food being produced and sold in the U.S. today,” the CVM says.

You can see the full test results here, including the results for other brands like Alpo, Pedigree, Purina, Nature’s Recipe and Hill’s Science Diet. About half of the tested dog foods contained low levels of pentobarbital.

List of Ol’ Roy Dog Food Recalls

February 2018

Cause: Potential for low levels of pentobarbital. Announcement: FDA announcement dated Feb. 16, 2018, and updated dated March 2, 2018 (archived here). What was recalled: The following Ol’ Roy dog food manufactured from 2016 to Feb. 16, 2018:

  • Ol’ Roy Strips Turkey Bacon, 13.2 oz. can, UPC# 8113117570

October/November 2008

Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: Company announcement dated Nov. 25, 2008 (archived here); expanded from earlier FDA report dated Oct. 27, 2008. What was recalled: The following Ol’ Roy dry dog foods with “best by” dates between Aug. 11 and Oct. 3, 2009 and produced at Allentown, Pennsylvania (denoted by “50” as the first 2 digits in the line of coding directly under the best by date):

  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 4 lb., UPC #8113117550
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 4.4 lb., UPC #8113169377
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 8 lb., UPC #0538867144
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 20 lb., UPC #8113117549
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 22 lb., UPC #0538860342
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 44.1 lb., UPC #8113117551
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 50 lb., UPC #7874201022
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food, 4 lb., UPC #8113179078
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food, 20 lb., UPC #8113179080
  • Ol’ Roy High Performance Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 20 lb., UPC #0538860345
  • Ol’ Roy High Performance Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 50 lb., UPC #7874205815
  • Ol’ Roy Meaty Chunks ’n Gravy Premium Dog Food, 22 lb., UPC #8113169630
  • Ol’ Roy Meaty Chunks ’n Gravy Premium Dog Food, 50 lb., UPC #8113169631

September 2008

Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report revised Sept. 17, 2008 (archived here). What was recalled: The following Ol’ Roy dry dog foods produced at Mars Petcare’s Everson, Pennsylvania, facility from Feb. 18–July 29, 2008 (denoted by a “17” in first 2 digits of the Lot Code):

  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 4.4 lb., UPC #8113169377
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 8 lb., UPC #0538867144
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 22 lb., UPC #0538860342
  • Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food, 50 lb., UPC #7874201022
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food, 4 lb., UPC #8113179078
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food, 8 lb., UPC #8113179079
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food, 20 lb., UPC #8113179080
  • Ol’ Roy High Performance Nutrition Dog Food, 20 lb., UPC #0538860345
  • Ol’ Roy High Performance Nutrition Dog Food, 50 lb., UPC #7874205815
  • Ol’ Roy Meaty Chunks ’n Gravy Premium Dog Food, 8 lb., UPC #8113169629
  • Ol’ Roy Meaty Chunks ’n Gravy Premium Dog Food, 22 lb., UPC #8113169630
  • Ol’ Roy Meaty Chunks ’n Gravy Premium Dog Food, 50 lb., UPC #8113169631

June 2007

Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report dated June 6, 2007 (archived here). What was recalled: Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition dry dog food, 55 lb. (bonus bag), Lot #0407351, best by April 13, 2008.

March 2007

Cause: Melamine. Announcement: American Veterinary Medical Association website listing, updated Aug. 22, 2007 (archived here); Del Monte Pet Products announcement dated April 6, 2007 (archived here); Sunshine Mills announcement dated April 5, 2007 (archived here); Walmart announcement dated April 3, 2007; and FDA 2007 archives. What was recalled: The following varieties of Ol’ Roy were recalled in the United States:

  • Ol’ Roy Beef Jerky, Stack Strips, Snack Sticks and Bark’n Bac’n dog treats, various sizes/flavors, UPC #4152241160, 68113167052, 68113167053, 7874222047, 7874270558, 68113157406, 68113124713
  • Ol’ Roy With Beef Hearty Cuts in Gravy Dog Food, 13.2 oz. cans, UPC #7874220855, production code BC6M21, best by Dec. 21, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy With Beef Hearty Strips in Gravy Dog Food, 13.2 oz. cans, UPC #68113157407, production code BC7A19, best by Jan. 19, 2010
  • Ol’ Roy Country Stew Hearty Cuts in Gravy Dog Food, 22 oz. cans, UPC #68113170378, production code BC6M15, best by Dec. 15, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy 4 Flavor Large Biscuit, 10 lb. treats, UPC #8113146959, plant code RB, and best by 30308, 30408, 30508, 30608, 30708, 30808, 30908, 31208, 31308, 31408, 31508, 31608, 31708, 31908, 32008, 32108, 32408
  • Ol’ Roy Peanut Butter Biscuit, 5 lb. treats, UPC #7874234501, plant code RB, and best by 30508, 31008, 31208, 31508, 31608, 32108, 32308
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy Biscuit, 28.8 oz. treats, UPC #8113192197, plant code RB, and best by 30208, 30308, 30408, 30608, 30708, 30908, 31008, 31408, 31508, 31608, 31708, 31808, 32108, 32208, 32308
  • Ol’ Roy Beef/Noodle/Vegetables, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113174248, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Chicken Teriyaki/Gravy, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113174249, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Filet Mignon/Gravy, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113174246, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Lamb/Rice/Gravy, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113174247, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Beef, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113163331, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Chicken, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113163330, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Stew, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113163332, best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Turkey, 5.3 oz., 24-count pouches, UPC #8113163377 , best by Nov. 8, 2008 – March 7, 2009
  • Ol’ Roy Sliced Beef, 5.5 oz. cans, 24-pack, UPC #8113180029, best by Nov. 8, 2009 – March 7, 2010
  • Ol’ Roy Sliced Chicken, 5.5 oz. cans, 24-pack, UPC #8113180030, best by Nov. 8, 2009 – March 7, 2010

Note: The above is not an all-inclusive list. We believe there were a number of other Ol’ Roy dog food cans/pouches that were part of the recall, but unfortunately the available information was unclear to our research team.

June 2006

Cause: Lining separation/flaking in cans. Announcement: Press release dated June 12, 2006 (archived here). What was recalled: The following 22 oz. cans of Ol’ Roy canned dog foods with best by dates falling between March 16 and June 6, 2008:

  • Ol’ Roy Beef Flavor, UPC #0068113189763 and 072562350237
  • Ol’ Roy Chicken Flavor, UPC #0068113189762 and 072562349231
  • Ol’ Roy Hearty Loaf With Chopped Beef, UPC #0068113189770
  • Ol’ Roy Hearty Loaf Chopped Meaty Combo, UPC #0068113189771

November 1998

Cause: Aflatoxin. Announcement: Nov. 2, 1998, per FDA Enforcement Report (archived here). What was recalled: The following varieties of Ol’ Roy dry dog food with “sell by” dates of July 1, 1999 through Aug 31, 1999 and an “E” in the date code:

  • Ol’ Roy Premium
  • Ol’ Roy Puppy
  • Ol’ Roy Lean
  • Ol’ Roy Performance
  • Ol Roy Krunchy Bites & Bones

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About Petful

This content was written by the lead research team at Petful®, led by publisher Dave Baker, a longtime advocate for pet food safety. Our team has been tracking pet food recalls for 10-plus years, and we spend countless hours combing through databases and news archives going back 40 years or more to bring you the most accurate pet food information possible. Tens of thousands of safety-conscious pet parents are subscribed to our free recall alerts, and Animal Radio has called Petful’s list of pet food recalls “the best, most complete list” online. Learn more about Petful, or explore our Pet Food Recall Center.
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