Disclosure: When you buy through links on this site, we may earn a commission.
Disclosure: Watchdog Labs is free to use. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn a commission.
Please be aware that Hill’s is voluntarily recalling some canned dog food due to potentially elevated levels of Vitamin D. More information here.
Black Gold Explorer Original Performance Formula 26/18 is an overall below-average quality dry dog food at a low price. This product, unfortunately, uses 5 controversial ingredients, including an artificial preservative. The food also has a somewhat high amount of carbs compared to its protein and fat but overall good meat and fat quality. On the positive side, Black Gold has had no recalls and the company was also very transparent when answering our questions.Read the Full Review Below
Learn what makes a great dog food and get expert advice on how to choose the best food for your dog.Learn More
This dog food review was created by experts who love dogs. Find out more about our team and mission.About Watchdog Labs
This food has a fair amount of protein and fat but is somewhat high in carbs, which is lowering the total protein and fat content slightly, and making it less nutritionally balanced compared to other dog foods we evaluated. Carbohydrates are cheap so they keep the food’s cost low. They are nutritionally useful to dogs in the right amounts, however, high amounts of carbs can reduce the much-needed meat-based protein and fat content.
To evaluate dog foods, we first calculate out the moisture. This is called the “dry matter basis” and shows you only the solid ingredients in the food. These estimated “dry matter” numbers are different from the food label, but a better way to understand the real nutritional value of the food. We also calculate the carbs. Find out more
Min. Protein 28.89%
Min. Fat 20.00%
Min. Carbs 43.33%
Max. Fiber 3.33%
Max. Ash 7.78%
Max. Moisture 0.00%
Min. Protein: 26.0%
Min Fat: 18.0%
Min Carbs: N/A
Max Fiber: 3.0%
Max Ash: N/A
Max. Moisture: 10.0%
384 Calories per Cup
This product has an average amount of calories. It’s important to understand how many calories you are feeding to prevent under or overfeeding. Average calorie foods like this are typically best for fairly active dogs who need a moderate amount of daily calories. Based on your dog's current weight and activity level you may want to feed more or less than the recommended amount. It's helpful to know that weight loss foods often have fewer than 340 calories per cup, weight maintenance foods typically range from 340-380 calories, and high-activity dog foods are usually over 400 calories.
Grain-Free Dog Foods
This is a grain-free dog food. The FDA is investigating a potential connection between grain-free diets and canine heart disease. There is not enough evidence yet to affect our ratings but we've created an article for you explaining the topic.Learn More
Beef Meal, Corn Meal, Ground Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid), Brown Rice, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken By-Product Meal (Source Of Glucosamine And Chondroitin Sulfate), Natural Flavors, Brewers Dried Yeast, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Malted Barley, Dried Chicory Root, Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity), Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement), Choline Chloride, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate Monohydrate, Copper sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Yeast Culture, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract.
The average dog food we reviewed has 32 total ingredients, with 1 controversial ingredient. This product has 5 total controversial ingredients and 3 of them are used in the first five ingredients. This is concerning because the first 5 ingredients make up most of the product.
Top 5 Ingredients
Dog food ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. So when looking at a dog food label, take a close look at the first 5 ingredients. They generally make up about 80% of the total weight.
Country of Origin
lack Gold products are manufactured in the United States.
Meat & Fat Quality
The meat and fat quality of this product are overall good, with clearly identified animal sources (for example, Beef Meal, Chicken By-Products and Chicken Fat). The top meat ingredient beef meal is a good source of nutrient-dense animal protein, but further down on the ingredient label is “chicken by-product”. The word “by-product” indicates that these are the non-meat parts of the chicken, this could be organs, blood, bones, fatty tissues and more. The questionable part is that because the word “by-products” isn’t specific we don’t know exactly what is included in that ingredient. Another thing to note is the high content of corn meal and corn gluten meal. These two ingredients can be used to increase the protein content without adding meat-based proteins, seeing both of these as top ingredients lead us to believe the meat content is quite low. This being said, Chicken Fat is listed as a fat source pretty high up on the ingredients list, so that’s a plus.
This product contains the controversial preservative Calcium Propionate. While not all artificial preservatives are bad, we do consider 11 artificial preservatives as controversial because of their potential link to cancer and other serious health conditions. Unfortunately, Black Gold uses one of them in this food.
This product does not use any artificial colors.
This product does not use any artificial flavors.
Very positively, we did not find any dog food recalls for Black Gold.
We love dog food brands that are committed to transparent business practices. If you make quality dog food you should be willing to openly talk about how it’s sourced and produced. That’s why we reached out to each pet food company, asking questions about all their brands and products. Each company had three weeks to reply to our messages.
How Easy Was it to Reach the Company?
Black Gold was exceptionally responsive to our first email. They were one of the few companies who responded within 1 day, and with relatively complete answers.
Does Black Gold have a veterinary nutritionist on staff? If so, who are they?
We do have a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist that we keep on staff as a consultant.
There was a 2nd email to ask for the nutritionist's name, but they stated that they are unable to provide names of employees.
Who formulates your recipes, and what are their credentials?
That Nutritionist along with our Food Scientist (PhD) and Manager of Nutrition all formulate our products.
Do you test your products using AAFCO feeding trials? Why, or why not?
We have done AAFCO feeding trials in the past, but now use a private kennel for palatability testing and use formulation and laboratory testing to ensure our products meet the AAFCO guidelines.
Generally speaking, companies may choose to perform feeding trials that are different than the AAFCO feeding trial, and in some cases more complete.
What country are your products manufactured?
Our dry dog and cat food are made in the USA along with our wet dog food. Our wet cat food is made in a human grade, FDA regulated facility in Thailand and our treats and supplements are made in the USA.
Can your manufacturing facilities be visited?
I am sure that our manufacturing facilities can be visited, I am just not sure how that is done.
What quality measures do you use to assure consistency and quality?
Solid Gold operates what is called a Positive Release program. All ingredients are tested a minimum of 4 times before entering our manufacturing facility. Samples are retained hourly during production to ensure quality and consistency. Final samples are taken of each batch and sent to 3rd party labs for testing to ensure that all nutrients are within specifications and for food safety. Once they pass all tests and inspections, the product is released to our warehouse.
This was one of the more detailed and complete explanations of quality assurance provided by a manufacturer.
Does Black Gold own its manufacturing facility? If it is another company, what company is it?
Solid Gold does not own their manufacturing facilities but we use privately owned manufacturing facilities.
The name could not be shared. It gives us a lot more confidence in a product to know excatly who is making the food.
Do any parts of your product come from China?
Absolutely no ingredients come from China.
Linda P Case, MS; Daniel P Carey, DVM; and Diane A Hirakawa, PhD, Canine and Feline Nutrition A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, Mosby-Year Book, Inc.