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Black Gold Explorer Original Performance Formula 26/18 Dry Dog Food

by Black Gold
Review Product PhotoReview Product Photo
Review Summary

30 Second Summary

March 7, 2019

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.

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Dry Dog Food
Small, Medium, Large Breeds
50 lbs
United States
Black Gold Pet Food

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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

Label Claim

Dry Matter

Min. Protein 28.89%

Min. Fat 20.00%

Min. Carbs 43.33%

Max. Fiber 3.33%

Max. Ash 7.78%

Max. Moisture 0.00%

Label Claim

Food Label

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.

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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.

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Total Ingredients
Controversial Ingredients

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.

  • Beef Meal
    Beef meal is dehydrated whole muscle from cattle. Meat meals are the result of cooking. Water is removed from meats to create a protein-rich meal powder. Meat meals contain about four times the protein meats do, so generally, they're a good source of nutrients. Beef meal is generally a healthy dog food ingredient.
  • Corn Meal
    Corn meal (also known as corn flour) is ground dried corn. While it provides protein, corn meal is less nutritious than meat (its ability to provide amino acids to your dog's body is lower). Therefore, we do not consider it a high-quality dog food ingredient.
  • Ground Wheat
    Wheat is a cereal grain and a source for nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus and niacin. Ground wheat can be of a lower-quality ingredient than whole ground wheat. We, therefore, do not consider it a high-quality ingredient.

  • Corn Gluten Meal
    Corn gluten meal is a waste product from corn manufacturing that is used as an inexpensive protein source in dog food. While it provides protein, corn gluten meal is less nutritious than meat (its ability to provide amino acids to your dog's body is lower). Therefore, we do not consider it a high-quality dog food ingredient.

  • Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid)
    Chicken fat is the fat left over after cooking chicken parts. It's a high-quality dog food ingredient that provides nutrients such as fat and Omega-6 fatty acids. Mixed-Tocopherols are a natural preservative made from Vitamin E that helps keep food fresh. We consider it a high-quality dog food preservative. Citric acid is a natural ingredient found in citrus fruits. It can also be made from corn and mold. It's used as a natural preservative and is generally a healthy dog food ingredient.

Controversial Ingredients

  1. Corn Meal
  2. Corn meal is a lower cost ingredient that does provide energy, but dogs can be sensitive to. As a kernel it is not digestible, so it must be processed, but that processing leads to a higher glycemic index. Corn meal is not generally considered a controversial ingredient, but is controversial if it is used in the top five ingredients (which make up about 80% of the food's weight) where a named meat would be more nutritious.
  1. Ground Wheat
  2. Ground wheat is not simply good or bad. It' provides calories and carbs, but some dogs can have a sensitivity to it. Wheat is not generally considered a controversial ingredient, but is controversial when it is used in the top five ingredients (which make up about 80% of the food's weight) where a named meat or lean protein would be more nutritious.
  1. Corn Gluten Meal
  2. Corn gluten meal is a low-cost protein ingredient that is used to add protein and bind food together. This protein is far less complete in nutrient content than meat-based proteins, but because of its lower cost, it is often used to bump up the protein percentage. It is controversial if it is used in the top five ingredients (which make up about 80% of the food's weight) where a named meat or lean protein would be more nutritious.
  1. Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity)
  2. A synthetic version of Vitamin K (known as Menadione) which is added due to the lack or loss of Vitamin K in the food processing. Menadione supplements are banned by the FDA because of their potential toxicity in human use and can be found as 10+ different names on a label. While low amounts have been found to be safe, the consistent repetitive nature of a dogs diet results in the long-term exposure that should be considered.
  1. Calcium Propionate (Preservative)
  1. Calcium Propionate is an artificial preservative that helps slow and prevent mold. Chronic exposure has been linked to headaches as well as behavior changes in children that include irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbances.

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.

Artificial Preservatives

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.

Artificial Colors

This product does not use any artificial colors.

Artificial Flavors

This product does not use any artificial flavors.



Brand Recalls

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.

Black Gold Explorer Original Performance Formula 26/18 Dry Dog Food

by Black Gold
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