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Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor & Spring Vegetables Garnish Small Breed Dry Dog Food

by Cesar
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Review Summary

30 Second Summary

March 7, 2019

Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor is a lower quality dog food at a low-price. It contains 11 controversial ingredients, including artificial preservatives and colors. The food has a high amount of carbs, compared to its protein and fat and uses relatively low-quality meat and fats. On a more positive note, Cesar has a below-average number of dog food recalls and the company was also very transparent when answering our questions.

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Dry Dog Food
Small, Medium, Large Breeds
2.7, 5, 12 lbs
United States
Mars, Inc.

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This food has a good amount of protein but is high in carbs, which is lowering the fat content somewhat 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, very 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 29.55%

Min. Fat 14.77%

Min. Carbs 47.73%

Max. Fiber 5.11%

Max. Ash 7.95%

Max. Moisture 0%

Label Claim

Food Label

Min. Protein: 26.0%

Min Fat: 13.0%

Min Carbs: N/A

Max Fiber: 4.5%

Max Ash: N/A

Max. Moisture: 12.0%



348 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, Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Yellow Corn, Ground Wheat, Brewers Rice, Meat & Bone Meal, Animal Fat (Preserved with BHA & Citric Acid), Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal, Natural Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Glycerin, Salt, Phosphoric Acid, Sugar, Water, Potassium Sorbate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Fish Oil (stabilized with Mixed Tocopherols), Filet Mignon Smokey Natural Flavor, Dried Peas, Vitamin E supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Colors (Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5 & 6), Niacin, Dried Carrots, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Copper sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin A supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin D3 supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

The average dog food we reviewed has 39 total ingredients and 1 controversial ingredient. This product has 11 total controversial ingredients and 3 of them are found 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 dog food, take a close look at the first 5 ingredients. They make up about 80% of the total weight.

  • Beef
    Beef is the culinary name for cuts of meat from cattle, particularly skeletal muscle. In dog food, beef can also include muscle tissues from the tongue, heart, diaphragm or esophagus. Beef is rich in protein and nutrients like niacin, vitamin B12, creatine, iron and zinc. Beef is generally a healthy dog food ingredient. Whole meat contains about 75% water which is cooked off during the making of dog food. This leaves only a fraction of the protein content in the final product. We recommend looking for dog foods that also include meat meals (pre-cooked meat powder that contains four times the amount of protein).
  • Chicken By-Product Meal
    Meat by-products are animal parts other than meat that are left over at the slaughterhouse. This can include lung, spleen, brain, liver, blood, bone, beaks, kidneys, fatty tissue, and intestines. Because there is a wide variety of animal parts companies can use, and because details don't need to be disclosed, it's tough to compare the quality of different by-products. Generally speaking, by-products can provide important nutrients for dogs but can be of lower quality than meats and meat meals. For these reasons, we do not consider this a high-quality ingredient.
  • ‍Ground Yellow Corn
    Corn (also known as maize) is a cereal grain that provides carbs, protein, fat, vitamin B and other nutrients. Because corn in dog food is an inexpensive (and often feed-grade quality) ingredient, 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.

  • ‍Brewers Rice
    Brewer's rice is the small, broken fragments of white rice that are left over when rice is milled. It's used in dog food since it's not considered aesthetically pleasing enough for human food. It's a cheaper alternative to whole rice or other grains, providing calories but only modest nutritional value. It is missing many of the nutrients contained in whole ground rice and brown rice. For these reasons, we do not consider this a high-quality dog food ingredient.

Controversial Ingredients

  1. Ground Yellow Corn
  2. Ground yellow corn is a lower cost ingredient that does provide energy, but dogs can be sensitive to it. As a kernel, it is not digestible, so it must be processed, but that processing leads to a higher glycemic index. Yellow corn 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 named meat or lean protein 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 named meat or lean protein would be more nutritious.
  1. Brewer’s Rice
  2. Brewers Rice is basically white rice that has been broken into smaller pieces. It's a waste product of the milling process and considered a low-quality ingredient because its missing many of the nutrients contained in whole ground rice and brown rice.
  1. Meat & Bone Meal
  2. Meat and bone meals are created by cooking meat, tissue, bones and slaughterhouse waste products using high heat. In the process, most of the water is removed, resulting in a protein-rich powder. Pure meat meals contain about four times the protein meats do, so generally, they're a good source of nutrients. However, meals that also contain bones can be difficult to digest and have the potential to include rancid, dead, dying, disabled or diseased meat sources. This ingredient also doesn't identify the species it comes from making it questionable and intransparent. For these reasons, we do not consider this a high-quality ingredient.
  1. Animal Fat (Preserved with BHA & Citric Acid)
  2. Animal fat is created through a process called rendering which uses heat to convert animal tissue into more usable materials. Rendering dries the ingredient to separate bones, fat and protein. While fats are nutritious, this ingredient doesn't identify the species it comes from making it questionable and intransparent. This includes the potential that rancid, dead, dying, disabled or diseased meat sources could have been used. This ingredient also uses an artificial preservative called BHA which is suspected of causing cancer in dogs. For these reasons, we do not consider this a high-quality ingredient.
  1. Sugar
  2. Added sugar enhances flavor to make it more likely your dog will eat. The health concerns of added sugar are as real for dogs as they are for humans, notably obesity and diabetes.
  1. Red 40
  2. Allura Red AC (also called FD&C Red 40, C. I. 16035 and E129) is a synthetic dye used to change the color of food. it has been shown to significantly reduced reproductive success, parental and offspring weight, brain weight, and survival. What's most concerning is that this ingredient is completely unnecessary, dogs simply don't care about the color of their food.
  1. Blue 2
  2. Blue 2 is a synthetic dye used to change the color of food. This ingredient is completely unnecessary, dogs simply don't care about the color of their food.
  1. Yellow 5
  2. Tartrazine (also called C.I. 19140, FD&C Yellow 5, Acid Yellow 23, Food Yellow 4 and E102) and is a synthetic lemon yellow dye used to change the color of food, cosmetics and medications. In humans with Tartrazine hypersensitivity potential reactions include headaches, asthma attacks, itching or hives, insomnia, and hyperactivity. What's most concerning is that this ingredient is completely unnecessary, dogs simply don't care about the color of their food.
  1. Yellow 6
  2. Sunset Yellow FCF (also called  Orange Yellow S, C.I. 15985, and E110) is a petroleum-derived orange dye used to change the color of food, cosmetics and medications. With potential links to ADHD and cancer, it has been restricted or banned in some EU countries and has restrictions in the U.S. - based on maximum intake ranges. What's most concerning is that this ingredient is completely unnecessary, dogs simply don't care about the color of their food.
  1. Fish Oil
  2. Fish oil, in general, is very nutritious, supplying healthy Omega fatty acids and other nutrients to your dog. However, this ingredient doesn't show which animal(s) it's actually made from, making it less transparent and potentially low-quality. Because of that, we consider it a controversial ingredient.

Country of Origin

Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor is made in the United States, a country known for high dog food quality standards. So this is a plus.

Meat & Fat Quality

The meat quality of this product is mixed. Two of the ingredients, Beef and Chicken By-Product Meal, identify the species they come from which is very important. However, Meat & Bone Meal, as well as Animal Fat, do not make it clear where these ingredients originate. Missing information on meat sources is often a sign of lower quality dog food. The same concern exists for added fats in this product. Fish Oil is used, which is generally very nutritious. However,  this specific ingredient doesn't identify the species it comes from, making it questionable and intransparent.

Artificial Preservatives

Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor contains BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole), a very controversial artificial preservative we never want to see on dog food labels. To be clear: Not all artificial preservatives are bad. That’s because they serve an important purpose, which is to prevent food from spoiling and making your dog sick. However, 11 artificial preservatives are controversial because of their potential link to cancer and other serious health conditions in dogs. BHA is one of them.

Artificial Colors

This food uses several artificial colors: Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. Dogs happily eat foods of any color, so these are just added to make the food look better to us humans and are completely unnecessary. They’re also potentially unhealthy, so all four of them should not be in this food.

Artificial Flavors

Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor does not include any artificial flavors. The food label shows Filet Mignon Smokey Natural Flavor, but as the name implies that’s not an artificial ingredient.



Brand Recalls

Cesar has a below-average number of dog food recalls.

Recalled Products:
CESAR Classics Filet Mignon Flavor, 100 g (3.5 oz) in plastic trays, 24 or 30 trays/case
There is a potential presence of white plastic in the finished product.
FDA recalls use classes from I (most serious) to III (least serious).
54,255 cases



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 pet food companies, 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?

Cesar is part of the Mars family of brands and was pretty responsive. It only required one email, and they responded in 4 days. Not lightning fast, but compared to the average it was not a bad response time. They provided relatively complete answers, although they were very much crafted from a marketing perspective and in some ways did not answer the questions directly.

Does Cesar have a veterinary nutritionist on staff? If so, who are they?  

We have two nutritionists on staff for better checks and balances.  One is full time and has done 7 years post-graduate work in nutrition, his work has been published in peer-reviewed Veterinary and Nutrition journals for over 30 years. His work is also cited in the NRC Nutrient Requirements for Dogs and Cats.  The other is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist (DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, DACVSMR) who has an office in our headquarters but is considered part-time so he can continue his work in academia.

The detail here is great, but they were unable to share the specific names of these individuals.  

Who formulates your recipes, and what are their credentials?

Developing pet foods involves teams of Associates with expertise in many different fields including nutrition, food science, animal science and veterinary sciences.  Mars Petcare has been developing pet foods for over 80 years and the nutritional knowledge and expertise of our associates goes into every diet we produce.

This response felt more like a marketing response, and dodges the actual question. They were unable to provide any names of the individuals involved in the formulation of the product.  

Do you test your products using the AAFCO feeding trials? Why, or why not?

This depends on the diet.  Both ways of ensuring nutritional adequacy are acceptable methods and the method employed on a particular diet is listed on the diet itself within the nutritional adequacy statement.  For those products that are formulated to meet nutrient profiles, we utilize our extensive database of the nutrient content of our ingredients and well as analytical values of key nutrients in order to ensure the delivery of the nutrient profiles of our diets.  

Every dog food label will list of the AAFCO Statement, which tells you if a feeding trial has been done. There is much debate on the effectiveness of these trials, but we feel it is insightful to hear how a manufacturer views them as part of their product development.

What country are your products manufactured?

Cesar: Our main meal & treats are currently manufactured in the USA. Our SIMPLY CRAFTED™ is made in Thailand.

Can your manufacturing facilities be visited?

No, they cannot be visited by the public.

We found that most large multinational companies like Mars have manufacturing facilities that are not open to the public.  

What quality measures do you use to assure consistency and quality?

Quality is the cornerstone of every aspect of our business and the number one responsibility of all our employees, suppliers and distributors. At Mars Petcare, we have a vision for making A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS®. The health and wellbeing of pets is our absolute priority. Our products are manufactured in strict compliance with the stringent guidelines set down by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), as well as each state's feed regulations and in many cases our own guidelines far exceed them. Under the Mars Supplier Quality Assurance Program, all of the raw materials that we and our suppliers use must meet our strict global internal quality and safety requirements, in addition to local laws and regulation.  Our robust global standards, which apply at every stage of the supply chain, allow us to ensure that all of our products are safe, nutritious and enjoyable, meaning owners can feel confident that their pets will thrive on our products.  

Does Cesar own its manufacturing facility? If it is another company, what company is it?

In the U.S. we employ 25,000 Associates across 6 segments: Mars Food, Mars Drinks, Mars Petcare, Mars Chocolate, Mars Symbioscience and Wrigley.  We employ more than 75,000 Associates worldwide. We have 37 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and 43 U.S. states have Mars operations. For more than 100 years, Mars has been committed to making our products in the markets where we sell them.  By growing our footprint in the U.S., we are better able to introduce new products to meet consumer demand for greater choice and variety.  

In short, they own the facilities.  

Do any parts of your product come from China?

We source our ingredients for our North American plants as close to our facilities as possible. We do not purchase meat-based ingredients from China. Our vitamins and minerals often come from China, as that is often one of the only locations to source these ingredients globally, similar to human foods. Mars has an extensive Supplier Quality Assurance program, which includes audits and visits from our own associates to these suppliers.

We learned from speaking to many companies that sourcing quality ingredients at scale is a significant challenge. This reality means that companies like Mars who are supplying massive distribution channels will often use a variety of sourcing options, including China.

Cesar Filet Mignon Flavor & Spring Vegetables Garnish Small Breed Dry Dog Food

by Cesar
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