James Wellbeloved's grain free range is specifically marketed for dogs that are prone to dietary intolerance. In common with the rest of the James Wellbeloved range, the 'with vegetables' varieties are free from all of the ingredients commonly associated with dietary allergies and intolerances (like wheat, soya and dairy) but uniquely, they are completely cereal free. For dogs that have difficulties digesting grains this can be a real advantage.
As we have seen with their standard adult varieties, James Wellbeloved certainly know how to make the most out of the ingredients list but the cereal free range takes things to the next level. At first glance, you've got a food with 26% meat as the first ingredient, some vegetables and a few healthy supplements. All very good but by digging a little deeper it's easy to see that not all is quite as it seems.
First off, the 26% meat includes 2% gravy and at least 4% fat making the maximum content of actual meat just 20% which would move it down the ingredients list to 3rd place. The new first ingredient would then be pea starch which is just... well... starch and which, apart from supplying calories, does very little for the dog.
After that comes 20% potatoes - another very starchy ingredient. Just as a side note, if you are comparing this food with other grain free foods, it's also worth noting that 20% potato flakes (which are dried before being added to the mixture) would equate to roughly 60% fresh potatoes.
So, what we're really looking at is a food with over 40% starchy ingredients and a composition more closely resembling:
Pea starch (~22%), potato flakes (20%), lamb meal (<20%)...
You don't have to be a canine nutritionist to see that this is a pretty disappointing start for a top-dollar dog food.
After that things do pick up with the addition of several good quality vegetables including tomato pomace, whole peas, alfalfa and carrot (although the latter 3 only make up a maximum of 3.5% between them). Unfortunately though, due to the fact that the true meat content is relatively low, the protein levels have had to be topped up with cheap pea protein which is a poor substitute for real meat proteins.
James Wellbeloved cereal free also contains a number of supplements including nutrient packed seaweed, essential oils and joint supplements but this silver lining regrettably also has a cloud, this time in the form of added salt (listed as sodium chloride). While salt is a necessary mineral, it is generally present in sufficient quantities in the raw ingredients of pet foods. However, as dogs, like humans, enjoy the taste of salt, extra is sometimes added as a flavour enhancer. Unfortunately, excessive salt has the same health implications in dogs as it does in people and should therefore generally be avoided.
Price-wise, James Wellbeloved's cereal free range is very expensive. The price of a bag seems about average but when you realise that the bag is only two-thirds the size of most other brands and that the suggested feeding amounts are not particularly low, the price per day becomes very high, especially for medium to large dogs.
Conclusion: A 3.4 star dog food at a 5 star price with added salt and a slightly disingenuous ingredients list.