As a dog parent, you’ve probably spent hours researching pet food to make sure Scout and LouLou get the most nutritious, tasty, paw-fect meals possible. It’s not an easy task: There are tons of options out there and choosing what’s best for our furry family members can be a challenge. Plus, different doggos may require different meal plans. Over the past few years, though, one option has been leading the pack and outpacing all of its competitors: fresh dog food.
The rising popularity of fresh dog food
The fresh food category is growing faster than other types of dog food and the pet food category overall. According to Statista market research reports, the pet food industry in the U.S. from 2023 to 2027 is expected to grow by 8.8 percent annually, while the fresh pet food market in the US is expected to grow by 23.7% annually.
So what’s driving the trend? For one thing, there are more pet parents than before. According to the ASPCA, more than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic. As a result, pet food sales surged to $58 billion in 2022, up from $35 billion in 2019.
In addition, more and more pet parents are treating their four-legged friends like members of the family and have become more tuned in to their health and wellness, according to consumer research firm NielsenIQ. This trend has been fueling a greater demand for higher-quality pet foods that look (and taste!) more like what we humans feed ourselves.
When it comes to both human food and pet food, sustainable sourcing, ethically raised proteins, and transparent labeling are all areas where consumers are spending more money. But premium pet food is proving especially resilient: Despite inflation, major pet supply retailers like PetSmart are continuing to see a rising demand for fresh dog food and, as a result, are providing shoppers with more fresh pet food offerings.
What is fresh dog food?
Fresh dog food certainly sounds great, but what is it actually? Turns out the term “fresh” doesn’t have a standard, industry-wide specific definition, but there are a handful of qualities most fresh dog foods share.
Fresh dog food is made with fewer or no preservatives. Most fresh dog food companies make food that is free of preservatives, chemicals, or artificial additives like colors and flavors.
Fresh dog food needs to be refrigerated or frozen. Because of the lack of preservatives, fresh food is not shelf-stable and must be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Fresh dog food is made with whole foods. Whole ingredients, like meats and veggies, make Fido’s dinner plate resemble your own (if you were to mix it all together).
Fresh dog food is minimally processed. Fresh dog food is typically either raw or gently cooked at low temperatures to preserve the integrity of the nutrients.
Is fresh dog food better?
Fresh dog food promises several health benefits, including better digestion, healthier skin, shinier coats, increased energy, and more. But according to Dr. Jennifer Larsen, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, “Despite some amazing marketing claims, there remains no proof that fresh dog food is better than traditional kibble with regard to nutritional value or quality.” Larsen, the Chief of Nutrition Service at the University of California, Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, adds, “There are also many unregulated terms used in pet food marketing that are essentially meaningless, like ‘premium,’ ‘holistic,’ and ‘superfood.’”
Larsen explained that “human-grade” is a regulatory — not nutritional — term. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a nonprofit organization that sets standards for pet foods in the U.S., the presence of “human-grade” on a pet food label simply means the product is legally recognized as safe for human consumption. AAFCO advises that a product labeled as “human-grade,” isn’t necessarily nutritionally adequate for a pet. There are other optional certifications that pet food companies can seek out as well to boost consumer trust, like a stamp of approval from the Safe Quality Food (SQF) auditing program.
When deciding what to feed your dog, Larsen says the nutritional value of a diet matters more than marketing claims: “The most important thing to consider when choosing a diet is that it is nutritionally complete and balanced appropriately for the life stage and breed of the individual pet.” If you’re looking for fresh dog food, Larsen recommends consulting the WSAVA Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods for advice on choosing a reputable company.
As always, if you have questions, consult your vet.
Best fresh dog food on DoorDash
As pet parents get on board with fresh diets, more companies are bringing their own recipes to the table … er, bowl. For anyone who’s interested in feeding their dog the fresh stuff, we’ve rounded up some of the best pet food companies offering fresh food for dogs. All meet or exceed AAFCO nutritional standards and are available for delivery on DoorDash.
Nom Nom’s gently cooked recipes like Beef Mash, Chicken Cuisine, Turkey Fare, and Pork Potluck are made with high-quality proteins and vegetables and are free of artificial preservatives, fillers, and by-products. All of Nom Nom’s recipes are formulated and scientifically evaluated for nutritional balance by a team of veterinary nutrition experts, including two board-certified veterinary nutritionists and several PhD-credentialed nutritionists. Recipes are also rigorously tested for safety before leaving company owned and operated kitchen facilities. Nom Nom’s recipes are available for delivery on DoorDash from PetSmart.
Founded in 2006, Freshpet was one of the first companies to commercialize fresh options for pet owners. Freshpet’s recipes don’t contain any preservatives, meat powders, meals, or by-products, and are made using ingredients sourced from producers that meet high standards for responsible farming and ranching practices. Under the supervision of four veterinary nutritionists, Freshpet’s meals are crafted and gently cooked according to FDA and USDA standards. Meals also undergo dozens of quality and safety tests before leaving company-owned kitchens. Many of Freshpet’s recipes are available for delivery on DoorDash from PetSmart.
Instinct offers a variety of raw recipes made with meat sourced from USDA-inspected facilities along with non-GMO fruits and vegetables. Instinct’s first recipes were developed in partnership with the University of Nebraska and PhD-level nutritionists. Today, Instinct has a team of experts, including food scientists, quality control engineers, and a board-certified veterinary nutritionist formulating its recipes, which are prepared in Instinct’s SQF–certified facilities. Many of Instinct’s raw recipes, including cage-free chicken, grass-fed lamb, and wild-caught Alaskan pollock, are available for delivery on DoorDash from PetSmart.
JustFoodForDogs has been handcrafting human-grade meals using USDA-certified meats, fresh vegetables, and whole grains in its open-to-the-public kitchens since 2010. The company’s in-house team of veterinarians and board-certified specialists oversee formulations to ensure every recipe is balanced to meet standards of the AAFCO and the National Research Council’s (NRC) National Animal Nutrition Program. These gently cooked recipes are available for delivery on DoorDash from JustFoodForDogs locations all over the country.
Not only is Open Farm committed to sourcing the world’s best ingredients for recipes, it promises transparency and supports farmers who employ humane farming practices. Customers can trace the source of every ingredient in every product by scanning the lot code on the package. And when it comes to nutrition, Open Farm’s team of experts, including a PhD food scientist and animal nutritionist, excels in optimizing recipes to support the health and longevity of pets. Open Farm’s gently cooked meals are available for delivery on DoorDash from Healthy Spot.
Primal Pet Foods
Primal Pet Foods’ roster of recipes is formulated under the oversight of a PhD animal nutritionist and features high-quality ingredients like antibiotic- and steroid-free meats, certified organic produce, and unrefined vitamins and minerals. Primal Pet Foods sources ingredients only from vendors who humanely raise and sustainably grow all of the proteins and produce in their recipes, which are made in small batches in USDA-certified facilities. Primal Pet Foods’ raw frozen patties are available for delivery on DoorDash from Healthy Spot.
Stella & Chewy’s
Stella & Chewy’s offers nutritionally complete and balanced diets made with organic fruits and vegetables, and animal proteins that are grass-fed, cage-free, or wild-caught, and responsibly sourced from trusted partners. Stella & Chewy’s never uses artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors in its recipes, which are made by an in-house formulation team that includes a PhD animal nutritionist. Stella & Chewy’s raw and gently cooked recipes are available for delivery on DoorDash from Healthy Spot.
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