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Welcome to my second annual (I think) Top Raw Dog Food Brands post. I receive questions weekly asking my thoughts on various commercial raw food brands. I used to have a long list of brands that I recommended, however, that has changed. Today, I mostly feed DIY raw meals to my dogs with a few premade raw brands thrown in that provide more protein variety.
With the growing number of people jumping into the pet industry to offer raw food, I wanted to share the brands that I would recommend as well as share a warning about the brands you may see being promoted on social media. I've spoken to the people behind many of the raw brands on the market, and I learned one thing: Not all raw food brands are created equal. And not all are safe for our dogs.
DIY Raw Feeding is Better Than Premade
Honestly, I believe that DIY raw feeding is better than buying premade raw because…
- I control the ingredients protecting my dogs from a food intolerance reaction.
- I can source human-grade and local ingredients.
- it's a lot more affordable to make raw dog food at home.
- it's a lot of fun (for me, at least).
Not everyone is able to jump into DIY raw feeding. While it's a lot less complicated than I thought in the beginning (follow Keep the Tail Wagging on Facebook to see my videos where I make raw dog food), it does take a level of comfort, knowledge of sourcing (I order mainly through a raw food co-op), and maybe extra freezer space (I order in bulk). This is why quality premade raw brands are important. They make it possible for more people to transition their dogs safely to a balanced raw diet while providing more protein options for those of us with limited sources.
Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Aren't Raw Dog Food
For the raw food purists out there, freeze-dried and dehydrated dog food isn't raw because it's been processed using heat; dehydrating adds more heat then freeze-drying. However, for the purpose of this list, I'm adding freeze-dried and dehydrated because many raw feeders incorporate these in their dogs' raw food diet as a protein alternative, when traveling, as a meal topper, and more.
What I Look for in a Raw Food Brand
With one exception, I will only feed brands that are offered through our raw food co-op because I know the couple who manages our co-op have high standards. The co-op members serve as a secondary source of information because they regularly share their experience with the various brands we can order.
But the raw feeding industry is growing and when I'm considering a new pre-made raw food brand, I look for the following:
High praise from raw feeders I trust. Beware of only accepting the word of bloggers (even me). If someone is being paid to promote food, they may be spotlighting all of the positives and downplaying the negatives. This isn't done to fool people into buying the food; it's done because some bloggers have trouble saying anything that can be deemed as negative about a brand if they're being paid. And in some cases, a brand will tell the blogger what they can and cannot say in a blog post.
So only follow the recommendations of people you trust.
Do they offer more than chicken? Chicken is the cheapest protein on the market, and many raw feeders will launch their brand offering a chicken or chicken blend (chicken and duck, chicken and beef) recipe. I have four dogs that have tested positive for chicken allergies and two dogs that will get diarrhea within a few hours if I feed them chicken.
Years of experience in producing raw meals for dogs. I strongly warn dog parents against buying from raw food brands that are brand new to the market unless they have great reviews from other raw feeders. If you can't find anyone who knows the brand, then give the company time to work out the kinks and find good sources for their meat and other ingredients. I tried a new brand a couple of years ago, and when the box arrived, there was no dry ice (to keep the food frozen), everything was thawed (it was 80+ degrees outside), and half the food had spilled from the packages.
Are they transparent about sourcing and ingredients? I understand brands having a proprietary recipe that they'd prefer not to share, however, if they won't answer questions about their food, I run for the hills. They should be able to tell you if they use a vitamin mix and where it's sourced (it's China, not the US like some claim) and where their ingredients are sourced (country of origin at least). If they keep dancing around your questions, then they're not the right raw food brand for you.
The brands that made my list meet at least two out of three criteria…
- I feed their food to my dogs and my dogs, especially Rodrigo, do great on their food.
- I have met with representatives or the owners of the brand and appreciate their passion, commitment, and knowledge.
- I know people who feed food from the brand and can't say enough good things about the food.
If you're looking for a more official list, I highly recommend that you consider investing in The List 2018 published by TruthAboutPetFood.com. For a reasonable donation, you can learn the top pet food brands recommended by Susan Thixton based on her years of experience and research in the pet food industry.
Top Frozen Raw Dog Food Brands of 2017
This list is in alphabetical order and is based on a combination of my experience with feeding the raw meals created by these brands to my dogs, their customer service, and feedback from other raw feeders.
Answers Pet Food – Last year, I order their fermented fish stock, which is great for digestive and joint health, and the kefir by Answers, also great for digestive health. This year, I added the turkey stock (with fermented beets) to my order along with the turmeric and spirulina cheeses (for healthy fats). I will be placing an order for their food, adding it to my line up again, because I learned that they ferment the meat and vegetables in their raw meals. There is a possibility that Rodrigo will be able to eat their chicken and beef recipes. I haven't tried it yet, but the other dogs do great on Answer's beef.
Stay tuned for a test run of feeding Rodrigo fermented foods in 2018.
BARF World Dog Food – I had the honor of meeting Robert Mueller at SuperZoo in 2016, which was HUGE for me. When I started my raw feeding journey, I spent a tremendous amount of time reading all of the information on BARF World's website and they sent me some food to try, which my dogs did great on. I don't feed my dogs food by BARF World because it's not available through my local raw food co-op, however, I have no problem recommending the food to others.
Columbia River Pet Food – OMG, I nearly forgot one of my favorite brands this year! I started buying Columbia River through our local co-op when I was trying to find new proteins to feed to my dogs. I now order their quail and rabbit. Rodrigo has an intolerance to chicken, turkey, guinea hen, and pheasant. He can eat duck (which I make) and quail (thank heavens). My rabbit source sent me 20 pounds of spoiled rabbit meat last summer so I switched to Columbia River to give my dogs another source of red meat.
Columbia River is a local company that doesn't seem to have a website, but you can find their products listed on distributor sites. I order it through our local co-op and I buy it from a local pet store when I'm running low. It comes in two-pound chubs, it's ground without looking like mush. Love it!
Darwin’s Natural Selections and Zoologics – I transitioned my dogs to Darwin's in April 2013 and that started my raw feeding journey which led to this blog and a book that I published this year. Today, I have a regular order of Darwin's lamb recipe because it's less expensive to buy it through Darwin's than to source it on my own. I also place periodic orders for their bison green tripe.
In December, Darwin's announced a voluntary recall and I took some flack from folks who were surprised that I could support this company. We all should choose the brands and the diet that is right for our dogs. The people at Darwin's have been nothing but transparent, friendly, and helpful and I appreciate their support over the years. Recalls happen. To me, it's about how a brand handles the recall; in this case, Darwin's was able to contact their customers who received the product noted in the recall. How many brands can do the same?
GreenTripe.com – When I first began feeding raw, I couldn't find green tripe everywhere and fed canned green tripe (it smelled awful) for a couple of years. Thanks to my co-op, I was introduced to GreenTripe.com, where I order tripe (mixed with beef trachea and beef gullet) and an organ/green tripe blend (beef heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and pancreas with green tripe). This company offers a quality product, they have been amazing with my questions (I have lots of questions), and they offer a lot of great products.
Next year, I'm going to try and transition Rodrigo from his pancreas supplement to GreenTripe.com's raw pancreas. Stay tuned.
Northwest Naturals – I wasn't sure about adding Northwest Naturals to the list because I don't often feed their food to my dogs, but it has been in the rotation. Northwest Naturals offers a lamb and fish recipe that I will sometimes order for my dogs. I prefer their nugget but will feed their chubs too – which is great when you have four big dogs. Northwest Naturals is a quality brand – they source and make all of their food in the US, thhigh-quality quality control standards, and my dogs do well on their food.
OC Raw Dog Food – When I stopped by the OC Raw booth at SuperZoo this year, I wasn't expecting anything new because it's expensive and timely to create new products. And how innovative can you be with raw dog food? Well, I got a pleasant surprise – OC Raw now offers frozen sardines!!! I think there are about 8 – 10 in a vacuum sealed package, they're affordable, and my dogs love them. Previously, I could only order raw sardines in a 50-pound box. That was a pain to redistribute into vacuum sealed packages at home. OC Raw made raw feeding a lot easier.
OC Raw also offers a fish and vegetable recipe that my dogs enjoy. What I love about their raw food is that it isn't ground up so much that it's a brown mush. It looks like raw dog food that I make, except that it's a nugget or patty.
Raw Bistro Dog Food – I have never fed my dogs food from Raw Bistro, but they make a list because the people behind this brand are amazing. I make a point of stopping by their booth at SuperZoo because these are my people. If you're a raw feeder, then you know what it's like to have a passionate conversation about dog nutrition – you can do that with Justin Magnuson and his team.
Currently (December 2017), Raw Bistro is offering their bison liver treats for 50% off – CLICK HERE to order while supplies last.
Raw Paws Pet Food – The reason Raw Paws Pet has made the list is because of the people behind the brand – a great team of pet lovers, their devotion to providing a quality product, and they offer discounts which we don't see often in the raw feeding community. When you visit their website, sign up for their newsletter to be notified of specials and discounts. I recommend the Bundle Deals and Bulk Shopping.
Raw Paws Pet Food has a great variety of proteins, chews, and treats. I'm not a fan that Raw Paws Pet Food has become a company that sells kibble (another one bites the dust), but I hope that this is their way of transitioning pets from kibble to raw. Wishful thinking?
Steve’s Real Food – Steve's Real Food is my go-to for freeze-dried raw (as a back up for when I forget to thaw), but their raw-raw is great too and I often order their pork recipe for my dogs. This is a brand that is constantly innovating and I look forward to visiting their booth at SuperZoo. I still can't find their freeze-dried eggs in my area; I want to give them a try because our dogs can eat the entire egg.
Vibrant K9 – Vibrant K9 is a Southern California brand managed by a woman who is passionate about raw feeding and introducing people to a species appropriate diet for pets. This is a small company that is building an amazing reputation and landed on The Truth About Pet Food 2018 List, which is a list of foods Susan Thixton trusts and would personally feed to her pets. This is high honors in our community.
I recommend following the Vibrant K9 Facebook page; I get a kick out of seeing dogs enjoying their raw meals.
Vital Essentials Raw – I've been a HUGE fan of Vital Essentials Raw since I started writing about raw feeding because they were my first raw food review. Today, I pick up Vital Essentials products for my cats: Minnows and freeze-dried raw. They're also a great source for recreational bones and green tripe if you're having trouble finding either.
Top Freeze-Dried & Dehydrated Dog Food
I've fed all of the below freeze-dried and dehydrated raw brands to my dogs or cat this year. These are great for when I forget to thaw food, I use freeze-dried raw as a meal topper, and it's as close to “raw feeding” as I can get with my cat. Freeze-dried and dehydrated are also great when you're traveling with your dog or you have someone sitting for your dog who isn't too keen on raw feeding.
Top Natural Dog Treats by Raw Brands
There are many dog treat brands that offer healthy, all natural options for our fur kids, these are raw, freeze-dried, and dehydrated dog food brands that also offer dog treats.
- Addiction Meaty Bites (venison and brushtail)
- Bravo Pet Food (dehydrated duck feet)
- The Honest Kitchen (freeze-dried mussels, fish skin treats)
- K9 Naturals (freeze-dried mussels)
- Raw Paws Pet Food (green beef tripe, dried beef liver, recreational bones)
- Vital Essentials Raw (minnows, rabbit ears, VE Raw Bar, recreational bones)
Not Ready for Raw?
For the first time, I'm adding cooked dog food to the list. There are many reasons why someone may not be ready to feed a raw food diet, so I want to recommend two brands that offer cooked dog food.
- Evermore Pet Food – women-owned, human grade, sustainably and humanely sourced, no corn, soy, wheat, or empty starches
- NomNomNow – no synthetic vitamins, US sourced ingredients
What Brands Do You Recommend?
Our community is small, but growing – let's support each other by sharing raw feeding brands that you and your dogs love.