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With the growing awareness of the benefits of raw feeding for dogs, we're seeing more raw food brands pop up on the market to meet the increasing demand for better nutrition for dogs and cats. Over the past few years, I've learned that although premade raw is convenient, it's not always the best choice for our four dogs.
Warning About Feeding Premade Raw to Dogs
When new raw food brands hit the marketplace, many eventually reach out to me for a review and these opportunities have taught me a lot about commercial raw food brands and the people behind these businesses and it's not always pretty.
According to the American Pet Products Association, the pet industry is estimated to surpass $62 billion in 2016. Although most people I meet begin their pet related business due to a personal experience, there are many people who are jumping in because this has proven to be a recession-proof industry.
In other words, they care about the money, not the dogs.
That being said, here are a few steps you can take to make sure the raw brand you're considering is good enough for your dog.
1 – Check the Sourcing for the Raw Dog Food
I recently learned that a friend's co-op was sourcing meat that's been labeled 3D and 4D (dead, diseased, dying, down). While some people don't mind feeding tainted meat to their dogs using the logic that they'd eat it if they were in the wild, I'm not so liberal with my dogs' health. First, our dogs aren't wild and second, I'm concerned that whatever disease lived in the animal can transfer to my dog.
Contact the brand and ask for details about where they get their food. If the information is on their site and you have more questions, don't hesitate to ask. If they won't tell you, don't order anything from them.
2 – Review the Ingredients in the Raw Dog Food
One bonus to feeding raw dog food is that many brands are transparent about their ingredients. If you come across a brand that has a proprietary recipe or won't give you more details about their vitamin mix, take a step back and ask yourself if this is the right brand for your dog. When I'm reading ingredients, I'm looking for a list that I understand from a brand who is willing to take the time to explain what I don't understand.
Lucky for us, there are so many alternatives out there that we don't have to buy food from secretive raw dog food brands.
3 – Talk to the People Behind the Raw Dog Food
There is nothing more telling about a brand than the people behind the brand.
- A brand told me that if I can't afford their food, I don't have my priorities right.
- A brand told me that if I couldn't afford their food, then there was something wrong with me and my finances because their food is not expensive.
- A brand harassed me for a week with phone calls, text messages, and emails after I admitted that I couldn't afford their food and could make a similar product for a fraction of the price. They felt that by sharing my recipe, I was attempting to destroy their business.
These aren't exaggerations and, believe it or not, these are tame experiences compared to what other influential bloggers, like Rodney Habib and Susan Thixton, experience.
I believe we should be focused on feeding our dogs better, however, when there's money involved, some people tend to lose their mind. The pet food industry is a
Dog Eat Dog Human Eat Human world and it's unfortunate to have these experiences in an environment where people are trying to feed their dogs better and are getting little support from the veterinarian community and conflicting messages from the raw feeding community.
If when speaking with a raw brand, you get the impression that their bottom line is more important that your dog, move on. I understand that people need to pay bills, and I don't mind paying for dog food, I just want to make sure that I'm on the same page as my brand. I want to know that they have my dogs' best interest at heart.
4 – Work Out a Raw Dog Food Budget
Some raw brands have a shopping cart on their site. Use it to put in a faux order to get an idea of what it's going to cost you to feed your dogs each month. If you're numbers savvy, create a worksheet (I use Google Sheets) to figure out your raw dog food budget. I'm a numbers person and like to work out the figures before placing an order and getting a surprise when they withdraw more than I anticipated from my bank account.
There are a lot of brands who will try and talk you into this high bill with the argument that you won't have to take your dogs to the vet. Well, at $2,000+ a month (my budget with one brand I reviewed), I won't be able to afford to go to the vet or anywhere else. There are also brands who will take time to work with you to create an affordable order – I had this experience with Darwin's Natural Pets.
5 – Check Reviews of the Raw Dog Food
There are plenty of bloggers who are now reviewing raw dog food making it easier for dog parents to learn more about raw dog food brands. Make sure the review covers things that are important to you, like ingredients, sourcing, and cost. I saw one review that offered raves for a new raw dog food, when I reviewed the same food, I found mistakes on the website and the monthly cost to feed my dogs was higher than my mortgage payment.
Every blogger has a different review method, things that are important to one blogger may not be important to other bloggers. By reading the reviews of several bloggers, you may get a more well-rounded idea of how this brand is and if they'll work for you.
Raw Dog Food Brands I Feed My Dogs
Although I make 95% of my dogs' food, I still buy premade raw on occasion, and the following are brands that I've bought to feed dogs this past year.
Darwin's Natural Pet Food
I started our dogs off on Darwin's and still have a monthly order from them. It's 100% balanced, filled with natural ingredients, no hormones or antibiotics, I can trust the sourcing, and since I make most of my dogs' food, I can afford a monthly shipment. I still have Darwin's on the menu, because it's easy to feed and nice to have on hand when I'm running low on my DIY raw meals.
Darwin's offers free menu consultations. They helped me develop a game plan when I was new to raw, which eased my mind. Darwin's also offers shipment directly to your door.
Raw Paws Pet Food
Raw Paws Pet Food is another brand that ships to your door, however, unlike Darwin's Pet, not all of their food comes balanced. You'll have to order the ingredients and mix it yourself in some cases. Two things that I love about Raw Paws are that they offer free shipping, and they offer regular specials; something I've yet to see with other raw brands. Join the mailing list and be the first to know about upcoming discounts and bulk specials.
Vital Essentials Raw
Vital Essentials Raw is the very first brand that I reviewed. I remember it being a huge ordeal at the time because only a couple of stores in my area were selling raw dog food and neither had Vital Essentials at the time. Today that has changed.
Vital Essentials Raw follows the Prey Model of raw feeding and doesn't add fruit and vegetables. I feed our dogs their fish and wild boar. I also buy many of their treats and their recreational raw bones (beef kneecaps).
Steve's Real Food
I was introduced to Steve's Real Food at Super Zoo 2015 and immediately fell in love with their food when I opened my first bag. It's weird to say that a bag of raw smells good, but it SMELLS GOOD. You can see the ingredients and the dogs love it. I buy their pork recipe. They also have a CBD product that my dogs enjoy; the ENHANCED Freeze-Dried Raw Goats Milk.
Answers Pet Food
Answer's Pet Food is another source for pork, which I worry about processing myself and prefer to buy from a brand, however, this isn't what I primarily buy from Answers. They offer fermented fish stock, a powerhouse of a natural supplement for dogs that boosts the immune system. And they now offer kefir for dogs. Although I'm about to start making it myself, my first experience with kefir was a product created by Answers, and it's everything people say it is and cleared up yeasty ears for Sydney in short order.
- CLICK HERE to visit AnswersPetFood.com
- CLICK HERE to learn the benefits of fermented fish stock
- CLICK HERE to learn the benefits of kefir for dogs
I order their fish recipe for my dogs. Like Steve's Real Food, I was impressed by the appearance and smell of the food. It smells fresh. I prefer the Rox to the patties, but my dogs don't care and will eat either. I can add their fish recipe to my dogs' meals, or I can feed them a whole meal of fish.
UPDATE: OC Raw now offers raw sardines!! If you're having trouble finding sardines other than canned, check out your local Asian market or OC Raw.
Other Raw Dog Food Brands I Recommend
I don't currently feed raw dog food made by these brands, however, I think these are great brands for raw feeders and if I were given a chance, I would definitely add these to my budget, because these brands offer great ingredients and their passion for pets is apparent in the people behind the brand.