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I do not work for Darwin's Natural Pet Products. Darwin's didn't pay me to write this blog post. I have been a customer since April 2013 and continue to feed my dogs Darwin's pet food today.
Darwin's Pet issued a voluntary recall in December 2017, due to possible salmonella contamination. This recall was followed by two more. Because they sell and ship directly to their customers, they were able to notify all customers impacted by this recall via email and follow up phone calls to warn them about the food and make additional arrangements.
Around the same time, I received several messages from people asking me why I continue to feed my dogs Darwin's Pet Food and I wanted to clarify a few misconceptions about this brand and my relationship with this brand.
My History with Darwin's Natural Pet Products
I've told the story of how I started my dogs on a raw food diet many times. Rodrigo had just finished his third round of antibiotics and he was cuddled up with J on the sofa when J felt bumps on his back. This last round of antibiotics was for a skin rash and now it had returned, with a vengeance. This was one of many health issues my dog had and I was fed up; obviously, his vet couldn't help him.
I had been researching raw feeding for several months and finally decided to give it a shot. Someone had told me about Darwin's Pet and I gave them a call the next day to set up a recurring order. Within two weeks of Rodrigo eating a hybrid diet (raw in the morning, kibble in the evening), most of his health issues had cleared up. At the time, I didn't know that kibble was inflammatory. I didn't understand about the ingredients, sourcing, and manufacturing of kibble. I didn't know about the toxins in the food. I didn't realize that a diet of fresh food could help my dog but I'm glad that I figured it out.
Today, I make most of my dogs' raw meals in my kitchen and I have a small monthly order with Darwin's for their Natural Selections lamb recipe, which I sometimes alternate with the bison tripe, lamb tripe, and Natural Selections beef.
I have had a great experience with Darwin's Natural Pet Products with my only complaint being when the squares of food get wet, it's hard as heck to open the package. But there are two easy solutions: (1) open the package with a knife or (2) dry the package off (and your hands) before opening.
Darwin's Natural Pet Food Has Poor Customer Service
A handful of people have told me that they have had bad experiences with the customer service at Darwin's Natural Pet Food. I don't doubt anyone's experience. Everyone has an off day, some have more than others. However, I've never had a negative experience with the customer service team at Darwin's, so I continue to order their food for my dogs.
Raising a dog with protein intolerances and poor digestive health can make feeding any type of food a challenge. Rodrigo can't eat many proteins, premade or DIY, however, he can eat Darwin's Pet. At his worse, he rapidly lost weight one month, had chronic diarrhea, and was miserable. I was worried about his gut's inability to absorb nutrients and the potential for dehydration due to his chronic diarrhea. On a vet visit, I was advised to return to the food Rigo could eat and that food is Darwin's pet food.
Darwin's Natural Pet Food Has Metal Pieces
I have been feeding my dogs Darwin's Pet Food for nearly five years and I have not come across any metal pieces in the food. How do I know? I mix dog supplements into their food, smashing the food down as I mix in the supplements with a spoon or fork. I think that process would reveal any metal in the food. I'm not saying that others didn't have this experience; I'm stating that I did not.
Darwin's Natural Pet Food has Large Bone Shards
I haven't noticed large, sharp pieces of bone in the food. When I ground the meat and bone with my first meat grinder, there were large pieces that would come through, but they never posed a problem with my dogs. I have large dogs; I don't know how my dogs would do if they weighed less than 10 pounds. And while some people may not think the bone shards are a big deal, I can see why someone would be concerned. With my first meat grinder, I put the bigger pieces back through the grinder to break them down further.
When I traded up to my Cabelas 3/4 horsepower grinder, I no longer had big pieces of bone in my DIY raw dog food.
Darwin's Natural Pet Food Uses 3D and 4D Meat
When the topic of Darwin's Pet comes up, I'm sometimes tagged in the discussion. Last year I was tagged in a discussion with a woman and her friends who accused Darwin's of using 3D and 4D meat. This was how they explained a dog having pink in his urine. The actual cause of the discoloration was the beets in the food, which several people shared, including a representative of the brand. What was disappointing was despite the explanation, the person who started this discussion requested a year's worth of free food from Darwin's.
Darwin's Pet Food doesn't use 3D or 4D meat in their recipes.
Unsanitary Conditions in the Darwin's Manufacturing Facility
I have toured the manufacturing facility and it was as clean as a whistle. I didn't notice anything unsanitary or out of place. Trust me, if anything had raised a red flag, I wouldn't continue to feed my dogs their food. I walked the entire floor and saw how the food was made, stored, and shipped and left very impressed. I'm confident that if I were to visit Darwin's Natural Pet Products unannounced, any day of the week, I would have the same experience.
There are a couple of articles that are circulating accusing Darwin's of unsanitary practices. The article spends a great deal of time detailing issues the FDA noted during a three-day, top-to-bottom inspection of our plant in December 2017. While the FDA found four minor issues that we corrected at the time of inspection, the reporter listed findings from previous inspections, creating the inaccurate perception that they were all new issues. In fact, any previous issues found had already been corrected at the time they were discovered.
Darwin's Natural Pet Products is a brand that continues to push themselves to update processes to ensure that they are producing the freshest and safest meals possible.
Reports of Sick and Dying Pets
In a couple of recent articles, the reporter wrote that in the past year, Darwin's Pet received more than 300 complaints “of foreign material, spoiled or leaking packages, and pet illness and deaths.” While it is true that Darwin's had more than 300 customer complaints, it is important to note that these represent a small fraction out of more than 100,000 deliveries of product Darwin's made over the same period. Moreover, most of the complaints centered around the sort of issues one would expect with a subscription service including missed deliveries, packages arriving in bad condition, receiving the wrong product, etc. Each of these complaints is addressed through the customer service department at Darwin's Pet.
Sick and Dying Pets?
Darwin's also receives about one complaint a week about pets getting sick, which they track closely to determine if there is ever a pattern of multiple reports about a particular batch of food. Darwin's Pet has never seen any such pattern with their meals – even among the lots that they've recalled.
There was one report of a pet death: a kitten that was found to carry Salmonella (out of a litter of eleven kittens, all who were fed Darwin’s). While it's heartbreaking whenever we lose a pet, the articles circulating fail to mention the ten surviving kittens that were also eating Darwin’s and didn't show signs of illness. Did the kitten die from Darwin's pet food or was there another underlying condition involved?
Out of 100,000 deliveries, Darwin's received a little more than 300 complaints in an 11 month period. Of those complaints, it has been reported that 36% were related to sick and dying pets, however, I haven't seen evidence of this beyond a couple of articles. When Talula died from eating pentobarbital laced canned food produced by Evangers, studies were done to prove that the food was to blame. I have yet to see similar tests conducted on dogs and cats that consumed Darwin's pet food.
When it comes to our pets, any illness or death is heartbreaking and as pet parents, we want an answer, however, I haven't seen proof that the Darwin's is to blame.
Why I Still Feed My Dogs Darwin's Pet Food
Rodrigo's first vet said that he would live a short life and I don't doubt it. What I didn't know at the time was that the vet was contributing to Rodrigo's health issues by prescribing an antibiotic to treat a protein intolerance. In less than two months, Rodrigo lost 10 pounds because his gut never recovered from the damage done by antibiotics, annual vaccinations, and a diet of kibble for three years.
Switching him to raw dog food was the first step and that started with Darwin's Natural Pet Products.
The purpose of this post isn't to take away from someone's experience. I think it's important that we hold brands accountable, demanding transparency and good customer service. If you aren't satisfied with your experience with a brand and you aren't able to gain a satisfactory resolution, then you should take your dollars elsewhere. I simply haven't had a negative experience with Darwin's Pet, my dogs do well on their food, and it's a great source for lamb, lamb tripe, beef, and bison tripe for our family.
I'm grateful to Darwin's Pet and the people behind the brand for starting me on this journey because I believe raw dog food saved Rodrigo's life. My dog is going to be 8 years old in a couple of months. It tickles me pink that his first vet was wrong.
Clarifying a Common Misconception
There is a misconception that the reason I support Darwin's Natural Pet Products is that they pay me, because I work for the company, or because they secretly own this blog. None of these scenarios are true. I have worked as a freelance writer for Darwin's in the past; I've done freelance work for many brands. Darwin's has sponsored blog posts and events as have many brands. However, I would never put my dogs' health at risk by feeding them a food that I didn't believe in, nor would I lie to my readers about the brands I feed to my dogs or recommend in exchange for money.
These are my honest thoughts and feelings.