Updated December 21, 2021
Our stance on grain-free diets: We do not recommend grain-free formulas because research suggests that grain-free diets contribute to heart disease in dogs. Most fresh food brands are strictly grain-free, but all of our favorite brands offer grain-free alternatives.
We started with a list of 9 popular brands — Nom Nom, PetPlate, Just Food For Dogs, Ollie, The Farmer’s Dog, Grocery Pup, Spot & Tango, Evermore, The Honest Kitchen
We skipped over strictly grain-free brands — There’s a significant amount of research that indicates grain-free diets cause heart disease in dogs.
We compared features — Variety is important, so we preferred brands that had at least 3 different formulas. Free delivery and personalized food quizzes are great too.
We focused on the brands that truly care about your dog — We asked our vets how to know which brands invest the most in quality. They told us to look for brands that have full-time nutritionists on staff, conduct feeding trials, and test for food pathogens during manufacturing.
We hungry humans have many options when it comes to meal prep and delivery services. Did you know that your dog does, too? Fresh dog food delivery has exploded in popularity recently. Many dog owners wish to feed their pets human-grade meals. After all, dogs are some of the best people. Why not serve them a meal fit for a monarch — of the human or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel variety?
Dog puns aside, a lot of the popularity of fresh food delivery services stems from the desire for fresh ingredients over processed ones. Fresh is considered by many people to be healthier. The popular concept is that fresh food lacks the preservatives, fillers, and other additives used in dry kibble or in canned wet food. Because dry or canned dog food is manufactured long before your dog eats it, the food has to hold up on the shelves. Some people prefer to consume as few preservatives as possible, and they want the same for their doggos.
Fresh dog food delivery could be right for you and your fuzzy BFF. If you want your dog to enjoy *human-grade meals with fresh ingredients but don’t have the time, desire, or ability to cook for them, you’ve got options.
Fillers. You’ll see a lot of fresh food waving the “no filler” banner. First of all, we need to define what ‘fillers’ are, which is actually difficult. There is no one solid definition as most people are not in agreement. In general, fillers are anything that doesn’t add the proper nutritional value to the food but is included to give it more substance. This includes ingredients like corn gluten meal, grains, soy, wheat, etc. Some experts argue that certain fillers are fine for dogs and are even beneficial. In the fresh dog food world, ‘no fillers’ often just means ‘fewer total ingredients.’
USDA-approved. While the term “human-grade” pops up all over, even in a section above, it has no actual legal meaning. What you want to look for are companies that use USDA-approved ingredients (meats, veggies, etc.). USDA-approved means that the United States Department of Agriculture has deemed the food safe for human consumption. Those foods the administration approves must be up to certain standards. USDA-approved and human-grade are often used interchangeably, but only one carries real weight.
AAFCO-approved. AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials It is a non-governmental entity that releases guidelines on nutritional standards. Many fresh dog food delivery companies offer AAFCO-approved meals. AAFCO-approved means that the meals are balanced properly for an animal’s age according to nutritional standards determined by this group.
Animal byproducts. The USDA defines animal byproducts as anything other than the ‘dressed carcass’ of livestock. Dressed carcass means what is left of an animal after being slaughtered and butchered. Poultry byproducts are similarly defined. Byproducts include fat, skin, organs, blood, etc. Sorry for the colorful description, but it’s important to understand the meat of the issue.
Small batch. This is a buzzword you’re likely to come across often when perusing your dog’s fresh food delivery options. Like most buzzwords, it lacks an actual or even widely accepted definition. For your dog food purposes, companies use ‘small batch’ to mean their production of the food is not on the level of a massive corporation. The idea is that bigger dog food companies produce foods more efficiently in greater quantities. Small batch points to, in theory, a smaller operation. The idea is that the quality will be higher with small-batch foods. Whether that is actually true or not is another story.
Farm-to-table. In dog-food-speak, this is basically shorthand for ‘preservative-free.’ The notion here is that the meat comes from a farm. It goes to the kitchen where it is turned into a meal. Then your doggo gets a delicious delivery. All of that happens quickly enough where refrigeration is the only thing required to keep the food safe and fresh. However, never trust a buzzword. Always check the ingredients list yourself.
Pre-portioned. These meals will come in the pre-measured portion for your pup. This way there is no guesswork as to how much a serving is. Often when you sign up for fresh dog food delivery services, the company you choose will ask you to fill out a profile for your pooch. The profile includes things like size, weight, activity level, and dietary/health needs. The meal portion your dog enjoys is calculated based on those factors.
Lightly-cooked. This means the food is cooked at lower temperatures. It’s thought to make the meats easier for your pooch to digest.
A lot of pet owners might wonder if they’re a bad dog parent for not feeding their dog’s fresh meals. Don’t worry! This is not the case at all. Store-bought, high-quality dog kibble is formulated with your pet’s health in mind. Remember: Big box brands like Purina spend millions every year on nutritional testing.
However, if you’re concerned about the long list of ingredients in your pup’s chow, fresh meals are an option. Perhaps your pooch is a picky pupper when it comes to their food. If you’ve ever noticed your dog eyeing your dinner of chicken and rice, you won’t be surprised that some dogs will choose fresh meals over kibble every time.
🚨 Talk to your vet before you start a new diet.
If your dog has any health conditions, your vet can offer information on what ingredients and nutrients to look for in a fresh dog food meal service. Two terms you will want to see are USDA-approved and AAFCO-approved
By the meal, fresh dog food delivery services start at about $2.00 per day. You can spend a whole lot more than that, though! Expect to spend more for larger dogs. Bigger belly, bigger budget. Some companies offer introductory offers to help you decide if the financial commitment is worth it.
The nice thing about a lot of fresh dog food delivery companies is that their delivery schedule is flexible. That way you can figure out what works best for you and your pup.
Because it’s human-grade, the same rules for human food apply for fresh dog food! Just check if the food will be delivered frozen or just refrigerated.
Often! Just check the instructions on your dog’s meal.
When introducing anything new in your dog’s life, it’s best to take it slow. Unless your vet recommends stopping one food and starting another overnight, you might consider mixing some of your dog’s old food in with the new fresh diet. That said, some dogs will have no problems with their new fresh menu. Their stomachs might disagree, however.
You can look for a fresh dog food delivery company that doesn’t force you to commit to a long-term plan outright. Some even offer trial periods or tell you where to find samples in your community.
Some pet stores or veterinary offices offer fresh foods. They’ll be in a cooler or freezer. If you’re able to visit a shop or vet office often enough to keep your doggie stocked, this could be an option for you.