FREE U.S. SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS

Fresh dog food: What it is, how much it costs, and the best fresh dog food companies

October 21, 2020 1 Comment

DJANGO Dog Blog - The Best Fresh Dog Food Delivery Services - djangobrand.com

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links. This means if you purchase an item, we may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend fresh dog food brands that we know and love, and all opinions expressed here are our own.

A few years ago, Mike and I (Steph) came across The Farmer’s Dog and Pet Plate, two of the most popular fresh dog food delivery services. Until then, we had routinely been feeding our long-haired dachshund Django premium dry dog food supplemented with homemade high-quality animal protein and veggies.

To this day we still regularly feed Django a selection of fresh dog food from brands we love. Why? For one, Django loves the food. The first time we gave Django Pet Plate, he actually carried his dinner bowl out of the kitchen and into the living room so he could continue licking it. Django still barks and spins around excitedly when he knows he is getting fresh dog food in his dinner bowl. Mike and I are also glad to be feeding Django nutritious, high quality food that is not overly processed and hasn't been sitting on a store shelf for months.

Have you ever wondered what fresh dog food actually is, why it is so popular among dog owners, and how it is made? Is fresh dog food a good option for your dog? Is it a more healthy and nutritious option than standard dog kibble? Lastly, which fresh dog delivery services are the best?

In this article we explain what fresh dog food is and how it differs from standard dry dog food. We also share our favorite fresh dog food brands based on years of experience using the products.

DJANGO PROMO CODES:
If you're considering trying one of our recommended fresh dog food brands, make sure you use one of these discount codes to save on your first box:
— 50% Off The Farmer's Dog
— 50% Off Pet Plate
— 50% Off Nom Nom
 50% Off Spot & Tango

    What is fresh dog food?

    Fresh dog food refers to ready-to-eat dog food that is made with little to no additives or preservatives and gently cooked to preserve the nutritional integrity of all ingredients. Similar to dry dog food companies, commercial fresh dog food brands are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Fresh dog food is often marketed as dog food made with "human-grade ingredients" that you could technically eat yourself. Recipes are formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and manufactured in USDA human food facilities. Fresh dog food meals commonly consist of:

    • High quality and unprocessed USDA-certified animal protein
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables
    • Legumes and carbs (i.e. lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes)
    • Fresh eggs
    • Whole grains
    • Omega-3 rich oils
    • Essential vitamin and mineral supplements

    Unlike processed dog kibble that is cooked under high pressure and at extremely high temperatures north of 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), fresh dog food is cooked slowly at low temperatures to maintain the nutritional value of all ingredients.

    Fresh dog food comes in a variety of packaging. Mike and I have received Django's fresh dog food in resealable plastic pouches, non-resealable pouches, and yogurt-like plastic containers.

    Most fresh dog food brands flash freeze the pre-portioned meals and delivery them in record time to your front door via insulated, recycling-friendly packaging. Dry ice is typically positioned underneath the meal containers to ensure your dog's food does not thaw during transit.

    Since fresh dog food is not processed like dry dog kibble, it has relatively short shelf life. Fresh dog food has an average shelf life of 4-7 days once it is thawed in the refrigerator. If kept frozen, fresh dog food can stay good for 4-6 months.

    Why is fresh dog food so popular?

    U.S. sales of fresh dog food skyrocketed 70 percent between 2015 and 2018. Fresh dog food brands including The Farmer's Dog, Nom Nom, Pet Plate, and Spot & Tango have quickly replaced many low quality dog kibble brands and become staples in dog-friendly U.S. households. Here are the main reasons dog owners are jumping on the fresh food bandwagon:

    Quality. The fresh dog food brands we love use high-quality animal protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nutrition-dense legumes and carbs. All recipes are formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists and supplemented with essential vitamins and minerals to ensure dogs' dietary needs are fully met. Unlike highly processed dog kibble pellets that are hard, round, and identical in size and shape, you can see (and taste, if you wanted to) the individual ingredients in fresh dog food.

    Customization. Dog subscription services customize recipes based on your dog’s age, breed, dietary restrictions, and activity level.

    Convenience. The last time I bought Django dry dog food, I went to Unleashed by Petco in New York City's Upper West Side and lugged a 15 lb bag of kibble 13 blocks home. When I got home I realized we didn't have a monster-sized Tupperware container big enough for the dog food. If you're like me and want to avoid the inconvenience of lugging home a massive bag of dry dog food, consider the convenience of fresh dog food delivery services. These brands ship pre-portioned dog food servings on dry ice straight to your home or apartment door. The pre-portioned meals can be quickly thawed in the refrigerator or kept frozen for 4-6 months until your dog is ready to enjoy them.

    Nutritional consistency. Fresh dog food delivery services have veterinary nutritionists on staff who carefully formulate every recipe based on science-backed studies. All recipes are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages. Unfortunately homemade dog food does not typically offer the same nutritional balance and consistency necessary for optimal dog health. In 2013, the AVMA evaluated 200 fresh do-it-yourself dog food recipes from veterinary textbooks, pet care books, and websites. The AVMA discovered that 95 percent of the recipes lacked at least one essential nutrient.

    Health. Because fresh dog food is not processed nor cooked at exceptionally high temperatures like dry dog kibble, the nutritional value of fresh dog food ingredients are preserved throughout the cooking process. This means your dog is benefitting from more nutrition with every meal. A 2013 study found dogs that ate fresh food lived for 13 years while dogs that ate kibble reached an average age of 10.

    Fresh dog food vs. dry dog kibble

    As explained above, the cooking and preparation processes used by fresh dog food brands preserve the nutritional value of all ingredients. This means that compared to dry dog kibble, your dog is getting much more nutritional value with every fresh dog food meal. Fresh dog food brands also use high quality ingredients (many which are "human grade" and USDA certified) and avoid using harmful preservatives, chemicals, and artificial flavorings that are commonly found in low quality dog kibble and dog treats.

    Fresh dog food diets and higher quality nutrition throughout dogs' lives has been linked to:

    • Higher energy levels 
    • Stronger immune systems
    • Lower triglycerides in the bloodstream
    • Deeper sleep
    • Easier digestion 
    • Shinier coats
    • Healthier eyes and skin
    • Better breath
    • Healthier stools
    • Longer lifespans

    Although dry dog food is the most popular pet food throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, it is unfortunately not the healthiest food option for your dog. Dry dog food ingredients are processed at extremely high temperatures and typically offer less nutritional value than fresh dog food. Many lower quality dry dog food brands also cut corners by using subpar and even unhealthy ingredients including:

    • Animal digest and by-products
    • Meat meal and/or blood meal
    • Corn and corn gluten meal
    • Peas instead of animal protein
    • Artificially-dried fruits and vegetables
    • Added colors & dyes
    • Chemical preservatives such as BHA/BHT
    • Rice flour
    • Soy flour and textured soy flour
    • Wheat gluten
    • Synthetic vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

    In DJANGO Dog Blog article "A guide to the best and worst ingredients in dog food", we go into more detail on what dry dog food ingredients to look for and which ones to avoid at all costs. In "What is dog kibble and how is it made", we explain how dry dog food is made and why the "extrusion" process destroys nutrients in dog kibble. 

    The downside to fresh dog food delivery services

    What is the main downside of fresh dog food? The cost. The daily cost of feeding Django fresh dog food is greater than the cost of feeding him only dry dog food. Like meal delivery services for humans, we are paying more for fresh, high quality ingredients that are packaged conveniently and delivered straight to our door in record time. All of this understandingly demands a higher price than standard dry dog kibble which can stay packaged on a store shelf for years.

    According to CostHelper, basic kibble adds up to $250 per year ($41 per month) for a 30-pound bag every two months. Premium dry dog kibble costs $400 per year ($67 per month) for a 30-pound bag every two months. When you compare these annual numbers to fresh dog food annual costs (right column in the table below), you can see why cost-conscious dog owners prefer sticking with dry dog food. 

    Fresh dog food subscription costs are driven by dog size, breed, and activity level. Here is what your dog's fresh dog food might cost by the day, month, and year:

    Dog Size 

    Dog Weight 

    Daily Cost  

    Monthly Cost

    Yearly Cost 

    Tiny

    Less than 10 lbs.

    $3/day 

    $93/month

    $1,116 /year

    Small

    10 to 20 lbs.

    $4/day 

    $124/ month 

    $1,488/year 

    Small/Medium

    20 to 30 lbs. 

    $6/day

    $186/month 

    $2,232/year

    Medium

    30 to 40 lbs.

    $7/day 

    $217/month 

    $2,604/year 

    Medium/Large

    40 to 50 lbs.

    $8/day 

    $248/month 

    $2,976/year 

    Large

    60 to 70 lbs.

    $10/day 

    $310/ month 

    $3,720/year 


    A great way to combat the higher cost of fresh dog food delivery services is to use the meals as a 'topper' on top of a high quality dry dog food. Mike and I often do this at home with Django to significantly extend the lifespan of each fresh dog food delivery. The best part? Django doesn't seem to notice - he's just happy to be getting fresh, homemade dog food in his dinner bowl.

    The Best Fresh Dog Food Delivery Services

    Mike and I have tried almost every fresh dog food delivery service out there. Here are our (and Django's) favorites.

    THE FARMER’S DOG

    We've been feeding The Farmer’s Dog to Django for several years now. The Farmer's Dog offers four fresh dog food recipes (turkey, chicken, beef, and pork) that are gently cooked at low temperatures to preserve the nutritional value of each ingredient. Each recipe is also fortified and boosted with The Farmer's Dog Nutrient Blend, a proprietary mix of essential canine vitamins and minerals. The quality of The Farmer's Dog ingredients stands out. All proteins are high quality ingredients sourced from local farms and food suppliers that meet USDA standards. All ingredients are from the USA, and all meals are prepared and packaged in USDA facilities. One last plus? The Farmer's Dog offers environmentally-friendly packaging. The main cardboard box is recyclable, all insulating materials are biodegradable, and the food storage container that is included is biodegradable. Even the meal packages are made from BPA-free and non-toxic materials.

    Starting price: $2.56 per day ($7.86 per day for a 50-pound Labrador retriever)   

    Recipes: beef, chicken, turkey, pork

    Delivery frequency: 

    • Small dogs — every eight weeks
    • Medium dogs — every five weeks
    • Larger dogs — every three weeks

    Shipping: Free and rush/delay shipping across the 48 contiguous states

    Return or guarantee policy: Returns are available for 90 calendar days.

    PET PLATE

    Pet Plate has a Cornell University-trained veterinary nutritionist who ensures its recipes meet or exceed AAFCO standards. The meals are gently cooked in small batches and then flash-frozen in USDA kitchens. Each microwavable-safe container has two, pre-portioned meals. Pet Plate also has a topper plan if you want to mix fresh dog food with kibble. 

    Starting price: $2.85 per day ($8.07 for a 50-pound standard poodle) 

    Recipes: Barkin’ Beef, Chompin’ Chicken, Lip Lickin’ Lamb, Tail Waggin’ Turkey

    Delivery frequency: 

    • Small or medium dogs are — every three weeks
    • Large dogs — every two weeks

    Shipping: Free two-day shipping across the 48 contiguous states

    Return/guarantee policy: 100 percent money-back guarantee

    DJANGO Dog Blog readers get 50% off Pet Plate with this coupon. Just use this link and the discount will be applied to your first order:

    NOM NOM

    Nom Nom offers healthy and small-batch dog and cat food that is prepared and slow cooked in Nom Nom USA facilities. All ingredients are restaurant quality and come from U.S. growers and suppliers. Many ingredients are also sustainably-sourced. Recipes are boosted with the NomNomNutrient Mix, a proprietary formula developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionist and containing many essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for optimal dog health. Nom Nom meals are individually packaged, easy to freeze, and quick to thaw. The pre-portioned packages are incredibly convenient– no scooping, measuring, or prep work required.

    Starting price: $3.89 per day ($7.78 per day for a 50-pound pharaoh hound)

    Recipes: beef mash, chicken cuisine, pork potluck, turkey fare 

    Delivery frequency: Biweekly or monthly 

    Shipping: Free shipping across the 48 contiguous states.

    Return/guarantee policy: No returns are accepted. Full refunds are available within 30 days of purchase.

    DJANGO Dog Blog readers get 50% off Nom Nom with this coupon. Just use this link and the discount will be applied to your first order:

    SPOT & TANGO

    Spot & Tango makes fresh dog food as well as high quality dry kibble. Meats, veggies, fruits, and whole grains are cooked separately then mixed together and frozen to lock in nutrition, texture, and flavor. The individually-packaged meals must be frozen immediately after delivery and will stay fresh for six months. Spot & Tango’s kibble is gently pasteurized at a low temperature. Open bags have to be used within four weeks. 

    Starting price: $2.14 per day ($6.77 per day for a 50-pound English setter)

    Recipes:

    • Fresh: Turkey & Red Quinoa, Beef & Millet, Lamb & Brown Rice
    • UnKibble: Chicken & Brown Rice, Beef & Barley, Duck & Salmon 
      Delivery frequency: 
      • Biweekly for fresh dog food
      • Monthly for kibble

      Shipping: Free two-day shipping across the 48 contiguous states

      Return/guarantee policy: Money-back guarantee for two-week trial orders. Refund requests must be submitted before the trial period ends (i.e., before 5:00 p.m. EST, 13 days after your first order). 

      DJANGO Dog Blog readers get 50% off Spot & Tango with this coupon. Just use this link and the discount will be applied to your first order:

      HOW DO I START MY DOG ON FRESH FOOD?

      The switch from one type of dog food to another should be done gradually to avoid gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite. Fresh dog food companies always provide advice on how best to transition your dog to their dog food. Typically the companies suggest introducing their fresh dog food in small quantities at first, i.e. mixing your dog's dry dog food with increasing amounts of fresh dog food over a one or two week period until your dog's stomach has gotten used to the new diet.

      The absolute best first step you can take right now is to speak to your dog's veterinarian and ask his for his or her professional advice on diet. Not only does your vet know your dog best, but he or she is medically licensed and trained to offer advice on diet and health. Please always consult with your veterinarian before making significant changes to your dog's diet.

      DJANGO Promo Codes

      If you're considering trying one of our recommended fresh dog food brands, make sure you use one of these discount codes to save on your first box:

      Before you go

      We'd love to hear from you! If you have any questions, want to share your experience with one of these fresh dog food services, or want to recommend a fresh dog food brand we didn't mention, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

        Additional resources





        1 Response

        NormanWilkes
        NormanWilkes

        February 10, 2021

        Oh thanks for the useful information!

        Leave a comment

        Comments will be approved before showing up.


        Also in DJANGO Dog Blog

        Kennel Cough in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention - djangobrand.com
        Kennel Cough in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

        June 09, 2021

        Kennel cough is a common and highly contagious dog disease. It causes an ongoing, forceful cough in infected dogs and swelling in the lungs, windpipe, and voice box. If your dog has an unrelenting cough that sounds like a honking goose, he may have kennel cough.

        While kennel cough sounds horrible, fortunately the majority of dogs recover without treatment. So what exactly is kennel cough in dogs? What dogs are most at risk for kennel cough, and what are its symptoms? Can humans contract kennel cough from their pets? Is there a vaccine for kennel cough?

        In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we explain the causes and symptoms of kennel cough in dogs. We also review available treatment options, discuss the Bordetella vaccine, and provide tips for prevention.

        View full article →

        DJANGO Dog Blog Interview: Philomena the Pug, Instagram's Sassiest and Most Persevering Pug - djangobrand.com
        Interview: Philomena the Pug, Instagram's Sassiest and Most Persevering Pug

        June 02, 2021

        Philomena is a sassy pug and one of Instagram's most inspiring dogfluencers. Partially paralyzed on her left side, Philomena is unable to use her left paw and wears an orthopedic brace to maintain mobility. Despite having special needs, Philomena has an incredibly uplifting and joyful attitude and is always out and about with her owners.

        We caught up with Philomena and her owner, Stefan Glazer, to hear about Philomena's massive wardrobe (think rainbow tutus, pink wigs, and power pearls), how she copes with a disabling injury, and get valuable tips on how to successfully grow a pet instagram account in 2021.

        View full article →

        DJANGO Dog Blog - How to Teach Your Dog to Love Riding in a Pet Travel Carrier and Pet Purse - djangobrand.com
        How to Train Your Dog to Love Riding in a Pet Travel Carrier

        May 12, 2021

        In an increasingly pet friendly world, dog carrier bags allow us to take our four-legged family everywhere. Whether you are about to board an international flight, ride on public transportation, go hiking, or spend the afternoon running errands with your four-legged friend, getting your dog used to a pet carrier is essential.

        Is your dog new to pet carriers? Nervous, excited, or jumpy in any type of dog bag or pet purse? It is very common for dogs to be scared of new carriers or even try to jump out, especially if they're not used to being carried. How do you teach your dog to love riding in a bag?

        In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we provide several steps to help your dog get used to a new pet carrier.

        View full article →