Top 10 Best Fresh Dog Food Brands
If you’ve ever considered homemade dog food, or wish your dog could eat whole, fresh foods more often, then fresh dog food might be a good fit for you and your pup. Some brands are available a la carte online or at your local pet store, but most fresh dog food is usually offered by brands that will deliver it to your doorstep—think of it as Blue Apron for dogs, only the cooking is already done for you.
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In our extensive experience testing fresh dog food on our Rover pups, most dogs really enjoy this kind of food—in the reviews below, you’ll see most of our (very willing!) test dogs gobbled them all right up. However, fresh dog food delivery doesn’t come cheap, and it can sometimes present storage challenges (packaging varies, from tear-off pouches to yogurt-like containers; some are frozen, others stored in the fridge). As with most things in life, there are pros and cons. But read on and you’ll see we’ve done the research for you so you can make the best decision for you and your pet.
Over several rounds of testing on various dogs, we tried out the following brands:
- Hungry Bark
- Portland Pet Food Company
- A Pup Above
- Just Food for Dogs
- Spot & Tango
- Nom Nom
- The Farmer’s Dog
Why Fresh Food for Dogs?
- Alternative foods are gaining popularity among pet parents. Disillusionment with large pet food brands, concern over the quality of ingredients, and an increased focus on how food affects a pet’s health have led many pet parents to consider a range of options from grain-free to raw food diets or making their own meals at home.
- Fresh dog food delivery services take the place of making your pet’s food from scratch. They start with fresh, whole ingredients like lean proteins, veggies, and whole grains, package them up, and ship them to your door. These companies also make sure their recipes meet AAFCO standards for pet food, which means the foods include the vitamins and minerals needed to make a food nutritionally complete for your dog.
- Many owners who’ve made the switch to fresh food say the diet has improved their pet’s coat, energy levels, and other health conditions. We weren’t able to test the long-term effects on our taste-tester dogs, but we can verify that they enjoyed each and every meal from this review.
- You can feed these meals to your dogs as mixer add-ons and toppers to their current food, as a kind of dietary supplement, or feed them fresh food exclusively. If you’re using these meal kits as a supplement, the cost is lower. Whatever you decide, it’s advised to slowly introduce the fresh food to your pet to make the transition from one food to another easier on your dog’s digestion.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Fresh Dog Foods?
Fresh dog foods are no-doubt revolutionary in the canine nutrition arena, but they do present some benefits and drawbacks you should consider, such as:
- Limited shelf life: It may not be an issue for some, but since most fresh foods lack preservatives, the food will spoil quickly if not eaten or frozen.
- Expensive: There is no doubt about it — fresh dog foods are pricey (and the costs can become pretty astronomical if you’re feeding more than one dog).
- Requires refrigeration: Since they lack preservatives, fresh dog foods must be stored in either a refrigerator or freezer, depending on the variety. This can be a bit of an unexpected challenge for some owners, who’re used to just storing a bag of kibble in the pantry.
- Customizable: Most fresh dog food services allow you to customize your dog food so that your pup’s meal plan works perfectly for him, helping you avoid potential allergens, manage Max’s weight, and switch things up as you please.
- Minimally processed: A lack of additives is a major win for some, as more paw-rents are skeptical of the synthetic chemicals appearing in some doggy diets.
- Tasty: Most fresh dog food arrives in a mash of meat, veggies, and sometimes fruits, which can be too tempting even for the pickiest dog food pooches to ignore.
Is Fresh Dog Food Safe?
- With any new canine craze, it’s understandable (not to mention wise) to question its safety. The limited shelf life of fresh foods might give some owners pause, but fresh dog food is just as safe for your pooch as traditional kibble (provided that you practice good food safety and storage practices).
- Additionally, most fresh foods are typically designed by a veterinarian or canine nutritionist (or team thereof), ensuring a high-quality, well-rounded diet.
- And in some cases, fresh dog food is made with human-grade ingredients in USDA-approved kitchens, which you could argue makes them even safer than regular dog chow.
Fresh Dog Food Delivery vs Buying In-Store: Which Option Is Better?
- Obtaining fresh dog food is easier than you’d think, as the market has grown significantly and there are now more options available than ever before.
- In fact, you may be surprised to find fresh food readily available in the aisles of some pet stores. Some big box retailers offer fresh options as well.
- But for convenience’s sake, it’s often better to purchase fresh foods online.
- Most brands offer customization options via their websites, you can sign up for automatic shipments, and some offer “subscribe and save” programs (which are especially helpful, given the higher cost of fresh foods). Plus, you don’t have to worry about running out to the store.
- Finally, fresh food manufacturers often ship their recipes in pre-portioned packages as well, which will make it much easier to serve up dinner to your hungry hound.
Does Your Dog Need Fresh Dog Food?
- It’s worth noting that while many owners are making the switch to fresh dog food, kibble is still a solid option.
- Many fresh dog food companies rail against the dangers of meat meals and preservatives, but there’s always more to the story.
- Properly identified meat meals like chicken meal or beef meal may sound not as appetizing as fresh, whole deboned meats, but meat meals actually provide more protein per unit of weight than deboned meats due to the large amount of water content found in whole meats.
- And while preservatives sound like unnecessary chemicals, there are many completely safe and natural preservatives modern manufacturers use that help the dog food stay good for longer. In fact, you probably consume many of these natural preservatives on a daily basis.
- Every kind of pet food has its own advocates, and marketing can be misleading. Ultimately, you’ll just need to discuss the issue with your vet and make the best decision you can for your pup.
- However, there’s no denying that fresh dog foods often offer some significant health benefits when compared to conventional options, which have led some fans to claim them as the healthiest type of dog food available.
- Additionally, it is important to provide your dog with a food that he enjoys, and there’s simply no comparison between fresh dog foods and kibble — the vast majority of dogs display a significant, obvious preference for fresh options.
The Top Fresh Dog Food Delivery Brands, Reviewed
Note: We were sent complimentary trial subscriptions of these dog food brands to test on our pups, but all opinions are unbiased and based on our observations of our dogs’ experience with the food.
JustFoodforDogs is a premium pet food brand who offers several different types of dog food for Fido, including custom diets, veterinary support recipes, pantry fresh dog foods, DIY kits, and fresh frozen meals — the option we’re focusing on here.
Like all of JustFoodforDog’s recipes, their fresh frozen options are designed by a team of canine nutritionists, made with some of the best ingredients available, and prepared in the brand’s unique open-to-the-public kitchens.
That’s right — you can actually watch a culinary team prepare these dog foods in several U.S. cities.
- The brand is a leader in empirical dog nutrition research, and they’re the only fresh dog food manufacturer that’s carried out systemic feeding trials on all of their daily canine recipes
- Individual dog food packages are available via JustFoodforDogs retail establishments
- Environmentally conscious shipping (they only ship full boxes to reduce the brand’s overall carbon footprint)
- No preservatives are included in JustFoodforDog’s recipes
- All dog foods are made in the USA, in brand-owned kitchens
- Chicken & White Rice
- Beef & Russet Potato
- Turkey & Whole Wheat Macaroni
- Fish & Sweet Potato
- Lamb & Brown Rice
- Venison & Squash
- Full-box shipping is eco-friendly, but it imposes some minor quantity issues (you may have to order slightly more or less than you want at a time)
- Presently, JustFoodforDogs doesn’t offer “variety packs” or any way to mix-and-match recipes
- All of the brand’s (non-custom) recipes are backed by a 100% money-back guarantee.
- Every recipe is made with premium, “human-grade” ingredients and designed by a team of canine nutritionists
- Easy to try — there’s no need to sign up for recurring shipments or “subscribe” (though you can enroll in their auto-ship program if you like)
- You can choose from six different fresh frozen recipes, as well as a variety of other types of food
A Pup Above
A Pup Above is a versatile provider of fresh dog food, who offers a subscription-based service, an on-demand ordering option, and in-store availability at a limited number of stores.
A Pup Above is uniquely positioned among canine competitors in the fresh dog food space due to the fact that they cook their dog food using sous vide techniques — a slow cooking method that some contend preserves more nutrients than standard cooking procedures.
- All recipes are crafted by a veterinary nutritionist, balanced, and made with only USDA meats and pesticide-free vegetables
- Prepared via a slow-cook method (sous-vide), which may preserve nutrients and almost certainly improves the dog foods’ flavor
- Cooked in a USDA-approved facility
- The optional subscription-based plan lets you pick between feeding your dog 100% A Pup Above recipes or using a a half-and-half approach by mixing in one of these recipes with your dog’s kibble
- Arrive in 3-pound bags or 3 frozen 1-pound patties that can be dethawed as needed
- A Pup Above doesn’t provide as many recipe options as some other fresh dog food brands
- The packaging isn’t as convenient as some other fresh dog food options
- The recipes provide a ton of protein to your pooch
- No subscription required, which provides additional flexibility (and the chance to try a recipe before making a long-term commitment)
- Most dogs seemed to really love the taste of these recipes
- A great option for owners who want to use a fresh dog food as a topper to improve the taste of their dog’s kibble
Ollie is a subscription-based fresh dog food manufacturer that delivers tasty, nutritious meals to your door on a pre-set schedule. The dog food is shipped frozen, allowing you to thaw according to your dog’s feeding needs.
- Canine nutritionist-designed meal plans that are customized for your pup, taking into account his body condition, weight goals, allergies, and dietary preferences (making it ideal for sensitive tummies and pickier pups)
- Can be fed as your dog’s only food source, as a dog food topper for conventional kibble, or as an occasional mix-in treat
- Made in small batches with human-grade ingredients
- Prepared in the USA
- The meals arrive in a plastic meal tray that includes a scoop for measuring out your four footer’s food
- You have to measure out each meal individually, which isn’t as convenient as single-serving packaging.
- Like most other fresh dog foods, Ollie’s recipes are expensive (though mix-in options offer a cost-effective way to spruce up your dog’s traditional kibble).
- Leftover storage is easy, thanks to the brand’s tray-like packaging.
- Provides owners with the chance to fine-tune their pup’s diet (making it excellent for dogs with food allergies).
- Extremely high-quality option, made with top-notch ingredients in USDA-approved kitchens.
- Most dogs love the taste of Ollie’s recipes.
Restaurant-quality ingredients and single-serve sizes are hallmarks of Nom Nom, a fresh dog food delivery service.
And in addition to their impressive ingredient lists, Nom Nom makes it easy to serve up dinner, as there’s no need to measure — you can just pour the dog food in your pup’s bowl for him to enjoy.
- Ingredients are human-grade, and recipes are never mass-produced
- All formulas are crafted by a board-certified veterinarian and nutritionist
- Meals are catered to your dog’s individual needs, including factors like weight, age, and overall body condition
- Fresh dog foods are prepared in one of two USA facilities
- Numerous meal plan options are available via this subscription service, including feeding solely Nom Nom, a mix of your pup’s food and Nom Nom, or Nom Nom as an occasional treat, allowing you to control cost (plus multi-pet discounts!)
- Beef Mash
- Turkey Fare
- Chicken Cuisine
- Pork Potluck
- Not as customizable as some other fresh options.
- Single-serving packaging isn’t as eco-friendly as the packages some other fresh dog foods use.
- A number of discounts are available to help reduce the costs of these dog foods.
- Looks more like your food than most other options.
- Most dogs loved the taste.
Spot & Tango
Believing that “a happy and healthy life starts with good food,” Spot & Tango offer two different kinds of dog food, including one that’s pretty darn revolutionary.
But let’s start by looking at their flagship product line, which is comprised of fresh, ready-to-serve meals that are made with human-grade ingredients and shipped directly to your front door. These meals are crafted to suit your dog’s specific dietary needs by a team of veterinarians and animal nutritionists, and they’re made using some of the highest quality ingredients available.
Spot & Tango’s other product line is known as Unkibble – the world’s only fresh dry dog food.
In many ways, Unkibble is quite similar to the other fresh dog foods discussed here. It uses human-grade ingredients, it’s customized in several ways to suit your specific pooch, and it’s shipped right to your door.
But unlike most fresh options, this is a shelf-stable product – it doesn’t require refrigeration, and you can just store it in the bag right by your doggo’s food bowl (assuming he can be trusted not to help himself!).
Unkibble is gently dried at low temperatures to maintain maximum pooch appeal and it has a very attractive price tag, which brings it within range of many owners who can’t quite afford fresh-frozen options.
- Spot & Tango offers two different types of dog food, including a fresh-frozen and fresh-dry option. Their fresh-frozen meals are exactly what you’d expect, but their fresh-dry dog food is the brand’s new take on kibble, which they call Unkibble.
- Spot & Tango ingredient lists are some of the simplest ones around. Unlike some other dog foods, which are full of unfamiliar, strange-sounding ingredients, these recipes have only a handful of ingredients, like chicken, carrots, and quinoa.
- Every recipe is suitable for dogs of all life stages, including large-breed dogs. Unlike some other foods, which are only suitable for dogs of a given age or size class, all Spot & Tango dog foods meet or exceeds the AAFCO guidelines for all doggos.
- Spot & Tango recipes are made without any preservatives. Most typical fresh dog food is preservative-free, but Spot & Tango’s Unkibble line is also made without preservatives.
- Spot & Tango’s fresh dog food can also be used as a topper. This is a great choice for owners who want the benefits of fresh dog food, yet can’t quite afford to feed Fido fresh dog food exclusively (although owners in such circumstances should also consider Unkibble, as it is much more affordable than other fresh options).
- Turkey & Red Quinoa (Fresh)
- Beef & Millet (Fresh)
- Lamb & Brown Rice (Fresh)
- Cod & Salmon (Unkibble)
- Beef & Barley (Unkibble)
- Chicken & Brown Rice (Unkibble)
- Spot & Tango’s Unkibble has a slightly different texture and shape than traditional kibble, which – while very palate-pleasing for dogs – means that it doesn’t work well in all puzzle feeders.
- Spot & Tango offers slightly fewer recipe options than some competing brands.
- Spot & Tango’s Unkibble is a fresh food that’s available for about 40% less than traditional (fresh-frozen) meals, making it an excellent alternative for budget-minded owners.
- Owners love these ingredient lists and appreciate being able to recognize just about everything on the list.
- Dogs appear to go ga-ga for the taste of Spot & Tango’s fresh-frozen and fresh-dry options.
FreshPet is a line of fresh dog food offered in most big-box and pet stores in the U.S.
But despite the fact that FreshPet meals contain fresh dog food just like the other options we discuss here, they’re made in much larger batches. This means that you won’t be able to customize it to suit your canine, but you won’t have to spend as much on it either.
With a wide assortment of flavors and formulas including grain-free and grain-inclusive choices, there’s a FreshPet for most doggos.
- All recipes are made in USDA-approved facilities in the USA
- Made with high-quality, preservative-free ingredients in formulas crafted by canine nutrition experts
- Readily available in most grocery and pet stores
- Offered in a variety of forms, including meat rolls, vacuum-sealed bagged meals, and single-serve containers
- Online selector tool allows you to input your dog’s information, including weight, activity level, and dietary restrictions to best-select the FreshPet food for him
FreshPet has several lines that cover a host of dietary concerns from limited-ingredient to grain-free. They offer most proteins as well, with the exception of pork.
- FreshPet Select is the brand’s largest line, offering six protein combinations in roll form, four proteins in resealable bag form, and two single-serve stews (grain-free beef & pumpkin and grain-free chicken)
- Vital is an all-natural variety designed to be as close to natural form as possible, with five protein combinations offered in roll form and three combinations available in resealable bagged form
- Nature’s Fresh is a locally-sourced line that is GAP-certified, offering five roll formulas and two bagged chicken options (regular and small breed)
- Deli Fresh is a Costco-exclusive brand of grain-free bagged chicken and a grain-free chicken roll
- Homestyle Creations are the ultimate for shaking up mealtime — just pick a protein pack (chicken or beef) and a mixer (three fruit & veggie combos to choose from)
- Wide assortment of flavors and textures
- Widespread availability (no need to wait for a delivery if you need food in a hurry)
- Resealable bags make storage easy
- Much more affordable than other fresh options
- Convenient, but not customizable
- Not as universally loved by dogs as most other fresh dog food options
Pet Plate is another worthy fresh dog food option for owners seeking fresh, high-quality dog foods, shipped directly from their USDA-approved facilities.
These dog foods are made in small batches and flash-frozen to prevent spoiling during shipment. But once you’re ready to serve dinner, these foods defrost easily in the microwave for ready-to-eat meals.
- All of their fresh dog foods are designed by a veterinary nutritionist and made in the USA with human-grade ingredients
- Your dog’s meal plan is structured based on his overall health and individual needs, including body condition and activity level to ensure he maintains a proper weight
- All meals are sold as part of a subscription service
- You can select a 100% Pet Plate feeding plan or a mix-in option (called the Topper Plan) that’s more affordable
- All meals are delivered in 100% recyclable plastic containers
- Reusable containers make it easy to store unused portions and leftovers
- Ground-up texture makes it hard for picky pooches to selectively avoid (often nutritious) ingredients
- Most pups went bonkers for the taste of these meals
- The Topper Plan provides owners with an affordable way to improve the taste and appeal of their dog’s dinner
- No dog food sample option available
- You must sign up for a subscription to purchase these fresh dog foods
- Large storage containers will take up a significant amount of real estate in the fridge
The Farmer’s Dog
The Farmer’s Dog is a subscription-based company that brings fresh dog food to your door in ready-to-serve, biodegradable pouches.
Best of all, these meals are custom-crafted for your doggo to suit his specific, individual needs, leaving the guesswork out of things like allergy and weight management.
- Provides customized nutrition for your dog, based on his weight, activity level, snacking habits, pickiness, and potential allergies or sensitivities
- Each meal is made is a USDA-approved kitchen in the USA
- These meals are made with only human-grade ingredients
- Every recipe is veterinary nutritionist-approved to ensure your dog gets a complete diet
- Shipped frozen to ensure safe delivery
- Turkey & parsnip
- Beef & lentil
- Pork & sweet potato
- Environmentally friendly packaging is a big plus
- Most dogs love the taste of Farmer’s Dog recipes
- Trial option allows you to try a small quantity before loading up your fridge
- The portioning/serving process can be a bit messy
- No grain-inclusive recipes offered
- Difficult to find some info on the brand’s site without completing a full questionnaire
Fresh dog food can be a pricey investment, but many owners sing its praises. Have you tried fresh dog food for your bestest buddy? Have you tried any of the above?