Last Updated: February 12, 2021 by Lisa Melillo
It is perhaps one of the longest-standing problems that humans have faced in getting our food throughout the ages that the things we want to eat will spoil long before they can be moved from wherever they naturally occur to wherever it is that we want to eat them. It is a conundrum dating back to biblical times at the very least – people can only move so quickly from here to there, and food will go bad before the journey is over no matter how fresh it was when one set out.
Humanity, though, loves nothing more than a challenge, and people have come up with an inspiring number of ways to make sure that no matter what it is they want to serve, it is available to them the world over. The simplest way that this would have been done was, in ancient times, the practice of sending live animals somewhere instead of dressed meat; even in the Bronze Age, it was well known that a cow would survive a trip during which beef would reliably rot.
The idea of smoking meat to preserve it has been found to have originated separately in numerous cultures across the globe, with each one using slightly different methods and recipes to achieve comparable results. Smoked meat is cooked over relatively low heat for a long time, causing it to dry out and take on the added flavor of the smoke in the process; this meat was both tougher and lighter than ordinary cuts, and would rapidly become a favorite for wayfarers of all sorts.
In places where the climate permitted, people turned to the sun as their primary source of heat for preserving food; sun-drying fruit, vegetables, and different cuts of meat became exceptionally popular in colonial England and allowed the produce from different parts of the empire to be shared with one another. Dried food would not only keep for a voyage halfway around the globe but could be stored and moved as indelicately as one please and still be soaked back to a palatable form.
Several cultures have developed the process of salting meat or fish to preserve it, taking advantage of the chemical properties of salt to draw all traces of moisture out of the meat and add a considerable amount of flavoring at the same time. This process is strikingly similar to the one used by ancient Egyptians to create mummies, and it has proven itself a viable way of preserving organic matter for thousands of years in both applications.
The continual common denominator of needing to dehydrate the food to be preserved stems from the biochemistry of the microorganisms responsible for its decay; without a sufficiently moist environment, these microbes will die off and leave the food essentially incapable of spoiling before water is reintroduced. Cooking food tends to kill off the microbes as well, and so essentially functions as a way to reset the lock on a food’s lifetime, but is rarely a viable method of preservation since most cooking happens in a moist environment of one kind or another.
As common a method as it is, one needn’t kill the microbes entirely to preserve something; there are several means of countering their effects without totally dehydrating whatever it is that you are eating. Modern technology has made the use of preservatives a realistic choice; chemical reagents are added to slow or stop the decaying process, rendering food essentially immortal until the preservatives themselves wear out.
It is possible to preserve some foods by packing them under airless conditions; the microbes that cause spoilage cannot function without auction, and so vacuum packing the food serves as an effective means of stopping their effects. Vacuum-packed food tends to be more expensive than its counterparts, but keeps the food more compact and allows it to be stored with few other measures to keep it fresh.
A less recent development in the food industry is the discovery that hilling food can drastically extend its lifespan; lowering a food’s temperature makes the microbes enter a sluggish, dormant state, allowing the food in which they live to remain edible well beyond what it normally would. Today, this process is accomplished by refrigerators and freezers; in earlier eras, food would be packed in ice and have water poured over it, completely surrounding it in a sub-zero liquid that would rapidly lower the food’s temperature to the appropriate level to maintain freshness.
By putting several of these approaches together, modern science has produced a complex preservation procedure that guarantees food a functionally indefinite lifespan and little or no need to process or chemically treat it to make it edible again. Freeze-drying, as it is called, is becoming increasingly popular for a variety of products, each one intent on being able to stay on the shelves as long as necessary to represent a sale instead of a loss.
|1. Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Raw Nuggets
|2. Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Beef Meal Mixers
|3. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Grain-Free Gut Booster Meal Mixers
|4. Vital Essentials Beef Entree Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Mini Nibs
|5. TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Booster
|6. Sojos Complete Adult Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
|7. Only Natural Pet RawNibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef & Tripe
|8. Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Real Raw Beef Recipe
|9. Bravo! Homestyle Complete Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Dinner
|10. Stewart Raw Naturals Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
When food is freeze-dried, it is first flash-frozen by being placed between two solid pieces of supercooled metal or exposed to a cryogenic agent such as liquid nitrogen; this part of the process originates from the Inuit tribes of the Arctic, who would flash-freeze fish by laying it directly on solid sheets of ice. The entire piece of fish, meat or anything else to be preserved is frozen almost on the spot.
The food is moved to a vacuum chamber where the ice is evaporated; because all moisture in the food is now ice as well, it leaves along with ambient ice from the flash-freezing treatment. The resulting product can be packaged up in an airtight manner and sold as fresh for enormous lengths of time; when water is reintroduced, it will regain its texture and taste in short order, giving you a fresh dish without needing to be anywhere near where the ingredients were produced.
All of this has been put in the context of human food, but it is arguably more important when discussing dog food; dog food has undergone less treatment than human food and tends to be kept around for longer with fewer preservative measures in place. Having a method for preserving dog food is a sound policy for both the dog owner’s investment in the food and the health of their furry friend.
Out Best Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food Reviews and Comparisons
1.Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Beef Meal Mixers
Everyone’s favorite pair of pooches once again live up to their reputation for filling every bag they’re on with high-quality dog food. Stella & Chewy is sure to feature on any comprehensive list of top-shelf pet supplies, and this is no exception.
- 18-ounce bag
- Beef recipe
- 95 percent meat
- Made in the USA
What We Like About Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Beef Meal Mixers
Stella & Chewy is a highly trusted brand that you can count on to make your dog keep coming back for more. Their commitment to high-quality beef as the primary ingredient is sure to entice even the most discriminating canine pallets into taking a recurring interest in their food.
What We Don’t Like About Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Beef Meal Mixers
This product is sold as a meal topper, meaning that it will come in smaller bags and be more expensive to stock as regular food. It is also a richer food than most plain kibbles, so be sure to balance quantities so as not to overload your dog’s digestive system.
- Responsibly sourced ingredients
- No genetically modified fruits or vegetables added
- High meat content simulates a dog’s natural diet
- Grass-fed beef keeps the food natural start to finish
- Freeze-dried nuggets are easy to handle
- Expensive to keep in stock
- Fewer helpings per bag
2. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Grain-Free Gut Booster Meal Mixers
Dog food doesn’t just need to be edible – one also needs to think of what effects it will have on the dog. This choice includes a digestive booster to promote intestinal health as well as keeping your dog full and happy.
- Vegetable-based recipe
- 5.5-ounce bag
- Sized for 1-1 ½ cup servings
- Internationally sourced ingredients
What We Like About Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Grain-Free Gut Booster Meal Mixers
By using a variety of vegetable ingredients, this food gives itself a probiotic boost that will improve your dog’s digestion in an entirely natural manner, all without sacrificing the great taste that gets it coming back over and over again.
What We Don’t Like About Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Grain-Free Gut Booster Meal Mixers
Because this product uses vegetables as its primary ingredient, it may not be as attractive to your dog. Dogs naturally go for animal matter, and it may be necessary to add some to a vegetable-based food to convince the dog to dig in.
- Quality ingredients sourced from the world over
- Probiotic digestive aid
- Cage-free chicken added
- No additional preservatives
- Long-lasting flavor lets you keep an open bag with no storage
- Primarily vegetable ingredients
- Sold as a topper and hard to keep in stock
3. Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Raw Nuggets
This food starts one level lower on the food chain, making sure that the chicken from which it is made is raised in the most organic and natural conditions to ensure that no harmful elements make their way up to your dog’s bowl.
- 78 percent chicken
- 14-ounce bag
- Made in the USA
- 22 percent produce and vitamin supplements
What We Like About Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Raw Nuggets
Primal’s commitment to complete nutrition starts with using only free-range chicken and making a concerted effort to ensure that no steroids or hormones are added to their diet either. A healthy dose of fatty acids and Omega-3 has been introduced to the finished product to balance out the high protein intake from the meat with natural vegetable ingredients.
What We Don’t Like About Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Raw Nuggets
This food has a noticeably lower meat content than most others, so it will not provide the same protein boost that some foods do. Using chicken instead of beef or lamb means that it will have a different nutritional value, and you will need to adjust quantities accordingly.
- Healthy Omega-3 and fatty acids
- Free-range chicken components
- Larger than usual percentage of produce for added fiber
- Zero steroids or hormones in either the food or the chicken it was made of
- Rich taste despite high vegetable content
- Does not use the beef ingredients preferred by most manufacturers
- Dogs may not be excited about large percentages of produce
4. Vital Essentials Beef Entree Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Mini Nibs
This product uses smaller nits to make it accessible for younger or smaller dogs as well and emphasizes raw beef for nutrition and a newer, more efficient freeze-drying process to pass on a lower price to the consumer.
- One pound bag
- Made in the USA
- All beef material
- ⅕ -½ cup servings, depending on the breed
What We Like About Vital Essentials Beef Entree Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Mini Nibs
All ingredients in this product are made in a single country, saving the buyer the cost and trouble of moving it through international borders. This advantage is enhanced by Vital’s exclusive take on freeze-drying, which yields the same results but in a more efficient manner; this too translates into savings on what would otherwise be a prohibitively expensive beef recipe.
What We Don’t Like About Vital Essentials Beef Entree Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Mini Nibs
The use of almost exclusively beef creates a nutritional imbalance that may need to be corrected with a dog food topper. Using smaller pellets will make this bag harder to clean up, should it spill, and it is easier for a dog to scatter food and waste it while eating.
- All-beef recipe
- Mostly meat and organs, with no low-nutrient bone or gristle
- New freeze-drying process
- Relatively affordable
- Large bag
- Easy to spread around or spill
- It may be a choking hazard for puppies
5. TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Booster
You don’t need to break the bank to get a great meal for your dog. Freeze drying was already a leading method of preserving food for an effective cost; this product builds on that, making it a top-tier dog food out of parts often rejected by other manufacturers.
- 99 percent meat
- Herring oil additives
- Made in the USA
- 99-gram bag
What We Like About TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Booster
By focusing on marrow instead of meat it will give you the same nutritional value as a more gourmet brand without charging you anything like the same price. A dose of herringbone oil has been added to give your dog the many important nutrients that are most easily found in fish.
What We Don’t Like About TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Booster
Your dog will not be getting the same smooth digestion as an all-meat recipe might afford; bone and organ meals are still good for dogs but will be more painful in the digestive tract. The use of an additive sets this a rung below other brands that take pains to avoid them.
- Bone marrow for affordable nutrition
- Herringbone adds fish-based vitamins and healthy fatty acids
- Ingredients and packaging from the same country
- Relatively cost-effective
- Boosts digestive action
- Bone and marrow are harder on the stomach
- Very small bag
6. Sojos Complete Adult Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
The AAFCO is one of the governing bodies for pet food in the USA and sets high standards for what you should be feeding your dog. This product is made specifically to meet or exceed those standards.
- Made in the USA
- Seven-pound bag
- Beef based recipe
- Requires rehydration
What We Like About Sojos Complete Adult Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
It’s not every pet food that gets certified as meeting the demanding standards of the American Association of Feed Control Officials. That this one has is indicative of the quality of its manufacture and the considerable nutritious value that it represents.
What We Don’t Like About Sojos Complete Adult Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
Unlike most freeze-dried dog foods, this product cannot be used as it is straight out of the bag. You will need to soak the kibbles to make them useful again, requiring more effort to get your dog’s meal ready.
- Meets exacting standards
- High-grade beef
- No grain, gluten, or GMOs
- A large bag will last many meals
- Ethically sourced ingredients
- Extra processing needed
- Regular kibble, may not be as tasty to dogs as topper material
7. Only Natural Pet RawNibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef & Tripe
If you really love your pet, you won’t give them anything you wouldn’t want on your own plate. This pet food features exclusively human-grade ingredients, ensuring the finest of meat and highest of value for your dog.
- 10-ounce bags
- Made in the USA
- Suitable for both cats and dogs
- Beef and goat meat recipe
What We Like About Only Natural Pet RawNibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef & Tripe
Everything in this kibble is of the same nutritional quality as the food you would serve to your own family, so you can rest assured that your dog is getting only the best. The meat-based recipe makes it suitable for cats as well, allowing pet lovers to buy only one product for both of their furry friends.
What We Don’t Like About Only Natural Pet RawNibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef & Tripe
Because this food is made on a holistic formula as opposed to a more mainstream method of producing pet food, it will take time for you to acclimate your dog to this kibble instead of the brand it has been eating until now. Properly changing foods require you to mix the foods together in slowly shifting ratios and can take as much as ten days to execute properly.
- All-natural ingredients with no gluten or soy added
- Suitable for dogs and cats alike
- Organ tissue is softer than muscle even after free drying is completed
- Fortified with goat milk and tissue for a calcium boost
- Experienced manufacturer
- Small bag
- Pets will need to be made used to the new food over time
8. Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Real Raw Beef Recipe
This product gives you the option of choosing from a number of natural meats to simulate a dog’s original ancestral diet, including beef, fish, and fowl. Each is supplemented with a mixture of organic vegetables for an irresistible blend of flavors and nutrients in every bite.
- 12.5-ounce bags
- Made in the USA
- Selection of meat recipes
- One-quarter cup per fifteen pounds of body weight
What We Like About Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Real Raw Beef Recipe
Every dog reacts to food a little differently, and some may like one flavor more than the other. This product offers multiple different tastes in a nutritionally similar format to give your pet the chance to find a flavor they like.
What We Don’t Like About Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Real Raw Beef Recipe
Some of the flavors of meat or the vegetable additives may have undergone cooking before they were freeze-dried. Check the packaging of the bag you’ve selected to ensure that your dog is eating only raw ingredients.
- Range of meats available
- Deboned meat minimizes choke risk
- Zero grain ingredients
- Imitates ancestral diet to be sure to get the dog’s attention
- No artificial colors or flavors
- Exceptionally rich, so ration carefully or use small doses with regular kibble
- Some flavors have cooked ingredients
9. Bravo! Homestyle Complete Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Dinner
Making a whole meal for your dog is easier than ever before with this product. Just stir in some water and you will immediately have a bowlful of goodness that is easy for your dog to chew and digest.
- 6-pound bag
- Requires rehydration
- Included quantity adjustment scale
- Manufactured in the USA
What We Like About Bravo! Homestyle Complete Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Dinner
Freeze-drying has many benefits, but also has the negative effect of making the kibbles exceptionally hard and dry; this can be painful for the dog to chew and difficult for them to swallow. This food is specifically made to soften rapidly upon contact with water, leaving a soft and palatable meal for your dog to enjoy.
What We Don’t Like About Bravo! Homestyle Complete Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Dinner
The need to add water and wait may make this food harder to prepare than other products, or at the very least take longer to be ready for your dog. The vitamins and minerals used in the recipe are not naturally sourced, making it a less organic option than other foods.
- Easy for dogs to chew
- The moist texture is suitable for older dogs or puppies
- No hormones or antibiotics
- Natural fruit sweeteners
- Ready in a hurry – just add water
- Preparation time required
- Artificially added vitamin boosters
10. Stewart Raw Naturals Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
Every element of a full and healthy diet is represented in this product, with meat, fruit, vegetables, and carefully measured quantities of all essential vitamins and minerals combined into one heart-shaped nugget that shows just how much you love your dog.
- Made in the USA
- Beef organs and liver recipe
- 24-ounce bag
- 80 percent protein content
What We Like About Stewart Raw Naturals Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
By using a wider range of ingredients than most foods include, this product allows the manufacturer to blend in more elements of a healthy diet for your dog, including fiber, protein, and healthy fatty acids. Fish and flax oil are included to give a natural vitamin boost to an already exceptional meal.
What We Don’t Like About Stewart Raw Naturals Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
This has a relatively low beef content compared to other foods, many of which have at least 90 percent meat or more. The additional ingredients make this product more expensive than comparable ones, and the bag is smaller than one would expect for the price.
- Contains multiple nutritional benefits
- Attractive heart-shaped nuggets
- Included scale for multiple breeds and sizes of dog
- Useful as a nutritional supplement as well as a regular diet
- Rich in antioxidants
- On the pricey side
- Only 80 percent of beef content
Final Verdict: Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Raw Nuggets
When it comes to making sure that your pet is getting only the very best nutritional value out of every bowlful of food, this one stands well above the rest for the lengths to which the manufacturer goes in ensuring that all ingredients are 100 percent organic. Not only are there no artificial additives used on the food itself, the meat from which it is made is also kept meticulously chemical-free, from the free-range farm and until your dog is ready to chow down.
The first thing to understand while looking or freeze-dried dog food is that it will not necessarily be in the refrigerated section of the pet store; one of the key aspects about freeze-drying is that it is not a process to cool the food, but rather to dehydrate it, so freeze-dried dog food is likely to be out on the shelves with other meals.
For the same reason, one needn’t worry about storing one’s purchase; unlike fresh or frozen foods that would require refrigeration, these freeze-dried options should stay viable in a corner of your cupboard or in a box with other pet supplies.
A direct result of these meals being freeze-dried is that they will also need to be soaked back to a usable form before being served to your dog; although they aren’t likely to hurt the pooch as is, your dog will find them uninteresting and even unpleasant to eat and will more likely walk away than dig in.
Make sure to consult the packaging to determine the correct quantities of both food and water to use, how long to soak the food or at what temperature, or any other pertinent pieces for someone looking to reconstitute their freeze-dried dog food for use.
Although the review does not go into any great detail, no pet owner can ignore their dog’s size, age, and breed as a factor in deciding what food to purchase; this holds true for any food purchase, as different breeds present changing requirements at various points in their life cycle, and not properly acclimating the diet to the dog can be significantly detrimental to the dog both immediately and in the long term. While the dog might not take any damage from a non-optimized diet, they will not be getting their recommended intake of nutrients, which will prove detrimental in future development.
One natural result of the last point that some people do not take into account is that if they own more than one dog, there may be a need to keep multiple dog foods on hand; people who have more than one dog may be tempted to use only one generic food, but if their dogs are different enough, then one should give serious thought to buying a different food for each one. Even within a single breed, age and physical condition can mean that two otherwise identical dogs need to be fed two very different meals.
Although you’re shopping for your dog, don’t forget that people will have to live with whatever dog food you choose as well; you may not be sitting down to eat the stuff, but take care that it doesn’t contain anything to which those around you display an allergy of any kind. If you start to notice such a reaction, try to isolate the food in question and consider using a different brand; if the person lives in the house with the dog, you may want to take the loss of discarding the cause of the reaction immediately.
During the first few days of serving freeze-dried dog food, especially if you are making a full transition from kibble or raw ingredients, the dog may appear disinterested or even actively reject the freeze-dried food; this is a natural occurrence and can be expected until they learn that the new stuff in their bowl is still edible. You can help them along by employing bowl toppers or meal mixers; these tasty treats are usually made of high-grade meat and are mixed with a bowl of food, making it irresistible to the otherwise picky eater.
It is easy to miscalculate the quantities of food present in a freeze-drying package; between the dehydration and vacuum packing, food can and does shrink considerably as it goes through processing. Take care to get as much as you need, or even a little extra, to make sure that you and your dog aren’t left without anything for the dog to eat while waiting for the next shipment to arrive.
Frequently Asked Questions
These foods proudly proclaim that they are a raw-diet recipe. Dog food isn’t cooked anyway; what does raw diet mean, and what advantages does it offer?
All dog food starts from the same raw ingredients as that of human food; after all, everything comes from the earth one way or another. The human digestive system, though, is not possessed of the appropriate biological components necessary to nourish itself from raw meat; the organ that performs that function, the appendix, is not large enough to handle a steady uncooked diet and can struggle or fail if a human consumes raw meat.
Humans circumvent this by cooking the food in question; the heat of the cooking process changes the proteins within the food (an event known as denaturation) into something that our digestive tracts are more readily able to process. This also makes the food more flavorful, concentrating those chemicals that give our food its taste.
To a dog, though, raw meat presents no problem; nearly every kind of dog can better digest raw meat than humans, and so they are in no need of cooking for their food to be ready. Some dog food, however, is cooked anyway during manufacturing, either to destroy bacteria in the food or to make it easier to compact into kibbles.
Cooking food has a serious downside for dogs and humans alike – denaturation reduces the nutritional content of the food in which it occurs, making any given meal contain fewer nutrients once cooked. A raw diet has never undergone this process, and so still has all the natural nutrients it had originally, with nothing lost to boiling or baking along the way.
Many of these products proudly assert that they are made in the USA. Does this represent any advantage over other countries of origin besides national pride for residents of the USA?
It is perfectly acceptable for a business to take pride in its location; smaller, family-run businesses, such as those behind most of these dog foods, are especially fond of the place where the company was started and how it has lasted so long in a growing market. Marking your products with their point of origin is a harmless and natural way to show your pride in your business, your product, and your home state or town.
There is indeed a more significant element, though, to the many proud declarations of ‘Made in the USA’ that appear on so many of these bags. Pet food made in the USA needs to conform with the rigorous standards set by multiple governmental bodies that oversee the care and treatment of animals in the country; the most prominent of them is the Food and Drug Administration, although there are others along the way.
By learning the many levels of approval needed for both the food’s nutritional content and the manufacturing process, American dog foods have proven themselves to be at least up to those benchmarks before you even order them. The consumer is further protected by the intervention and safeguards of agencies that regulate the conditions in which the feed animals are raised and moved, the amount of chemicals that can be used on the vegetable elements, and more; all of this means that seeing ‘made in the USA’ on a bag isn’t just national pride, it’s an indication of the product’s quality.
My dog seems disturbed by the use of freeze-dried food as opposed to the kibble they were eating before. How can I convince my dog that this food is just as good?
This is a totally natural reaction from the dog; over time, it has learned to distinguish food by the sound and sight of the kibbles instead of the smell or taste of the natural ingredients within. While this habit is useful to you as the owner to stop your dog from going for your plate as well, it can present a challenge when trying to teach the dog that something else is food too.
Start by offering the dog a few bites of the new food in a bowl or on your palm. This will make the dog interested in the new food and inevitably come to taste what it is being given; having done so, it will likely down them in short order and be looking around for more.
Capitalize on this opportunity to give the dog a few more kibbles each time, further reinforcing the idea that these are food and that it should be interested in them. One can also use a few bits of food from the new bag of treats for good behavior, building a positive connection to the new food in your dog’s mind.
At the same time, begin mixing the new food into the old food as the old bag runs down, ideally placing them so that the old food covers the new from sight as much as possible. Your dog will unwittingly eat the new kibbles, acclimating itself to them well before having to rely on them alone.
Picky eaters may require a certain amount of added encouragement to start in on a new brand of kibble; try using a liquid meal topper to add a scent or flavor of particular interest to dogs of the relevant breed or size. Alternatively, you may want to limit access to food while switching to a new brand; the dog will understand that the new food is their only opportunity to eat and will rapidly grow eager to eat even unfamiliar kibble.
Many brands of dog food will include on their bag a scale to illustrate how to properly bring your dog to enjoy the new food in the bag, including the quantities for different sizes of dog and the length of time you can expect it to take. Make sure to follow these instructions carefully; if ill effects are noticed, seek veterinary help immediately.
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