The most popular freeze-dried dog foods are made using a modern moisture removal technique. Indeed, freeze-drying keeps the nutritional value of foods unchanged and increases its shelf life.
Obviously, freeze-dried pet foods are no-brainers for any responsible pet parents out there striving for better nutrition for their dogs. Over the last decades, the pet food industry and its giants have disappointed the general audience with hundreds of recalls. So, it was a matter of time until new brands with more ethical goals joined the party. However, freeze-dried dog foods are on the higher bracket in terms of pricing.
What is freeze-dried dog food?
Freeze-dried dog food is freshly cooked dog food that has had its moisture content completely removed, rendering it dry and long-lasting.
This process works because the microorganisms that rot our food need water to survive. Thus by removing all the water from pet food through this process, it essentially makes the food immune to rotting and gives it longer shelf life. Meat, vegetables, poultry are amongst common ingredients that get freeze-dried.
The food, after freeze-drying, is carefully packaged in temperature-controlled packaging material, which makes it last for years also sometimes. This type of pet food is an excellent standby product for when you cannot prepare fresh food for your dog. Simply replenishing the food product with some freshwater, can turn the food back to normal and edible. The best part about freeze-drying is that the nutrients in the food remain intact, making the meal highly nutritious and sufficiently nourishing for your dog.
How is freeze-dried food prepared?
Freeze-drying is made using a three-step process:
- Cooking – fresh dog food including chicken, lamb, turkey, duck, beef and even veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots are cooked
- Drying – foods are placed on shelves inside the freeze-drying chambers and the temperature is slowly lowered, making it extremely icy within
- Packaging – foods are packaged into special moisture-resistant bags allowing the food to stay intact and fresh for around 12 months
The second step, the freeze-drying process, isolates the molecules in the food. Then, it is exposed to slight heat and a strong vacuum. This causes the water content of the food to evaporate and sucked out of the chamber. The food inside is left dry, whilst leaving its nutritional value unchanged.
Is freeze-dried food considered raw?
Freeze-dried food products, that have not been cooked before the process, are indeed raw.
Contrary to popular belief, dog food that is processed in some way does not mean it has been cooked. Food is cooked when heat is applied to it. In this process, no heat is being applied – only the moisture content being reduced to nil.
In fact, because this type of food is to be eaten after hydrating it, the product returns to the same form as it was before the process. Which makes it raw, even after restoring moisture to it.
Freeze-dried vs Dehydrated dog food
This argument is fairly common owing to the final byproduct that we get using both these processes.
But are they really the same?
Dehydrated foods use heat application to dry the food out while freeze-drying is done by letting the water vaporize and then slowly sucking it out. It is a slightly more complex process.
Freeze-drying removes close to 99% of the moisture content in foods.
Both methods are used in order to make the food last longer and make it convenient to transport. Both the processes involve removal of moisture, making them lightweight also. However, research suggests that freeze-drying, which is a relatively new process as compared to dehydrating, is a much healthier and safer way to do this.
There are plenty of reasons that put freeze-drying as a healthier process than dehydration.
Freeze-drying removes up to 99% moisture. Dehydrating removes about 90% of moisture. This could lessen the shelf life of a dehydrated product as this is directly linked to how much water is in the end product.
Freeze-dried foods rehydrate faster than dehydrated products. Adding water to both will restore them to their original form, but freeze-dried products get there faster.
Nutrition and Flavor
Freeze-dried products retain their nutritional value to a great extent, while dehydrated products lose some of their nutrition owing to high heat exposure. Flavour and aroma retention is higher in freeze-dried products. Dehydrated products tend to lose their luster and taste slightly flat.
Dehydrated products also tend to become leathery and dense while freeze-dried products bounce back to their original form, shape, and texture almost instantly. Overall, both textures are still very much above anything else available on the commercial market – kibble or even canned foods.
How to store freeze-dried pet food?
At large, freeze-dried pet food is stored in mylar pouches – a material derived from polyester resin. These pouches block sunlight to a great extent, preventing heat from entering the package and affecting the food. These pouches also lock moisture outside, thus keeping the food product safe and usable for many years. If your pet food is stored in mylar pouches, you can leave it outside at room temperature also in a dry place away from direct harsh sunlight.
Another popular method of storing freeze-dried pet foods is in cans. Not your normal cans, but nitrogen packed, airtight ones that work by vacuuming out all the oxygen from inside and flushing it clean with nitrogen. In the absence of oxygen, microorganisms cannot survive either, making the food immune to rotting or degrading.
How long can freeze-dried food be stored for?
Unopened cans and pouches of freeze-dried pet food can have a shelf life of over 30 years. But once opened, they start degrading. How fast they rot depends upon a lot of factors like the quality of the food at the time of it being exposed to oxygen and also the quality of air, in which is being opened.
The more pollution, the more microorganisms in the air and faster the degradation. If you wish to open the packet but only use half of it, store them well. Putting them into Ziploc bags works well. To go a step further, you could also use a straw to suck out all the air and then seal it.
What are the most popular freeze-dried dog food brands?
The market for these products is widening owing to concerned pet-parents who are a lot more aware of their pet’s needs. They understand that their dogs need optimum nourishment. At the same time, this nourishment needs to come from foods that are convenient for them to feed. Slaving over a hot stove or waiting for frozen meats to thaw isn’t an option in today’s busy life. Enter the world of freeze-dried foods: they are raw, hygienic, have longer shelf lives, easier to store and provide way more nutrition than your average commercial dog food!
10 Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
A lot of brands and manufacturers of pet foods make empty promises. We all know that by now, right? Well, freeze-dried dog food brands tend to be a little more ethical in what they offer. The process itself is healthier. However, not everybody will be able to afford freeze-dried pet foods – it’s very pricey to replace your regular kibble!
Here is a list of the ten best freeze-dried dog foods.
1. Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw
Organic, grass-fed meats mixed with a selection of healthy veggies, animal bones, and fruits, Stella & Chewy’s is one brand obsessed with making mealtime swell for dogs. If you’ve got a picky pooch on your hands, they will love this. This is available in Chicken, Lamb, Turkey, Beef, Salmon & Cod.
It is as good as homemade, prepared with very little processing and is raw, thus healthy too! The food contains 100% real food with no additives at all and claims to provide your fur-baby with the essential nutrients needed for good stamina, healthy gums, teeth and coat, and a good immunity buildup. It’s easy to store & quick to serve!
2. Orijen Freeze-Dried Regional Red Formula
This one-pot wonder believes in feeding dogs with whole animal meats for optimum nutrition. So each serving would contain organ meats, cartilage, and flesh of fresh farm sourced animals like Angus beef, free-range wild boar, lamb, bison, herring, and pork. Apart from the meats, each portion also has a generous helping of berries, veggies, and seeds – aiming at the pet’s all-round development.
This is a one-for-all formula that can be fed to dogs of all stages – making it very convenient and fuss-free for the pet parents. The addition of berries helps to cleanse out the dog’s system while veggies add fiber.
3. Stewart Pro-Treat Freeze Dried Dog Treats
Stewart Pro-Treat is a brand that focuses on single protein dog treats. The meals usually consist only of liver sourced from the meats of either pork or beef or lamb or chicken or turkey or duck. They also have meals consisting of chicken breast or wild salmon meat.
Stewart Pro-Treats pride themselves in using 100% human-grade ingredients, sourced from credible resources and gently processed. Their list of ingredients promptly proclaims that they include everything that dogs need and nothing that they don’t need – so artificial flavors, GMO, sodium are all out.
Having been in the industry for over 40 years, they’re one of the pioneers of freeze-dried dog foods.
4. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Food Topper
If your dog is on a diet of commercial dog food, it is always a good idea to add an extra fistful of nutrition to his meals. While natural food toppers like berries, canned sardines or even raw veggies are good– Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Booster makes for a good swap too, for when you’re busy. These are free from preservatives or artificial flavor and high on taste and nourishment both.
Sourced from cage-free chickens, the meat is of superior quality and fortified with agents that can help build your dog’s immunity. These are not only easy to digest but they also aid in the digestion of food to a great extent.
5. Primal Freeze-Dried Dog Formula
Primal appeals to the organic side of things for pet parents who wish to feed their dog hormone and antibiotic-free meats. It also boasts of a plethora of naturally forming vitamins and minerals. The meats for all their products are sourced from ranches and farms within the US or from New Zealand – so you can rest assured that these are excellent quality.
They lay a lot of stress on providing dogs with the necessary amino acids and fatty acids to build your pet’s biological functions while taking the stress off of your shoulders of grinding and measuring out the foods for them.
6. Wellness CORE 100% Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Feed your pet the best of the meats, grown and bred in the USA. Wellness CORE tries to source meats from the home-ground, to keep the quality bar high. Available in flavors like boar, salmon, turkey, and beef, these packets assure superior taste and fine grade meats with no additives or flavors.
To keep them as fine as possible, these meals are 100% meat, no veggies or fruit added. Perfect for the dog that dislikes veggies. This product is also a great way to introduce your dog to raw meats, minus the mess.
7. Stewart Raw Naturals Fresh To Home
Available in chicken and salmon options, Stewart Raw Naturals focuses on a dog’s primeval instinct – which is to hunt and eat. They have formulated the food product by doing a backward integration of what the dogs would need and like as opposed to what is good for dogs.
These foods are high in protein and low on carb making it ideal for all breeds. They come in as many as seven flavors, so you can do rotational meals without having to worry about what to feed your pet. This product can be used as a main meal in itself or can also be given as a food topper to whatever you are feeding your dog, for an extra power-packed punch of nutrition.
8. Freeze Dried Salmon Filet Treats
Caught in the wild, these freeze-dried salmon dog treats are for those dogs who have a penchant for freshly caught fish. Rich in Omega fatty acids and high on taste and quality, these treats by Zesty Paws are perfectly bite-sized too. These Wild Pacific Sockeye Salmon fillets undergo minimal processing and have a mouthwatering flavor to them.
Fortified with other essential ingredients, this food product bestows your pet pooch with good joint function and a shiny coat apart from other things. Especially suggested for dogs prone to skin conditions, freeze-dried fish contains important micronutrients that can prevent skin from drying up and fasten the healing processes of minor wounds.
9. Northwest Naturals Raw Freeze-Dried Reward Treats
Made from beef sourced from American farms, the entire manufacturing process of Northwest Naturals Rewards Nuggets takes place in the USA. This lessens the chances of any food degradation or contamination. It combines muscle meat, organ meats, veggies, fruits and bones into a mix that your dog will love.
A balanced meal, especially when on the go, these come in easy to store and easy to feed packets. The packaging also suggests that these could work as great training rewards. They are easy to break apart, so you can control the portions yourself also.
10. K9 Natural Freeze Dried Dog Food
The K9 Booster gives you the freedom of feeding your dog what you want, without compromising on nutrition. This product is great for those pet parents who either feed their dogs home-cooked meals or commercial dog food. Essentially a meal booster, this product can be mixed in your dog’s meals for an added nutritional value. It gives every meal a power-packed punch but doesn’t lose focus on taste as well.
Made with lamb meat, this booster is high on probiotics and is an excellent starter for dogs who are transitioning from cooked to raw meals. If you’re looking for a product that can acclimatize your pet to raw, freeze-dried meals – this is it!