In people’s quest toward a fresher, less-processed diet, the trend has gone to the dogs — literally.
As pup parents, we always want what’s best for our doggos, especially when it comes to nutrition, so it’s no surprise that if we’re eating better, we want them to, too.
The fresh dog food movement has picked up steam in recent years, and there is now a healthy crop of options on the market. Let’s check out some of the best available and learn more about this rising trend.
In a hurry? Check out our quick picks below if you just need a fast recommendation!
Quick Picks: Best Fresh Dog Food Brands
- #1 Ollie [Best Overall Fresh Dog Food Option]: Each recipe is made with human-grade ingredients, customized for your dog, and designed by a canine nutritionist. What more could you want?
- #2 A Pup Above [Best Slow-Cooked Fresh Food Option]: More protein compared to many other fresh food services and is slow-cooked via sous vide to lock in as many vitamins and nutrients as possible! Plus, you can get 15% off any 1st-time sampler pack with code K9OFMINE15
- #3 Nom Nom [Most Convenient Fresh Dog Food Option]: These foods are made with restaurant-quality ingredients and shipped in single-serving pouches. Just cut one open and pour it in your pet’s bowl!
- #4 JustFoodforDogs [Best No-Subscription-Required Fresh Food Option]: Want to try a fresh food without making a long-term commitment? JustFoodforDogs offers a variety of premium fresh-frozen options and backs them with a money-back guarantee.
- #5 FreshPet [Most Affordable Fresh Dog Food Option]: Many of the best fresh dog foods are very expensive, but FreshPet offers budget-limited owners the chance to give their pooch the fresh food he deserves!
What Is “Fresh” Dog Food?
As the name implies, fresh dog food is made “fresh” for your pooch, usually within a week of his dinnertime.
This differs from most pre-packaged kibbles and canned foods that are made months before they reach your pupper’s bowl. As a result, fresh dog foods contain few to no preservatives, and they are generally shipped more frequently than canned foods or kibbles are, as they must be eaten within their limited shelf lives.
The basic idea of fresh foods is, the less processed your dog’s dinner is, the better.
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:
- Minimally processed: A lack of additives is a major win for some, as more pawrents are skeptical of the synthetic chemicals appearing in some doggy diets.
- Customizable: Most fresh dog food services allow you to customize your pup’s meal plan, helping you avoid potential allergens, manage Max’s weight, and switch things up as you please.
- Tasty: Most fresh dog food arrives in a mash of meat, veggies, and sometimes fruits, which can be too tempting even for the pickiest pooches to ignore.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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 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 foods often offer some significant health benefits when compared to conventional options.
Additionally, it is important to provide your dog with a food that he enjoys, and there’s simply no comparison between fresh foods and kibble — the vast majority of dogs display a significant, obvious preference for fresh options.
The Best Fresh Foods for Dogs: Doggo Dinners That Look Like Yours!
There are a ton of fresh dog food options currently on the market, which can make owners feel overwhelmed. But we’ve handpicked the top options available to make things easier on you.
About: Ollie is a subscription-based fresh food manufacturer that delivers tasty, nutritious meals to your door on a pre-set schedule. The 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 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
- Want more info? Read our full hands-on Ollie review!
Lamb heart, lamb liver, butternut squash, rutabaga, kale...,
lamb, chickpeas, cranberries, potato, chia seeds, dicalcium phosphate, iodized salt, calcium carbonate, zinc gluconate, taurine, vitamin E, iron sulfate, pantothenic acid, manganese gluconate, thiamin HCL, potassium iodate, folic acid
Protein Content (for lamb): 11% min
U.S.-made, custom-blended dog foods that are made with human-grade ingredients.
- Extremely high-quality option, made with top-notch ingredients in USDA-approved kitchens.
- Provides owners with the chance to fine-tune their pup’s diet (making it excellent for dogs with food allergies).
- Leftover storage is easy, thanks to the brand’s tray-like packaging.
- Most dogs love the taste of Ollie’s recipes.
- Like most other fresh foods, Ollie’s recipes are expensive (though mix-in options offer a cost-effective way to spruce up your dog’s traditional kibble).
- You have to measure out each meal individually, which isn’t as convenient as single-serving packaging.
2. A Pup Above
About: 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 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 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
- Turkey Pawella
- Porky’s Luau
- Texas Beef Stew
Ground Pork, Pork Liver, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Pineapple...,
Monocalcium Phosphate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Oxide, Salt, Ferrous Sulfate, L-Tryptophan, Zinc Oxide, Selenium, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Vitamins D3 and E.
Protein Content (Porky’s Luau): 19.81%
A Pup Above
Fresh, nutritionist-designed recipes that are cooked “low and slow” for maximum flavor.
- Most dogs seemed to really love the taste of these recipes
- No subscription required, which provides additional flexibility (and the chance to try a recipe before making a long-term commitment)
- The recipes provide a ton of protein to your pooch
- A great option for owners who want to use a fresh food as a topper to improve the taste of their dog’s kibble
- The packaging isn’t as convenient as some other fresh food options
- A Pup Above doesn’t provide as many recipe options as some other fresh food brands
3. Nom Nom
About: 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 food in your pup’s bowl for him to enjoy.
- Meals are catered to your dog’s individual needs, including factors like weight, age, and overall body condition
- All formulas are crafted by a board-certified veterinarian and nutritionist
- Ingredients are human-grade, and recipes are never mass-produced
- 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!)
Ground beef, russet potatoes, eggs, carrots, peas...,
dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, fish oil, sunflower oil, vinegar, citric acid (preservative), taurine, choline bitartrate, zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, copper gluconate, manganese gluconate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), selenium yeast, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 supplement, cholecalciferol (source of vitamin D3), potassium iodide
Protein Content: 10% Min
- Beef Mash
- Turkey Fare
- Chicken Cuisine
- Pork Potluck
Custom-formulated fresh foods, made with restaurant-quality ingredients.
- A number of discounts are available to help reduce the costs of these foods.
- Looks more like your food than most other options.
- Most dogs loved the taste.
- Not as customizable as some other fresh options.
- Single-serving packaging isn’t as eco-friendly as the packages some other fresh foods use.
About: JustFoodforDogs is a premium pet food brand who offers several different types of food for Fido, including custom diets, veterinary support recipes, pantry fresh 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 foods in several U.S. cities.
- The brand is a leader in empirical dog nutrition research, and they’re the only fresh food manufacturer that’s carried out systemic feeding trials on all of their daily canine recipes
- Individual 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 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
Chicken thighs, long-grain white rice (enriched), spinach, carrots, apples...,
chicken gizzards, chicken liver, Icelandic premium fish oil, JustFoodforDogs nutrient blend.
Protein Content: 8%
Just Food for Dogs
Fresh-frozen dog foods that are made in the USA and available without a subscription.
- 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)
- 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
- You can choose from six different fresh frozen recipes, as well as a variety of other types of food
- Presently, JustFoodforDogs doesn’t offer “variety packs” or any way to mix-and-match recipes
- 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)
5. Pet Plate
About: Pet Plate is another worthy fresh food option for owners seeking fresh, high-quality dog foods, shipped directly from their USDA-approved facilities.
These 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 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
Ground beef, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beef liver, carrots...,
apples, green peas, pumpkin, dicalcium phosphate, natural flavor, safflower oil, salmon oil, calcium carbonate, salt, vitamins and minerals (taurine, vitamin E, ferrous fumarate, zinc oxide, manganese gluconate, thiamine mononitrate, magnesium oxide, potassium iodide, sodium selenite, vitamin D3)
Protein Content for Barkin Beef: 7.9% Min
Custom-crafted fresh foods that are packed in reusable and recyclable containers.
- Most pups went bonkers for the taste of these meals
- 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
- The Topper Plan provides owners with an affordable way to improve the taste and appeal of their dog’s dinner
- You must sign up for a subscription to purchase these foods
- No dog food sample option available
- Large storage containers will take up a significant amount of real estate in the fridge
6. The Farmer’s Dog
About: 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
USDA Pork, sweet potato, potato, green beans, cauliflower...,
USDA pork liver, fish oil, Vitamins & minerals [tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, vitamin B12 supplement, taurine, zinc amino acid chelate, iron amino acid chelate, vitamin E supplement, copper amino acid chelate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, potassium iodide, pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid]
Protein Content for Pork & Sweet Potato: 11% Min
The Farmer’s Dog
Custom-crafted fresh food that’ll leave your dog lickin’ his lips and begging for more.
- Most dogs love the taste of Farmer’s Dog recipes
- Environmentally friendly packaging is a big plus
- Trial option allows you to try a small quantity before loading up your fridge
- No grain-inclusive recipes offered
- The portioning/serving process can be a bit messy
- Difficult to find some info on the brand’s site without completing a full questionnaire
About: 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 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
Options: 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)
Chicken, Carrots, Chicken Broth, Peas, Eggs...,
Chicken Liver, Brown Rice, Rice Bran, Carrageenan, Natural Flavors, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Celery Powder
Protein Content: 9% Min
- Widespread availability (no need to wait for a delivery if you need food in a hurry)
- Wide assortment of flavors and textures
- 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 food options
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?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!