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Food & Diet

Why Fresh Food Doesn’t Always Mean Fresh Ingredients

At A Glance

Fresh dog food should ideally contain raw or minimally processed foods like animal meat, bone, fruits, vegetables, raw eggs, etc., minus any additives or preservatives. However, some manufacturers use the term “fresh” as a marketing tool without actually adhering to fresh dog food standards.

So, how do you know you’re getting the real deal?

  • By checking the ingredient list on the label. There should be no flavors or artificial ingredients, or additives included.
  • The nutritional profile details must contain essential nutrients that meet your dog’s dietary requirements.

Last Updated on: Mar 29, 2023

As responsible dog parents, we only want what’s best for our pets. That includes feeding them healthy food. It’s natural for most of us to get drawn to shelves displaying “fresh dog food” under the assumption that fresh is any day better than canned or processed dog food options out there.

With fewer preservatives, more nutritional value, and less processing involved – a fresh food dog diet purportedly checks all the right boxes.

But it’s important to know that fresh food doesn’t necessarily mean fresh ingredients.

But before we zoom in on this not-so-little detail, let’s get a clear understanding of what fresh dog food actually means.

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

What Is Fresh Dog Food Exactly?

Fresh dog food refers to whole foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed and contains no preservatives or additives. They are usually prepared in small batches instead of in a large-scale production facility.

fresh food dog diet - tweet

Fresh food for dogs are generally made with raw, frozen, gently air-dried, or dehydrated ingredients like animal organ meat, muscle meat, bone (ground or whole), fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, dairy products like raw eggs or yogurt, or a combination of some of these.

Given this definition, fresh food does not always mean unprocessed. Fresh foods are generally raw, pretty similar to the kind of food dogs eat in the wild, like animal meat and vegetable scraps.

Some dog owners prefer to give their pet home cooked fresh dog food without any additives, flavors, or fillers. They could be minimally processed or cooked like a typical homemade meal.

A common misconception is that fresh and whole dog foods are generally bland, but this isn’t necessarily true.

And given that many brands actually sell processed food under the guise of fresh, how do you know what to buy for your pet?

Well, there are several trustworthy brands in the market that disclose the ingredients and processes that go into making their pet food products. If you’re still unsure, it’s best to ask your pet’s veterinarian for advice.

Fresh, minimally processed, ready-to-eat kibbles that are healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare are a good alternative to raw food.

Caveat: Don’t Get Swayed By Marketing Tools

Andi Brown, author of The Whole Pet Diet, says that just because dog food is labeled ‘holistic’ or ‘all-natural’ doesn’t mean it’s necessarily any better than anything else out there.

As I mentioned before, some companies use the term “fresh” or “natural” as a marketing tool to boost sales of their dog food products that may or may not actually contain fresh, whole ingredients.

Scrutinizing the label is, therefore, important.

For example, a dog food product is marketed as fresh just because it contains a few pieces of organ meat or some bits of fresh vegetables combined with several other non-fresh and heavily processed ingredients.

So, check the full ingredients list, not just what’s highlighted on the package as “fresh” or “organic.”

The label “fresh” is also used as a marketing tool to simply imply it’s made in small batches. This does not necessarily mean the product contains fresh ingredients. Some fresh dog food may also fall short of safety standards in terms of their ingredients’ freshness quality check.

samoyed dog with a bowl

Choose Whole And Nutritionally Balanced Food

Checking if a particular brand of fresh dog food is made with fresh and natural ingredients is just the first step.

Healthy fresh food for dogs should not only be about freshness but also about a balanced nutritional profile.

This is crucial, especially if your dog has a high nutritional requirement because of its size, breed, or activity level.

While all dog types need a well-rounded nutritional diet for optimum health, a service dog has a higher requirement than a pet. This means the latter requires more nutritional content per serving and a bigger serving size.

Fresh food containing only meat will not completely meet your dog’s nutritional needs. Protein is good, but your canine needs more essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, water, carbohydrates, and fat.

Unsure? Ask the Experts!

If you’re unsure about what has actually gone into the pack of fresh dog food you want to add to your cart, it’s best to consult with your dog’s veterinarian or animal nutritionist first.

Getting information from a trusted source will help you make an informed buying decision. You’ll know if a particular food item you want to incorporate in your pet’s fresh food dog diet is essentially good or if it’s simply hyped.

That said, the best route is to opt for feed-grade food with fresh and balanced ingredients to give your dog maximum health benefits. Feed-grade means food that is safe and suitable for its intended use as animal food.

According to veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lindsey Bullen, a prime example of “feed-grade” would be poultry by-product meal, consisting of poultry liver, spleen, or kidneys, but not poultry feathers or feet.

What Are The Benefits Of Fresh Dog Food?

A fresh food dog diet contributes to nurturing a healthy, happy, and smart pup as long as it is combined with adequate physical activities, hygiene, and good mental well-being.

If chosen right, fresh dog food offers a ton of health benefits to your dog, including:


Fresh fruits and vegetables contain fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals that help move food around your canine’s GI tract.

Aside from these, ingredients like lean meats, whole grains, legumes, unsaturated fats, and probiotic foods like yogurt can help prevent tummy issues in your dog, like bloating, acid reflux, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. They also promote a balanced gut environment.

Energy Levels

Noticing your dog feeling lethargic lately? It could mean its diet is dragging its energy down. Whole foods have a good mix of macro and micronutrients that give your canine the energy boost it needs to be active and sharp. These foods contain antioxidants and omega-3 that fight chronic inflammation, which causes a drop in energy.

Fresh, minimally processed dog food is also low in sugar content that helps regulate and stabilize your four-legged friend’s energy level. The probiotics in them also maximize nutrient absorption, increasing energy levels.

Sleep Quality

If your dog seems sleepy throughout the day, it could be a sign of nutrient deficiency and unstable sugar in its blood. The low sugar content in unprocessed food prevents sugar spikes and crashes, common causes of disrupted sleep patterns in dogs.

Whole foods are also great sources of essential nutrients that sustain energy levels and promote good sleep quality.

Brain Function

Researchers from the Ohio State University suggest that omega-3 fatty acid (found in whole foods) helps reduce cognitive decline. In contrast, ultra-processed food contributes to strong inflammatory responses in the brain.

Giving your dog a fresh food diet helps optimize its brain function. The range of compounds in the diet promote brain health and prevent inflammation that may lead to memory loss, disorientation, and other brain aging symptoms.

Breath Freshness

Unpleasant mouth odors in dogs stem from poor digestion and an unhealthy gut.
Because fresh food has high probiotics and fiber content, they help maintain a healthy microbiome environment in your dog’s body and aids in digestion, resulting in better, fresher breath.

Weight Control

Seeing your pup pack on the pounds may be a cause for concern, especially if it starts tipping the scales beyond its ideal body weight. The culprit could be a lack of physical activity, poor diet, or both.

In such cases, getting your pet physically active and changing its diet are a must. The high amount of sugar and additives in processed food contribute to obesity and diabetes. It’s, therefore, easier to manage your pet’s weight with food that is nutritionally balanced, has a high fiber content, and is low in sugar and salt.

Skin and Coat Quality

Want softer cuddles with your pet? A healthy, fresh diet can do the trick!

Whole foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, beta-carotene, iron, antioxidants, protein, and MCTs that help promote skin, fur, and coat health. A diet rich in these can leave your pet’s coat healthy and glistening.

Defense from Illnesses

A 2005 study by Purdue University reveals that adding fresh vegetables like spinach and carrots to a dog’s diet reduces cancer cell growth by over 70%.

According to science, leafy greens and foods rich in beta carotene and antioxidants are powerhouses when it comes to combating serious illnesses. Isn’t that enough reason to add them to your dog’s bowl?

beagle eating in his bowl

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Switch To Fresh Dog Food?

Transitioning your dog to a fresh food diet should be done gradually because a drastic change may lead to an upset stomach and allergic reactions.

Start your pet on a 25% new, fresh food diet combined with 75% of its old diet. Increase the portion by 25% every 2 days until it reaches 100% on the 7th day.

Is Fresh Food Better For Dogs?


If the food is made from clean ingredients, does not contain preservatives and additives, has a balanced nutritional profile, is free from harmful bacteria, and has feed-grade quality, it is healthier.

Is Dog Food Or Fresh Food healthier For Dogs?

Both are good for dogs depending on their ingredients, nutrient content, and safety profiles.

Fresh dog food that’s raw or minimally processed, nutrient-dense, free from harmful bacteria, and contains no unhealthy ingredients is overall better for dogs’ health than processed dog food packed with artificial ingredients and fillers.

Can Puppies Eat Fresh Dog Food?

Yes, they can be given fresh food based on their dietary requirement. A four-week-old puppy may start taking fresh food containing easy-to-digest ingredients.

Is Homemade Food Good For Dogs?

Fresh food can be homemade. It is generally safe for dogs provided it is prepared or cooked right to prevent food contamination which can lead to food poisoning or stomach problems.

How Much Fresh Food Should I Feed My Dog?

You can give your dog three small meals a day up to 2-3% of its ideal adult weight.

The key is to ensure your pet gets balanced nutrition, whether you give it a fresh diet, a dog food diet, or a combination of both.

While there’s some controversy around feeding fresh or raw food to dogs, there are several health benefits that point to its value. In fact, in olden times, sled dogs were fed on raw foods available in the wild – whether animal meat, bones, or plant-based food.

Reintroducing this diet in modern times should be done with caution because an abrupt change in your pet’s food may cause allergies or stomach reactions.

It is always best to consult your veterinarian because dietary requirements, health issues, and reactions to diet shifts can vary from one pet to another.



Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.