What Is A Fresh Pet Food Diet?
A fresh pet food diet can be called many different things such as refrigerated dog food, fresh cat food, cooked dog food… the list goes on. The main feature of fresh pet food is that it’s minimally processed - usually gently cooked at low temperatures to preserve the nutrients present in whole ingredients.
Compared to highly processed foods like dry kibble, fresh pet food has more moisture, and natural nutrients, and is a healthier alternative for pets.
What a fresh pet food diet offers is optimal nutrition from clean ingredients and natural supplementation from sources such as omega-3s, paired with minimal processing to preserve the natural integrity of the meal.
In this article, we break down what a fresh food diet truly is and its key components, the top 5 benefits for cats and dogs, and the difference between gently cooked and homemade dog food.
Key Components of a Fresh Pet Diet
So what makes up fresh pet food? There are 5 key components to ensuring a complete and balanced meal.
1) Human-grade ingredients
“Human-grade food” is defined by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as being suitable for human consumption. This means that all the ingredients that make up a recipe must be safe for humans to eat.
This is very different from “feed-grade” ingredients that are put into pet food. “Feed-grade” is defined as being suitable for animal consumption, and this can be anything from animal by-products. These are clean, non-rendered parts of the animal that are NOT meat such as the brain, tissue, and intestines, just to name a few.
2) Whole Foods & Functional ingredients
When ingredients like meat and veggies are served as close to their natural state as possible, they offer their optimal nutritional benefit. Functional ingredients are foods that have a positive impact on your pet's overall health beyond the essential nutrition they require. For example, all Kafka’s fresh meals contain organic kelp powder, which contains 21 amino acids, 12 vitamins, and 25% protein!
3) Healthy supplements
If you’ve been running around buying hundreds of different supplements to add to your pet’s diet, rest easy because fresh diets like ours usually have high-quality health supplements
already added. Natural supplements such as organic flaxseed oil, omega-3s, and bone broth, offer naturally derived vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, glucosamine and other beneficial nutrients.
4) Low-temperature cooking method
Cooking fresh pet food at low temperatures allows for its molecular structure to remain intact, especially in protein. This allows for better digestibility, a more nutrient-dense dinner, and a tasty component few can match!
5) No preservatives/additives
Similar to a healthy human diet, cat & dog food nutrition should not be compromised with artificial additives and filler. Like homemade food, fresh pet food meals are gently cooked, stored frozen, and then thawed for dinner time since preservatives are not added to keep them shelf-stable.
Gently Cooked Vs. Homemade Dog Food
Homemade dog food has been gaining popularity as pet parents look for healthy pet food options on a budget. Whether you are looking to soothe an upset stomach, cater to your dog’s allergies, or just to keep your pup in top health, homemade pet food allows for specific modifications to be made for your dog's (or cat’s) needs. Plus it’s always a relief to know exactly what’s in your pet’s food!
On the other hand, making homemade pet food can be extremely time-consuming, requiring research, prep and ongoing work on the owner’s part. Making balanced and complete meals requires a careful mix of supplements to be added which can not only be difficult to find but also expensive. The only way to have a truly balanced homemade meal for your pet is to work from a recipe that has been formulated for your pet by a veterinary nutritionist.
Gently cooked fresh food is a convenient option with the research done and the
work already implemented into a tasty meal. Cooked at low temperatures to ensure the integrity of their nutritional value and to ensure your pet is benefiting from absolute, optimal nutrition.
At Kafka's, we pride ourselves on our homestyle cooking method which uses low temperature, small-batch cooking, and freezing to keep fresh without the use of any preservatives or additives. The result is homemade dog food without taking up all YOUR time and energy (plus including all the right supplements!). Talk about easy peasy ;)
5 Top Benefits of Fresh Dog Food
While there are many benefits of feeding fresh pet dog food, these five are at the top of the list.
When you begin to look into dog nutrition from a general point of view you may find that fresh, whole foods are used to encourage a holistic health outlook.
Holistic health is essential to preventing illnesses and assisting in long-term solutions for existing issues.
Whole foods such as meat, fish, and seeds (like flax seed) are dense with natural nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and provide holistic health far better than any synthetic vitamins and minerals could.
Processed pet food has to rely on just their synthetic vitamin blend for nutrients since natural nutrition has been "cooked" out of it at high temperatures.
When you feed a fresh food diet you are giving your dog's body a boost of natural vitamins and minerals sourced from the ingredients in their meals. Since whole foods are also easier to digest, their body can absorb the nutrients from the diet turning food into fuel which is optimal nutrition and holistic health.
- Immune Support
Immune support is crucial not just for a healthy pup, but for dogs who suffer
from allergies, senior dogs dealing with health issues, and also for growing puppies. For example, antioxidants in fresh pet food ingredients such as sweet potatoes or kale can counteract free radicals in your pet's body.
Shelf-stable foods are over-processed and filled with preservatives and additives. These foods have been stripped of natural vitamins, minerals, and overall immune-supporting ingredients.
Even if you begin adding fresh food to your dog's bowl of kibble you will start to see a difference in their coat becoming shiny, and silk-soft, increased energy levels & vitality, and better digestion.
- Moisture & Hydration
Adding water or some form of moisture to your dog's dry kibble aids in keeping your pet hydrated & healthy since dogs don’t always drink as much water as they are supposed to.
Typically, kibble contains 10%-12% moisture compared to wet dog food which comes in around 75%-78%. Fresh, cooked dog food ranges from 81%-90% which is a great advantage when you’re looking to boost your pup's hydration! The added bone broth in some of our fresh meals is also an electrolyte boost and an overall supporter of joint health & kidney function.
- Natural supplementation
Certain fresh foods offer natural supplementation such as flax seed oil, and omega-3 fish oil, while others are derived from actual ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and protein. Knowing these natural supplements are bio-available and are already carefully curated into your pet's diet gives you the peace of mind that your pup is eating a balanced and nutritious meal!
- Picky Eater Proof!
Freshness speaks for itself. There are no artificial enhancers or additives to try and get your dog to eat. Slow simmered bone broth, gently cooked proteins, and veggies entice even the pickiest eaters.
5 Top Benefits of Fresh Cat Food
Cats are such interesting creatures, from being worshiped in Egypt to being big
fluff ball house cats their attitudes may be different but their nutritional needs are relatively the same.
Feeding a meal tailored to a cat's biological needs is imperative to their long-term health & longevity. Through extensive research, we rounded up the top 5 benefits of fresh cat food.
- Moisture Rich
Naturally, cats want to drink from moving water and are far less inclined to drink from a bowl with still water. Offering them food that is high in moisture ensures they are truly getting the amount of hydration they need. If your cat is on a kibble-only diet their water intake is double what it would be if they were fed fresh wet food. While cats do not need nearly as much water as dogs do due to their size and biological needs, they can get dehydrated just as easily. Gently cooked fresh cat food will keep your kitty hydrated and offers benefits whether it is used as a topper, a mixer, or a full meal.
Two different reactions are had towards food, an allergy, and an intolerance. Understanding the difference between these two for a better understanding of what may be affecting your kitty is crucial. Unlike dry or canned foods that have been processed repeatedly to the point of losing any semblance to their original ingredients, fresh cat food makes sure to lock in those nutrients so that your kitty benefits from them.
Fresh cat food is hypoallergenic because you can be in control of what ingredients go into your kitties' dish.
- Kitty a fussy eater? Think again!
If you tailor your cat's diet to their biological needs, which is that of a carnivore, you might be surprised to find them getting excited for meal time. Cats are naturally suspicious of things they haven’t eaten before and they like to stick to what they know. Biologically cats are hunters of small mammals, tailoring their diet can sometimes take time and dedication to ensure they are truly getting the benefits from a fresh home-cooked meal. Starting either as a topper or a mixer is the best way to entice your kitty to transition to a full meal of gently-cooked food.
- Taurine, what is it?
Taurine is an essential amino acid that is vital for healthy heart muscle function, vision, and the function of reproductive & immune systems. In short, it is a building block for all proteins. Taurine is almost exclusively found in animal-based protein sources. Since cats are unable to store large amounts of taurine in their body for extended periods, they need supplementation through their diet.
Kafka’s fresh cat food has been formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to ensure taurine is included in our vitamin & mineral blend. This creates a complete and balanced meal as it is an essential part of your cat's wellbeing.
- High in protein
A cat’s nutrition must be sourced from healthy, fresh ingredients. Clean, lean
proteins contain essential amino acids and are converted into important sources of energy. The high-quality protein in this specific cat food diet is used to develop and maintain their muscles, fur, skin, ligaments, cartilage, hormones, antibodies, and more.
Clean, lean proteins contain essential amino acids for proper development, urinary tract health, & digestive support.
So what is a fresh pet food diet? Overall it’s a gently-cooked meal filled with natural ingredients that are beneficial to both healthy dogs and cats, as well as those with sensitivities, kittens & puppies and pets with picky eating behavior. With the majority of commercial pet foods being highly processed and including preservatives and additives in their formulas, replacing even a portion of dry food with fresh can add many nutritional benefits to a pet’s diet.
Kafka’s Organic is a great option to consider when looking into fresh pet meals. Made with human-grade ingredients, 0 additives and preservatives, healthy omega-3s, and our in-house bone broth added for extra moisture and nutrients. When compared side-by-side, you can’t help but notice a major difference in the appearances of wet or dry pet food versus gently-cooked fresh pet food.
Whether fresh food is given as a full meal or used as a topper you can rest knowing your pet is feasting on clean, whole foods that provide them with the nutrition their bodies need to live a long, happy, healthy life!