Fresh Pet Food: Fad or Future?
Fresh Pet Food: Fad or Future?
The newest trend in pet food seems to be fresh pet food. The New York City electronic billboards are awash with these products and my Facebook page is full of advertisements for fresh pet food as well. Fresh pet foods are different from regular pet foods because they have a very short shelf life. They don’t sit on your grocer’s shelf or next to the cans and bags in your local pet emporium; they use fresh ingredients that are frozen or refrigerated to provide a “fresh” meal for your pet This blog post will explain what these new foods are, what they aren’t and a bit about how to choose one for your pet.
What Fresh Pet Food is Not
Fresh pet food is not, as one of the promotional pieces aptly says, “little brown balls” of food. It is not canned either. Fresh pet food looks like ready-to-eat prepared meals and typically comes in see through pouches. Fresh pet food may be refrigerated or frozen. These diets are available in some pet stores or can be shipped directly to your home.
To some, fresh food implies raw food. In my book, it is not. When I say “fresh food,” I mean fresh, cooked food because I have concerns about feeding pets raw food diets. Scientific research has shown diets utilizing a raw protein source (i.e. raw meat and bones) contain microorganisms potentially harmful to your human family and your pet.
And fresh pet food should not be a homemade dinner for your pet. Scientific research has shown home cooked pet food lacks adequate nutrition unless the recipe is specifically created by a veterinary nutritionist and strictly followed.
Selecting a Fresh Pet Food
Fresh pet foods are like eye candy for your taste buds. Through the plastic wrapper you see minced and colorful vegetables, whole grains and pasta tubes. These diets have great appeal to the human purchaser. Since many of us want to treat our pets the same way we treat ourselves, these diets help meet that lifestyle criteria.
But your pet’s food should be more than pretty. Any fresh pet food you feed your favorite fur person should be complete and balanced for their species and age. The label of your pet’s food should have the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) disclaimer. It will read something like this: Brand X food is complete and balanced and meets the nutritional requirements for adult dogs. An AAFCO statement like this means the food is adequate for an adult dog, but not adequate for a growing dog. If the label says for intermittent or supplemental feeding, that diet is not complete and balanced. To help you feed the right amount of food, the label should contain the nutrient profile and a calorie count.
The Team Behind the Label
Before you start feeding a fresh pet food, check the qualifications of the team formulating the recipes. There should be a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on the team. You can recognize a veterinary nutritionist by the letters ACVN (American College of Veterinary Nutrition) listed in their professional credentials. If the nutritionist is not a veterinarian, then they may have PhD after their name, indicating an advanced degree in animal nutrition. Since fresh pet foods do not have stabilizers and preservatives, many fresh pet food teams will also have an expert in microbiology to employ strategies to control microbial growth during storage.
Fresh pet food may be the latest trend and if you decide to try feeding it to your pet, as with any new diet, introduce the fresh food slowly over 2-4 weeks to avoid an upset stomach in your pet.