Growing up, dog food options were limited. The old standbys — Alpo, Purina, and Dog Chow — crowded the limited shelf space at the grocery store. The world of grain-free, high protein, and organic was still a long ways away. It wasn’t until my first dog was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 that I started looking into what was going into my pup’s belly. Coincidentally, that seemed to be around the time independent companies began producing pet foods that were closer in nutritional value to what we ourselves put on our own plates.
Since then I’ve upgraded all of my pets’ foods to what I consider high quality meals, but I still rely on the convenience of opening a can or pouring out some kibble. Raw foods can be a pain since they only keep in the fridge for a few days and take up valuable freezer space for longer hauls. Cooking from scratch, while a nice idea, just isn’t realistic (especially now that there’s a baby in the house). So are my four-legged companions stuck with processed foods?
The Honest Kitchen is a San Diego-based company that specializes in dehydrated dog and cat foods. Meals come as a powdery mixture (1) that once combined with warm water (2), rehydrate into an instant meal (3) filled with fruits, vegetables, and meats. The company’s line is one of the few certified as human-grade, which means the ingredients used in them are held to the same quality standards as the food we eat. In fact, as part of their product development process, the company goes so far as to have their two-legged staff taste test every ingredient used in a recipe.
Recipes include cranberries, celery, carrots, spinach, green beans, and even papaya, organic goodies such as oats, quinoa, flaxseed, kelp, and coconut, along with antibiotic-free chicken, turkey, and beef. Each ingredient is dehydrated separately, a technique that preserves foods while minimizing the loss of nutrients. Everything is then mixed together, along with a vitamin premix that meet nutritional guidelines for pups, into one of seven meals.
The Honest Kitchen sent my dog Milo six meals, which he sampled through the course of a few months, with mixed results. Those that were hits weren’t blockbusters, though Milo still licked his bowl clean — just not as vigorously as he does his canned foods. Other flavors stayed, untouched, in his bowl. It was hard to pinpoint what exactly was making Milo turn up his nose, but it seems recipes such as Thrive, which features quinoa, weren’t up to snuff.
Since the meals are fit for human consumption, I had a taste to see what it was that my pup was eating. What I experienced was a somewhat bland and earthy porridge. Obviously, I don’t know how this compares to Milo’s other foods since I haven’t been brave enough to take a spoonful of your standard dog grub, but by comparing smells I’m guessing that what comes from the can is a bit more flavorful than the rehydrated gruel. Whether that’s a good thing or not is debatable. Does that extra flavor come at a health cost? Who knows.
The Honest Kitchen prices range from $28 to $52 for a 4 lbs. package that yields 16 to 17 lbs. of actual food. That’s either expensive or comparable, depending on what you’re currently feeding your pup. For me, it’s pretty comparable. I pay about $36 for the same amount of meals from a can.
So am I ditching the cans and switching to dehydrated? Not so fast. Honest Kitchen’s meals will become a part of our rotation, but neither I nor Milo are ready to give up on the stinky stuff just yet.
For those interested in trying out the Honest Kitchen, Pawesome will be hosting a giveaway starting tomorrow!