**Review starts mid-post**
A few years ago, if you said we should give our pups home cooked meals or even raw based diet, I would have told you that you were a little nutty…maybe even a modern, new age hippie.
Uncooked food for my dog? That’s awful! Not to mention the bacteria and micros that dwell in raw food. Countless times, we are informed by our vets to feed dog food! Yes, the ones from a supermarket or pet store, nicely packaged with a face of a cute dog. Or perhaps, a “prescription” diet from the vet. I have been down that road twice with my previous dogs…and both times it ended in heartbreak. Our pups will never outlive us, but I would like to think that I am helping them live their best lives.
After extensive research, I have realized that giving our dogs homemade (raw or cooked) is the BEST thing we can do for our fur babies. There isn't much research disputing this claim.
On the contrary, there are a ton of new research that discourages commercial dog food (especially kibble).
Bio Med Central recently published an article called, "Raw meat based diet influences fecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs" (idk why research articles have long titles). In this study, they examined the difference between stool samples collected at the beginning of the study and at the end of the dietary study. What they found was that raw based diet promoted a more balanced growth of bacterial communities and a positive change in healthy gut functions in comparison to its counterpart (commercial dog food diet). In other words, the dogs that were fed a raw based diet were found to have a significantly higher friendly gut bacteria, such as Lactobacillus.
In several of my earlier posts, I have touched on the importance of feeding food in its natural state... YUP, pure whole food diet. This is a rule that I have begun to follow for myself and for my pup. For our pups, it is called B.A.R.F (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). It's about feeding pets what they were designed to eat. It also means to feed responsibly and properly to maximize health, reduce allergies and vet bills. This type of diet eliminates all the additional preservatives, artificial flavor, additives, high pressure pasteurization, thermal processing, and processing food (oven baked or high heat).
Although dogs have been eating raw long before commercial dog food existed, the cost
and convenience of kibble are appealing to many pet owners. Kibble (aka "biscuit") appeared around 1860 in England. Some sailors were throwing hardtacks to the dogs on the dock and the kibble was invented. How people get their ideas are mind-blowing... By WWII, metal became a necessity for the war and the manufacturing of canned dog food was halted...so more biscuit!!! yay...
Lucky for us, there are other alternatives for our pups! For our next review, we tried "Darwin's Natural Pet Products".
***I want to emphasize that raw diet isn’t for everyone or every dog. My sister has young children and, if she doesn’t thoroughly clean after each dog meal, the chances of her children becoming ill is too great of a risk. Pregnant women should also consider the risks before feeding their pups raw. Just as a precaution. However, I've seen people feed raw with children in the house or while pregnant, and they have perfectly healthy homes. You really have to gauge what works for you. Responsible cleaning habits are a must! Some older dogs or dogs with health conditions should also consult with their vet. Often times switching your dog from kibble to raw can cause severe reaction (diarrhea, vomiting, etc.) Many vets witness these and discourage pet owners from feeding raw. So check with your vet (preferably one that encourages raw/cooked diet) to help with this transition. It is common for dogs to have some digestive issues when switching food, so it's important to slowly introduce new food.
-Darwin's Natural Pet Products-
How do you buy raw meat for your dog? With Darwin's Natural Pet Products, the meats are purchased by weight. When I first visited their website, I was intimidated by their price layout. I wasn't sure how many pounds to buy, how many patties came with each package, or how much to feed Anmitsu.
I contacted Darwin's for additional help on pricing and feeding instructions. The first number I used was an answering machine, but a representative picked up right away at the second number (877-PET-6325).
Creating an account was fairly easy...
STEP 2 is where we can chose between two lines of raw dog meals: Natural Selection and Zoologics. The price difference for us was $3.60. I chose "Natural Selections" for its antibiotic-free and organic vegetables. I also liked that their line offered free range, grass fed, hormone-free beef. That's a rare combo in the dog food industry.
If your dog requires prescription diet, the "Intelligent Design Prescription Meals for Dogs" is available: Nutritional Analyses
– Canine Kidney Support
– Canine Liver Support
– Canine Cancer Support
– Canine Joint and Mobility Support
-How Much to Feed?-
Our dogs should be eating 2-3% of their body weight with a raw diet. For instance, Anmitsu is currently 17lbs, so....
17 x .03 = .51 lbs
which means 1/2 lbs (8oz patty) each day. Each meal sheet comes with 4 patty packs.
The company will calculate how much food to deliver to your home, so no need to worry there. 20lbs of meals are delivered every 5 weeks (sounds like a lot but it isn't).
- Cost? -
I did the math and feeding raw through DARWIN'S was actually more economical than I had anticipated. Prior to cooked and raw meals, I was spending $30-40 a week on Anmitsu's food. Stella and Chewy's is NOT cheap. Since she's a puppy, I had to feed 7-8 patties per day (and their big pack had 32 patties). So in a week, I was spending $30-40 on Stella and Chewy's rabbit and venison line.
Currently, I receive about 40 days worth of food with DARWIN'S for $114.74. Which in a week is about
$2.87 per day x 7 =$20.09 per week
Most canned food is $1.53 (e.g.; Cesar Savory Delights...which uses beef by-products)
Hill's Prescription Diet canned food is $3.50 (my last dog was on this)
Since this was my first raw food delivery, I made it an effort to stay home and wait for the package. I was pleasantly impressed by their shipment. I wasn't expecting it to be this neat. Dry ice inside the styrofoam container, and the food wrapped in a large plastic bag. The company also provided a return label to ship the styrofoam and box for recycling! This made me feel less guilty about the packaging used to keep the food fresh! Shipping is also free!
- Important Note on Feeding Raw -
The downfall to Darwin's is... you need space in your freezer. I have, however, seen people pack their freezer with these meal sheets in a regular size fridge. And you usually transfer at 2 meals per day into your refrigerator from your freezer section.
When thawing frozen food, it’s best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — @ 40 °F or below. Slow thawing is key! You MUST also keep your meal pack that you're defrosting in a tupperware. No contamination! After you defrost any frozen raw foods, you have 2 days to feed this to your pet.
Some (not all) of the packs will leak when defrosting. When asked Darwin's response was: "As for our packages leaking. They do. It is just the nature of our product. (Raw meat with the moisture content in-tacked.)" After further online googling, I learned that it's not blood at all. The red liquid is water and myoglobin, whose purpose is to help ship oxygen to muscle cells. Myoglobin is deeply pigmented, which is why the more the muscles are used, the more myoglobin they’ll contain. Bison was the only one so far to leak.
BTW Bison meat...smells!! I won't be getting it again. All the other meats (Duck, Beef, Chicken, Turkey), surprisingly, had no leakage during defrosting.
Are meat and vegetable (and fruit if applicable) ingredients certified human edible? (USDA inspected and approved for human consumption.)Are your meat hormone-free?
Our products are antibiotic free, hormone free, grain and gluten free, and high in protein. Our meals include small nutrient mix of trace minerals from reliable natural sources. We offer complete and balanced meals and our meals are formulated and tested to meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Canine/Feline nutritional profiles and the National Research Council's guidelines for dog/cat nutrition.
**Natural Selections: our premium line of raw dog food. All the meat used to produce Natural Selections were raised cage-free, free-range and grass fed. They are also free of steroids or artificial growth hormones. The vegetables mixed with our meat are organic.
**Zoologics: our economical line of raw dog food. All the meat used to produce Zoologics were raised cage-free, fee-range and grass fed. Both the meat and vegetables used in Zoologics are conventionally raised.
We offer Beef, Chicken, Duck and Turkey for both lines. Bison and Lamb depending on availability is also available for our Natural Selections line only. Each package weighs a total of 2 lbs and is divided into 4 patties that weigh half a pound each.
There were a few online feedbacks on Darwin's customer service (customers having a hard time contacting a representative). Could you let us know how that's changed?
Two yeas ago we did suffer from a major systems backfire. We attempted to switch out operating system and everything that could go wrong did. The result was a two week blackout. It was horrible. Luckily we survived and are back to the normal level of customer service.
Some of the reviews indicated there were some grind issues with the patties.
The reviews dealing with fat parts it was a simple grind adjustment that needed to be made. Our Quality Assurance Manager has taken care of that.
What is the country of origin of all ingredients? including supplements? USA? CHINA?
Darwin's Natural Pet Products are all MADE IN USA except Lamb (Australia/New Zealand). That is the only meat outsourced.
-My Final Thoughts-
Feeding raw was more cost effective than feeding commercial. I wouldn't have recgonized this if I didn't break down the cost. I think Darwin's website could incorporate more details on their prices and packaging. It would be helpful if they had indicated:
Chicken- $3.95/lb = 2 patties
Meats delivered by 2lbs = 4 patties
I will suggest that Darwin's redesign their website. Currently, there is an overwhelming amount of information offered on their site. Perhaps they could try simplifying, but add the ability to expand if necessary.
Other than their website and price layout, the quality of the food has convinced me to continue ordering from them. I will add this to Anmitsu's diet rotation with cooked meals.
I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience