If your pooch has been eating kibble or grocery-store canned food, it may be time to consider fresh, refrigerated pet meals. Just like humans, dogs need nutritious meals too! Over half of dogs over 10 years old will develop some form of cancer, with diet often cited as a major contributor.
Liver, heart, and kidney disease are now rampant among pets too – and once again, just as in people, diet is a major contributing factor to these illnesses. Although fresh food is significantly more expensive than traditional kibble, opting for doggy meal delivery services can be a sound “investment” so long as it:
- Tastes great
- Gives your pup longevity and happiness, and thus your family more joy
- Encourages a healthy weight and provides the right amount of calories and nutrients
- Helps your pet avoid allergies
- Is customized to your animal’s unique nutritional needs
- Keeps Fido healthier, sparing you vet bills and giving him a higher quality of life
In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the most popular fresh dog food options out there — The Farmer’s Dog vs Freshpet vs Spot & Tango — and compare them in terms of cost, ingredients and more. But before we dive deep (into the dog bowl), let’s first understand what’s so bad about traditional doggy diets.
How unhealthy is normal pet food, anyway?
More often than not, dogs survive on kibble, dehydrated pellets packed with scrap meat, artificial proteins and filler. Most dry pet food varieties comprise processed meat, seafood, and poultry by-products in addition to grains such as soybean and corn. The way these kibbles are prepared seems more like a process that might have been used 200 years ago for desperate sailors going on a long ocean voyage.
Kibbles are cooked at extreme temperatures before being dried to extract up to 90% of moisture. Just like you’d want if you were going on a sail around the world in the year 1800 without any refrigeration, the dehydration process is helpful for preservation and shelf-life. The tradeoff is that this extreme preparation process and high temperatures destroys most of the nutrients.
While most reputable kibble manufactures supplement their product with added nutrients, your furred-friend could be exposing herself to health risks over the long run since she may not getting the desired nutrients needed for disease prevention and longevity. More importantly, dried kibbles can be calorie-dense. This can cause undesired short-term weight gain, which in turn leads to many other problems including heart, kidney or joint diseases.
This isn’t to say that quality kibbles can’t be a healthy part of your animal’s diet. But super-low cost, highly processed kibbles that you buy in bulk might not be the best bet for supplying 100% of your furred-friends calories and nutrients, especially if your animal has special diet or health needs And it’s very easy to pack on the pounds if your preferred kibble brand is loaded with filler carbs.
What about wet dog food? Is it healthy enough?
Although pet owners may be tempted to switch 100% wet pet foods from kibbles, in many instances cans may not be the healthiest options. Wet food refers to canned meals, which humans also generally avoid themselves (if they have the means), so why should we push it on to our dear pets’ plate? Despite the higher price tag of wet food, it doesn’t always have to be any more fresh or nutritious than kibble, and may only be a better option if your little friend prefers the texture or perhaps if your dog suffers from constipation. Wet foods are generally easier to digest than dehydrated kibble pellets.
It’s true that canned options typically contain more meat protein, less synthetic preservatives, and fewer carbohydrates – but before you conclude that it’s actually a healthier option, know that canned food is often made of the same low-quality, mass-produced meat by-products as kibble. The only real difference is that it’s more moist, but nutrition-wise, it doesn’t really compare to fresh – and who has time to cook for their animals?
Enter the Freshpet fridges you’ve probably seen in your grocery store, and meal delivery services like The Farmer’s Dog and Spot & Tango!
How customizable are fresh dog food delivery services like The Farmer's Dog and Spot & Tango?
Pet fresh food deliveries like The Farmer’s Dog and Spot & Tango have something in common – they all start with surveys on your pet’s current activity level, weight, allergies, breed, dietary preferences, and age. They then use this information to offer personalized meal plans, individualized for your animals and customized for their unique nutritional needs. We’ll dig into the various health and nutritional claims made by these new companies in a bit.
This brings us to the biggest difference between The Farmer’s Dog and Spot & Tango (and the other delivery services like NomNomNow and Ollie) and Freshpet – where you buy them.
Freshpet is available in your local grocery store, and while you can’t customize it in the same way that you can with Spot & Tango or TFD, you can pick from several types of meals like ones for small breeds, puppies, ones for treat time – and stuff for cats (which The Farmer’s Dog and Spot & Tango don’t offer yet, sorry Meow Meow). If you really want to get Freshpet online, we recommend starting with a little site called Amazon.com.
Spot & Tango and the others are purchased online, and delivered right to your home. And most of them are available via a subscription service, which means you don’t have to worry about running out – they’ll keep you in stock with regular, recurring shipments.
Fresh Pet Food Delivery vs Pet Food Cooking
More owners than you’d think have gotten into the habit of cooking for their animal instead of buying prepared kibbles and cans from the grocery store. But getting the right mix of nutrients and calories can be harder than you’d think. The trick to preparing food for your pet is to give them the right nutritional proportions with sufficient vitamins and minerals – not too low, not too high.
Excess vitamins and minerals, in some instances, can be harmful. But undernourishment is also potentially unhealthy. Even if you’ve got the right mix of calories, vitamins and minerals, cooking for your pet can be time-consuming. That’s a big reason many owners are trying out subscription services like The Farmer’s Dog.
Author’s side note: A number of years ago, I worked at a startup that allowed us to bring our dogs to the office. One of my friends had a cute beagle mix named Copper. Unfortunately, the little guy had a sensitive stomach, and had a lot of diarrhea problems (I wasn’t allowed to give him any cake when we had birthday celebrations, for example. Although, I couldn’t resist sometimes – Copper was really cute.) His owner switched to making meals for him from scratch, based on guidance from his vet. If I recall correctly, the recipe that worked best included cooked chicken, some mashed vegetables and oatmeal. It was a lot more fun to volunteer to walk Copper when I knew I wouldn’t be picking up diarrhea!
Benefits of Fresh Pet Subscriptions like Spot & Tango
There are many benefits that come with fresh pet meal deliveries like Spot & Tango, including:
- Freshness – your pet is able to get fresh food that is healthy
- Convenience – you can order your pet food anytime you want and have it delivered to your doorstep. Services like these also offer flexibility, in that you can change your order, cancel meals, pause the order, and even stock up.
- Personalized meals – if your animal has special dietary needs, this might be the most important benefit. Because The Farmer’s Dog, and the others, customize your meal plan you’ll get personalized meals tailored to your animal’s needs. Weight, health goals, caloric needs and allergies – you can take all of this into account and more when designing a plan for your animal.
- Minimal waste, less storage, reduce mess – if you were to purchase canned or kibble for your animal, you will have bulky packs that you will need to store in the house. For those of us living in apartments and smaller houses, this space matters. Managing leftovers is also easy. With fresh food, the leftovers can be placed in the fridge and used the following day.
Disadvantages of Fresh Pet Food Deliveries
Although fresh dog meal deliveries have many advantages, there are a few disadvantages. These are:
- You need refrigeration so that the food remains fresh
- You’ve got to live in a place where it’s easy to accept deliveries
- It is more expensive than traditional, grocery-store kibbles and cans
- Your animal may need a transition period to get accustomed to eating fresh.
Let’s look at some of the top brands in the subscription space like Spot & Tango and The Farmer’s. Before you can choose a fresh pet food delivery service, you need to evaluate whether it meets your animal’s nutritional needs, whether it offers variety, and if the pricing resonates with your budget. Also, you want to see the ingredients that are in the food in case your pet has allergies or has special nutritional requirements.
Let’s breakdown the cost differences between subscription services The Farmer’s Dog and Spot & Tango, and the grocery store option Freshpet.
Fresh Dog Food Pricing: The Farmer’s Dog vs Spot & Tango vs and Freshpet
The chart below compares pricing for popular pet meal delivery services like The Farmer’s Dog, Spot & Tango and Freshpet.
Fresh Dog Food Subscription Pricing
|Price for 5-20 lb dog (ex. Shih Tzu, 2 servings/day)||$60/month, $2/day||$85/month, $2.8/day||$40/month, $1.3/day|
|Price for 41-60 lb dog (ex. Basset Hound, 2 servings/day)||$190/month, $6.3/days||$280/month, $9.3/day||$65/month, $2.1/day|
|Price for 61-100 lb dog|
(ex. German Shepherd, 2 servings/day)
|Shipping||Free||Free||No delivery (unless you buy on Amazon)|
|Intro Offer||50% off your first box||20% off your first order||none|
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The Farmer’s Dog
Fresh pet food from The Farmer’s Dog is only meant to feed dogs (sorry Garfield). The fresh dog food company was founded by an owner who’s puppy, Jada, had digestive issues.
Their products start with real ingredients like beef and pork, are designed using nutritional science, and are customized to suit your pet’s specific nutritional needs.
The information you provide when ordering the pet food is used to personalize meal recommendations. Based on your pet’s profile, they’ll ship pre-made food in perfectly pre-portioned packages to ensure precisely the right caloric and nutritional makeup.
The Farmer’s Dog Fresh Dog Food Menu
The company’s fresh food or meals or recipes contain the following:
- Fresh, clean USDA proteins that are mixed with simple farm produce and then balanced with minerals and vitamins
- Each recipe is formulated by a board-certified vet nutritionist according to the standards set by AAFCO
- Human-grade processes and ingredients are used.
The information you provide when ordering is analyzed to determine which meals to recommend. Based on your pet’s profile that you created with The Farmer’s Dog, the meals are pre-made and then pre-portioned to ensure they feature the correct calorie levels.
How The Farmer’s Dog Works
When you order pet food, The Farmer’s Dog delivers it in environmentally-friendly refrigerated boxes (in full compliance with pet food safety regulations). As this was going to press, the company boasts servicing pet owners in 48 states. Is your state one of the only two remaining holdouts?
How much does fresh dog food from The Farmer’s Dog Cost?
Since all pooches are different, the full-meal pricing largely depends on things like the health concerns, age, activity level, weight, and nutritional needs of your animal. That said, subscriptions start at around $3/day (assuming two meals per day).
How personalized are TFD meals?
The Farmer’s Dog starts with a quick survey to understand your pet’s unique situation and needs. You’ll be asked questions to establish the ideal meal plan for various combinations of factors including age, activity level, allergies, breed, ideal weight, and food sensitivities. It’s a quick process.
Spot & Tango
Again, like The Farmer’s Dog, Spot & Tango only offers dog food (Garfield’s out of luck again!).
They claim to have 12 simple ingredients with nothing artificial. Their food is cooked to order in USDA approved kitchen a few days before it arrives at your doorsteps.
The founder came up with the idea for human-quality pet meals after the 2007 pet food recall fiasco, and started by seeing how well his pooch responded to homemade meals.
Spot & Tango Dog Food Menu
Like these other services, Spot & Tango creates and delivers human-grade food – for your animal. This means real ingredients – they claim only 12. The fresh dog food from this company doesn’t have artificial additives, fillers, or preservatives that you find in commercial, mass produced options.
The meals comprise of:
- Fresh vegetables, fruits, as well as a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and proprietary all-natural supplements
- The supplements comply with AAFCO dog’s food nutrient profile within different life stages
- The recipes are prepared by veterinarians in conjunction with nutritionists to ensure that it’s healthy
- Spot & Tango fresh dog food is known to help pets lose weight, reduce allergies, improve digestion, enhance skin and coat, and maintain a healthy weight while being able to help prevent obesity
- The recipes are devoid of soy, wheat, gluten and many other artificial ingredients that you find in commercial kibble.
Pricing: How much does Spot & Tango cost?
The exact cost of Spot & Tango fresh dog meals depends on the individual animal’s profile as well as the meal plan that you select. The price may also be influenced by your pet’s special nutritional requirements, for example, if it’s recuperating from an illness or if it’s aged or if it has allergies.
How customizable are deliveries from Spot & Tango?
You’ll complete a survey before selecting an option. They’ll ask for your furry friend’s breed, weight, age, activity level and more to recommend a personal meal plan.
The delivery frequency of their pet food is also customizable. You’ll be notified through email when your order has been processed and is in transit. A tracking number is provided through the notification email to help track where the shipment has reached. You can pause or stop deliveries pretty easily.
Freshpet offers fresh dog and cat meals. They have over 19,000 fridges situated across North America. The food is not raw; it has been cooked and pasteurized to help kill harmful bacteria before it leaves their kitchen. Also, all meats that are used to make Freshpet fresh food come from North America. Their food is made in Pennsylvania from where it’s shipped to different refrigeration points. You can also get it on Amazon.
Freshpet Fresh Dog Food Menu
Generally, Freshpet dog food has high amounts of protein. This may be ideal for a majority of the dogs, however, you may want to consult a vet first if your pet has kidney problems.
- Freshpet dog food is made from vegetables and other ingredients including chicken liver, peas, brown rice, eggs, rice bran, vitamin B12 supplement, Riboflavin, vitamin d3, and other ingredients.
- The food has all the necessary minerals and vitamins that your animal would need to be healthy
Freshpet fresh dog food is never frozen when manufacturing and transporting it. However, when you get it home, you can freeze it if you need it to last longer without spoiling. When it thaws, the food may present in different colors or even consistency, however, it still maintains its nutritional value.
Pricing: How much does Freshpet cost?
The price of Freshpet meals varies depending on the style of pet food you want. The rolls of fresh dog food are the most affordable option. We’ve seen rolls available for as low as $6.49.
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Farmer’s Dog vs Spot & Tango vs Freshpet - Comparison Chart
Fresh Dog Food Subscription Features
|Personalized, pre-proportioned meals||Yes||Yes||No|
|Ships Directly to Doorstep||Yes||Yes||No|
|Vet-Formulated to meet AAFCO and USDA standards||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Transition Topper plan||No||Yes||No|
|Offers Cat food?||No||No||Yes|
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The Verdict: Do we recommend Freshpet, The Farmer’s Dog or Spot & Tango?
If you’re looking for a way for your dog to get healthier meals, or if you want to help your little furred friend deal with an allergy, a chronic digestive condition, or a recent weight gain, fresh food from Freshpet, The Farmer’s Dog or Spot & Tango are all great options. You can easily just start with Freshpet, which you’ll find in most major grocery stores — and online at Amazon. But if you want customized plans catered specifically for your pooch, The Farmer’s Dog or Spot & Tango have an edge. With 50% off your first box, The Farmer’s Dog seems like the best place to get started.
Remember that ultimately, in a perfect world, the choice would be Fido’s. We realize that fresh dog food is a luxury, and that despite it’s higher price tag, it doesn’t sit well with all dogs. Although there’s good reason to believe fresh foods offer more long-term benefits over kibble, we recommend giving fresh food a shot and letting your pup’s taste and energy levels guide you.