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Author Jessica White
Jessica White
Updated on Apr 9th, 2024
Fact checked by Emma Vince

Kibble vs Fresh 2024: Which Dog Food Is Best?

Choosing between kibble and fresh dog food can be challenging. As a dog owner, you understand the importance of your furry friend's diet, but the variety of options can be overwhelming. Kibble has been a traditional choice for years. However, fresh dog food is gaining popularity for its use of whole, natural ingredients.

I’ve thoroughly researched both kibble and fresh dog food options. I've delved into the benefits and drawbacks of each type. You'll find that kibble often boasts a longer shelf life and affordability, whereas fresh dog food emphasizes nutritional value and taste appeal.

The Pets Table stands out as a unique option for dog food. It offers fresh and air-dried alternatives that cater to the diverse needs of dogs. By the end of this exploration, you'll have a clearer understanding of which option might be the best fit for your dog's health and happiness.

Kibble vs Fresh: Key Points

Kibble

Fresh

Easy to store

High nutrient content

Supports dental health

Easy to digest

An affordable option

Customizable recipes

What Is Kibble?

Kibble is a widely recognized form of dry dog food. Made from a mix of meats, grains, vegetables, and fruits, it's designed to provide a complete diet in an easy-to-serve form. Its long shelf life and convenience make kibble a popular choice among dog owners.

Image of a packet of The Pets Table's air-dried beef recipe with the food displayed on a plate surrounded by fresh ingredients

The production process of kibble is systematic. Raw ingredients are ground, mixed, and cooked through a process called extrusion, which shapes the mixture into bite-sized pieces. After drying, these pieces are flavored, resulting in the nutritious pellets known as kibble.

The Pros of Kibble 

Kibble is a popular choice for many dog owners. It offers a range of advantages that cater to both the nutritional needs of dogs and the convenience factors important to their owners.

Image of a bowl of Ollie's baked Chicken recipe

Here are some key benefits of kibble that make it a favorable choice in the dog food market:

  • Long shelf life: Kibble can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, making it a convenient option for dog owners.

  • Cost-effective: Generally, kibble is more affordable than fresh or wet food options, providing a budget-friendly choice.

  • Dental benefits: The crunchy texture of kibble helps in reducing plaque and tartar buildup on your dog's teeth.

  • Ease of portion control: Measuring and controlling portions with kibble is straightforward, aiding in maintaining your dog's ideal weight.

  • Variety and availability: There's a wide range of kibble available, catering to different dietary needs and preferences.

  • Low mess and convenience: Kibble is easy to handle, store, and serve, with minimal mess compared to wet food options.

The Cons of Kibble

Understanding the limitations of kibble can help you make a more informed decision. It’s important to cater to your dog's dietary needs. Though convenient and cost-effective, kibble does have certain aspects that might not suit all dogs or their owners' preferences.

Image of a dog eating a bowl of Spot & Tango's UnKibble

Some of the cons you might find with kibble:

  • Limited freshness: Kibble's long shelf life often means it lacks the freshness of whole, natural foods, which can be more appealing and nutritious for some dogs.

  • Preservatives and additives: To ensure its long shelf life, kibble often contains preservatives and additives, which might not be ideal for all dogs, especially those with sensitivities or allergies.

  • Lower moisture content: Kibble is significantly lower in moisture compared to wet or fresh foods, which can be a concern for dogs needing higher hydration levels in their diet.

  • Processing reduces nutrients: The high-temperature processing required to make kibble can diminish the nutritional value of its ingredients compared to less processed or fresh food options.

  • Potential for grain and filler ingredients: Some kibble brands include grains or fillers that provide less nutritional value and might not be suitable for dogs with grain allergies or sensitivities.

  • One-size-fits-all formula: Kibble often lacks the customization that some dogs might require based on their specific health conditions, age, or breed-specific dietary needs.

What Is Fresh Food?

Fresh dog food is made from minimally processed, whole ingredients. It offers a nutrient-rich diet similar to what dogs might eat in the wild, focusing on natural meats, vegetables, and grains. Increasingly popular, this food type is prepared in small batches and is often refrigerated or frozen.

Image of The Pets Table's Fresh Chicken Casserole recipe in a pack and served on a plate surrounded by fresh ingredients

The preparation of fresh dog food prioritizes nutritional value. The use of human-grade ingredients ensures quality and safety, preserving essential nutrients. This method supports dogs' health and caters to specific dietary needs, making it a suitable choice for a customized diet.

The Pros of Fresh Food 

Fresh dog food has become increasingly popular among pet owners. It offers a range of benefits stemming from its use of high-quality, wholesome, fresh ingredients. It’s designed to provide optimal nutrition and cater to the specific health needs of dogs.

Image of a person about to serve a bowl of fresh food to their 2 sitting dogs

Here are some of the key advantages:

  • High nutritional value: Fresh dog food is often richer in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals due to minimal processing.

  • Quality ingredients: Made with human-grade ingredients, it typically offers higher quality and safety standards.

  • Better digestibility: Fresh food can be easier for dogs to digest, making it ideal for pets with sensitive stomachs.

  • Customizable meals: Many fresh food providers offer customized meal plans tailored to a dog's specific dietary needs, age, and health conditions.

  • Improved palatability: The freshness and variety of ingredients can make these meals more appealing to dogs, enhancing their eating experience.

  • No artificial preservatives: Fresh dog food usually lacks artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors found in some kibbles.

  • Supports overall health: Regular consumption of fresh, high-quality food can contribute to a healthier coat, increased energy levels, and overall better health.

The Cons of Fresh Food

Fresh food is often an excellent choice for many dogs. However, fresh food may not be the ideal solution for every pet or pet owner. Understanding these limitations can help you make a well-informed decision about your dog's diet.

Image of chopped vegetables next to a knife

Some points to consider associated with fresh dog food:

  • Higher cost: Fresh dog food is typically more expensive than kibble or canned food, which might not be feasible for all budgets.

  • Shorter shelf life: Without preservatives, fresh food has a limited shelf life and requires refrigeration, demanding more mindful storage and planning.

  • Inconvenience: Preparing or storing fresh dog food can be less convenient compared to the ease of serving kibble.

  • Limited availability: Not all regions or stores offer a wide variety of fresh dog food options, which can be a barrier for some owners.

  • Requires more space: Refrigeration or freezing means fresh dog food takes up more space than dry food, which could be a problem for those with limited storage.

  • Risk of dietary imbalances: Without proper knowledge or guidance, homemade fresh diets can risk nutritional imbalances, unlike commercially prepared kibble, which is often nutritionally complete.

Kibble vs. Fresh: Special Considerations

When comparing kibble and fresh dog food, it's essential to factor in your dog's unique needs. Both types of food have their merits, but certain aspects like allergies, dietary requirements, and lifestyle should influence your decision.

It’s important to consider the following points. Always switch your dog’s food gradually to avoid any digestive upset.

Allergies and Dietary Needs

Dogs, like humans, can have allergies and specific dietary requirements. Kibble can contain grains or additives that some dogs are allergic to, while fresh food often offers a more natural ingredient list that might be better for sensitive dogs. However, the right choice heavily depends on your dog's specific needs.

Veterinary Consultation

Regardless of your preference, consulting with your vet is crucial. They can provide tailored advice based on your dog’s health history and nutritional needs. This step is especially important if your dog has specific health issues that diet can influence.

Accessibility of Delivered Fresh Food

Companies like The Pets Table have made accessing high-quality fresh dog food easier. By delivering it straight to your door, you don’t need to worry about remembering to go to the store.

Image of a dog jumping excitedly as the owner holds The Pets Table delivery box

This convenience can be a significant factor for busy pet owners who want to provide fresh meals without the hassle of frequent shopping or meal preparation.

Cost Considerations

Generally, fresh dog food is more expensive than kibble. While the health benefits might justify the cost, it's important to consider your budget. The higher price point of fresh food might not be feasible for all pet owners.

Trial Period

Before fully committing to either kibble or fresh food, consider having a trial period. Observe how your dog reacts to the food in terms of palatability, digestion, energy levels, and overall health.

Image of The Farmer's Dog food being poured into a bowl while a dog watches expectantly

Some dogs might prefer the taste and texture of fresh food, while others are content with kibble. You could also try mixing kibble and fresh food to provide a variety of textures and switch up their mealtimes.

Kibble vs. Fresh: Health and Nutrition

Considering the nutritional content and health benefits of your dog's food is essential. A well-balanced diet isn’t just about satisfying hunger; it also plays a crucial role in your pet's physical well-being, longevity, and quality of life.

Nutritional Needs of Dogs

The foundation of a dog's health lies in its diet. Dogs, much like humans, require a balanced blend of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals to thrive. The nutritional needs of dogs can be complex, varying with their age, breed, activity level, and health status.

Image of The Pets Table's air-dried Chicken and Sweet Potato recipe surrounded by its fresh ingredients

While kibble meets basic nutrition standards, it often lacks freshness. The Pets Table's air-dried food provides a solution, combining the convenience of kibble with the nutritional benefits of fresh ingredients. This method preserves more natural nutrients, offering a tastier, healthier alternative for your dog's diet.

Impact on Health and Vet Bills

The quality of food directly influences your dog's overall health. High-quality, nutrient-rich food can enhance your dog's immune system, maintain a healthy weight, and promote a shiny coat. This holistic approach to health can lead to fewer vet visits and lower long-term healthcare costs.

Image of a bowl of Nom Nom's Turkey Fare recipe surrounded with fresh ingredients

Kibble may lack comprehensive nutrition, often containing fillers and artificial ingredients. Nom Nom, however, prioritizes your dog's digestive health by offering customized fresh food and tailored supplements. This approach not only ensures a diet of natural ingredients but also targets gut health, which is essential for preventing chronic illnesses and allergies.

Tailoring to Life Stages and Activity Levels

Dogs' nutritional needs evolve with age and activity. Puppies, adult dogs, and seniors have different dietary requirements. For instance, puppies need more calories and specific nutrients for growth, while senior dogs may need fewer calories and more joint-supporting ingredients.

image of a bowl of The Farmer's Dog dog food split in half with fresh ingredients on one side and the fresh recipe on the other

Active dogs also have different energy needs compared to more sedentary pets. This is where personalized meal plans like those from The Farmer’s Dog come in. It considers these variables, ensuring that your dog receives a diet that's not just fresh but also customized to their life stage and lifestyle.

Kibble vs. Fresh: Top Tips to Help You Decide

When it comes to choosing between kibble and fresh dog food, several factors come into play. Here are some practical tips to help you make the best decision for your canine companion.

  • Consider your budget: If you're interested in fresh food but concerned about cost, consider using it as a topper for kibble. For instance, The Pets Table offers a half fresh meal plan that allows you to blend the benefits of both fresh and dry food, making it more budget-friendly while still enhancing your dog's diet.

  • Mix and match diets: Don't feel restricted to 1 type of food. Brands like Ollie provide a variety of fresh and baked recipes. This flexibility lets you mix and match different food types to find the perfect combination that suits your dog's taste and nutritional needs.

  • Start with trial orders: Before fully committing, it's wise to see how your dog reacts to a new diet. The Farmer's Dog offers a 2-week trial box, giving you and your pup a chance to test the meal plans and see the benefits firsthand.

  • Look for savings: Budgeting for your dog's food doesn't mean compromising on quality. Keep an eye out for discount codes and special offers, which can make premium fresh dog food more affordable. This approach helps you provide the best for your pet while staying within your financial means.

FAQ

Is kibble or fresh food better for dogs?

The best choice varies based on individual dog needs. Fresh food, like that from The Pets Table, offers high-quality, whole ingredients and is generally considered more nutritious than kibble. However, kibble, provided it’s high-quality, can still be a good choice and is more convenient for many dog owners.

Do vets recommend a fresh food diet?

Many vets recommend fresh food diets for their higher nutritional value. Fresh food diets, such as those by The Farmer's Dog, are often tailored to a dog's specific nutritional needs, potentially improving health outcomes. However, it's essential to choose a diet that's well-balanced and fits your dog's unique health profile.

What is the healthiest food to feed your dog?

The healthiest food for your dog depends on their individual needs. Brands like Ollie offer customized fresh food plans that cater to specific dietary requirements, ensuring a balanced intake of nutrients. The healthiest diet for your dog should include a balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, tailored to their age, breed, and health condition.

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We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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