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Is Fresh Food Better?

The U.S. pet food market reached $33 billion in 2018, so what you feed your dog or cat has become big business — and the latest trend is fresh pet food. This large number shouldn’t come as a surprise, as 95 percent of pet owners in the United States consider their pet to be a part of the family, and 85 percent believe they can extend the lives of their pets based on the foods they feed them.

Fresh pet food makers offer human-grade food made with higher-quality ingredients that some claim has the potential to extend the life of your fur child. But is it playing on the owner’s emotions to gain market share in this lucrative business, or does it offer genuine value for your pet’s health? 

The short answer is yes to both. While fresh food is great for your pet, companies do cater to the owner when it comes to packaging. Fresh food is the future of pet feeding. Ironically, it’s where we started. That’s how animals were fed in the 1920s, with table scraps. Now pets can get portion control fresh, natural, quality food. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeding your pet kibble.

What are the potential downsides? Just as with higher-quality human food, fresh pet food is more expensive. However, fresh food can also be a great way to supplement quality traditional pet kibble, rather than the exclusive focus of your pet’s diet. The naturally occurring nutrients and other advantages of fresh pet food are beneficial even in smaller portions. It also is not a replacement for prescription food or other medications recommended by your pet’s veterinarian.

There are additional potential benefits of fresh pet food:

• You may not need supplements if you are feeding fresh food, because the essential nutrients are all in the food.

• Many makers offer specific formulations for common pet health issues, such as joint and skin support or neoplasia.

• Small-batch fresh food may offer greater quality control.

• Fresh food can be purchased fresh thawed or fresh frozen, with frozen food lasting up to a year, thereby minimizing the risk of waste.

• Pre-portioned food is specifically designed for your dog’s age, breed, and weight and reduces the risk of obesity.

• Some fresh pet food makers offer shelf-stable fresh-food options perfect for traveling with your pet without making changes to their diet.

Dr. Gary Weitzman is president of the San Diego Humane Society,, and author of The Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness (National Geographic, 2019, 400 pp., $24.99). He has a rescue dog named Betty.

Gary Weitzman, Jake and Betty-FULL RES

Dr. Gary Weitzman likes fresh food but isn’t opposed to kibble either. 

Are you a San Francisco Bay Area veterinarian who would like to write an article for the Ask Dr. Dog column, which is authored by guest veterinarians practicing in the Bay Area? Bay Woof is accepting submissions. Send email to

Main article photo by: Weitzman photo courtesy San Diego Humane Society