A unique refrigerated pet food that is revolutionizing the industry. Freshpet provides good quality nutrition, a high meat content and a track record of quality.
Is Freshpet a good cat food brand?
The concept behind Freshpet is a pet food that is processed like human food, not pet food. The brand new refrigerated concept allows for highly digestible and palatable cat food. This lets your cat get the maximum nutrition from their food.
The company has higher quality standards than the average pet food manufacturer. They do not outsource the manufacturing of their foods, as the unique production methods are proprietary. This allows for them to keep a very close eye on ingredient sourcing and food safety. Freshpet has never had a recall. However, there have been batches in 2015/2016 with mold issues that likely should have had a recall issued. Still keep in mind that Freshpet may not be to blame. The idea of refrigerated pet food is still a relatively new concept and there is potential that it was mishandled after leaving the manufacturing facility.
The nutrition of this food is good quality too. The company invests heavily in R&D staff and animal nutrition experts in order to produce the best food possible. The diets are formulated with a high meat content, well controlled phosphorus levels, and low carbohydrate content. Ingredients are of high quality, with foods always being free of by-products or gluten meals.
Our main criticism of Freshpet is that they do not offer a wide variety of cat food recipes. All of their recipes include chicken and have very similar formulations. To be clear this is a minor criticism, but Freshpet may not work for cats with specific food sensitivities, kidney disease or other dietary concerns. On a positive note to this review, Freshpet’s cat foods come in a variety of textures that will help appeal to picky eaters.
Who Makes Freshpet?
Freshpet was cofounded in 2006 by Scott Morris with a mission to make a new kind of pet food. The refrigerated pet food has been a huge hit and the company grew rapidly. Freshpet is based in New Jersey and has been publicly traded since 2014. As of 2020 Scott Morris is still involved in the company as President and COO.
Company Know How
Freshpet has an in-house research and development department which is headed by a veterinarian who also holds a PhD in food science. They also hold an outside nutrition council which contains two veterinary nutritionists, one regular veterinarian and a PhD animal nutritionist.
Overall Freshpet maintains an impressive staff with backgrounds in food science and animal nutrition. They manufacture their foods in-house and continue to strive for improved production methods. It is clear that Freshpet invests in having great employees who really know what they are doing.
Freshpet also conducts non-invasive trials on their food. These include digestibility trials. Digestibility trials are critical for understanding the nutritional value of a pet food, but are very often skipped by pet food companies. However, these digestibility trials are only on their dog foods. The only testing done on cat foods is palatability. There are no studies on nutritional adequacy or urine pH, which are critical tests for cats. This leaves consumers’ cats as the testing ground for issues such as bladder stones or nutrient deficiencies.
Freshpet began as a healthy alternative to traditional canned or kibble pet food. They believe in “fresh, whole ingredients, gently cooked without preservatives, and kept in the fridge where meat belongs.”
It can be extremely difficult to get a new manufacturing process off the ground in the pet food industry, but Freshpet has clearly succeeded without compromise. Considering the founder is still closely involved in the company, it seems clear that the company is still in touch with its initial values.
Because the company is publicly traded, transcripts of board meetings are easily found online. Reading through these, it is clear that the Freshpet team is really passionate about their company and strives to have high standards.
With the exception of treats, Freshpet makes all of their food in-house. They have two facilities located in Pennsylvania with a third facility located in Ennis TX currently being built. Their manufacturing processes are unique and proprietary, making co-packing or outsourcing manufacturing nearly impossible. Ingredients are primarily from the US and Canada, with some vitamins and minerals coming from overseas. However, no ingredients come from China.
As far as our research has found Freshpet has never had a pet food recall. However, in 2015 and 2016 there were numerous consumer complaints about mold in their products. It appears that Freshpet typically blames mold issues on retails sites such as grocery stores mishandling their foods, but they also claimed in 2015 that they are looking into issues at their production facilities.
Given that refrigerated pet food is still a new concept to many people, it is possible that being improperly refrigerated before being stocked into coolers is a common occurrence. Obviously this is not the fault of Freshpet, but is an issue pet owners should be aware of.
Overall Freshpet foods appear to have good quality. Reinventing the whole pet food manufacturing process is not an easy task. Despite some mold hiccups, Freshpet has a very good track record. Their robust food scientist and R&D staff likely go a long way in ensuring their products are safe and healthy.
Clean Label Project
The Clean Label Project is a charity that tests pet food for contaminants such as heavy metals and acrylamide. They have tested two Freshpet foods, Chicken and Ocean Whitefish Recipe with Carrots and Chicken and Ocean Whitefish with Garden Vegetables. These both received a 1 star rating, but this is very common for fish flavored cat food due to the high levels of contamination in our oceans.
When emailed with questions, Freshpet is very open and transparent about their company. They are quick to reply with intelligent answers. Nutritional information, including micronutrients such as copper and zinc, is available through email. Their website lacks much nutritional information, but it includes a ton of other information about the company and the foods.
Additionally, being a publicly traded company has forced Freshpet to be relatively transparent with the inner workings of the company. The average consumer has access to a lot more information than they do with most pet food companies.
What Foods Does Freshpet Make?
Freshpet has three product lines for cats: Freshpet Select, Vital and Nature’s Fresh. Foods are available in a summer sausage texture, a moist kibble texture and a pieces in gravy texture. In total they offer ten varieties of cat food.
Freshpet Nutrition Review
The main ingredient across most of Freshpet’s foods is chicken along with chicken liver and chicken broth. Although there are beef and fish food flavors, these recipes still include a large amount of chicken. The foods are primarily chicken along with other meats. This is of great nutritional value, as the food has a high meat content.
Eggs also add to the “meat” content of Freshpet foods, but are likely included in the formulas for vitamins, healthy fats, and texture too.
Carrots and spinach are found in many Freshpet recipes. These wholesome ingredients provide vitamins as well as fiber. Pea fiber is another source of more cost-effective fiber included in the food which may also play a role in the texture.
Pea protein also is a common ingredient used by Freshpet. It is unclear as to exactly why pea protein has been used in the formulas, because the food already has a relatively high meat/protein content and pea protein is low on the ingredient list. It is possible that this ingredient helps enhance the texture of the food without adding carbohydrates.
The minerals used by Freshpet are of the high-end chelated variety. These include iron proteinate, zinc proteinate etc. Proteinates are a type of chelated mineral and are readily used by the body and are the ideal kind of minerals to see on an ingredient list.
The average dry matter protein content of Freshpet’s foods sits right around 50%, while the dry matter fat content is about 25%. The average dry matter carbohydrate content ranges from 8% to 12%.
Overall these nutrients indicate a very high meat content in the food and that the meat has a reasonable fat content. The carbohydrate content would be considered relatively good by canned cat food standards and extremely low/good by dry cat food standards. Overall these nutrients are well balanced and represent close to the diet cats have evolved to eat.
The phosphorus content of Freshpet foods ranges from 1.2% to 1.7% on a dry matter basis. The phosphorus levels appear to be well controlled in the formulas, with most sitting near 1.3%. For the majority of cats, phosphorus levels in this range are healthy. Ideally we look for cat foods with closer to 1% phosphorus on a dry matter basis, but Freshpet is well in the acceptable phosphorus range.
Formulas include ocean whitefish or fish oil as an ingredient, which is extremely important to see as a source of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Although nutritionally necessary, there is no legal requirement to include omega-3 fatty acids in adult cat food. It is critically important to see that cat foods are formulated with fish oil or some fish content to ensure that these nutrients are available to your cat.