Best Fresh Dog Food : Tested & Reviewed
Updated: 3 days ago
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Every dog lover wants to feed their dog the best food they can afford. Given the choice, if we all had the time and knowledge we'd probably all choose to feed our dogs the ultimate in canine cuisine - home-cooked food.
It would be super fresh, contain more nutrients than most commercial dog food, we could tailor it to our dog's individual needs and if we cooked in bulk would probably be considerably cheaper than many off-the-shelf dog foods.
Unfortunately, there's no getting away from the fact that it's incredibly time-consuming and more importantly, we would need in-depth knowledge about canine nutrition in order to prepare a balanced diet for our dogs.
Luckily there is an alternative that gives you all the benefits of home-cooked food without the inevitable challenges - fresh dog food.
Fresh dog food appeals not only to those dogs with sensitive tummies and allergies but busy dog lovers who want high quality dog food with stress-free home delivery.
Additionally, because fresh dog food is cooked, there are no hygiene concerns that you may have over feeding raw dog foods.
We take a closer look at 4 ground-breaking companies that offer a subscription service delivering fresh meals to your door.
These meals are made with human-grade ingredients, have exceptionally high nutritional ratings and are tailored to your dog's specific dietary needs.
Read on for reasons to consider this type of dog food, followed by our top picks of the best fresh dog food you can buy in 2023.
Why Consider Fresh Dog Food ?
Fresh, cooked dog food is rated amongst some of the most nutritious dog food on the market. Often more palatable to dogs than traditional dry or wet food it's ideal to entice fussy dogs to eat a healthy diet.
Whilst admittedly, it can be more expensive than kibble or some wet foods, many dog lovers believe that the benefits of a fresh, cooked diet far outweigh the cost. You only need to read the rave reviews and testimonials to find masses of customers extolling the virtues of this dog diet.
The companies involved offer personalised plans with meals customised for your dog's weight, breed, activity level, age and allergies.
Ultimately, it's super convenient, all the companies we feature deliver direct to your door. So no more hauling 12kg bags of kibble from the car.
Our Picks of the Best Fresh Dog Food
Reasons to Buy :
+ No fridge or freezer storage concerns
+ Additional Superfood Supplement
+ Tailored to breed and life-stage
Reasons to Avoid :
- Only 5 recipes
Behind the Brand: NEW UK fresh dog food brand
Range: Ex Luxury Yacht Head Chef & Veterinary Clinical Nutrition Specialist designed dog food
Variety: 5 recipes plus a range designed specifically for puppies
Years.com are relative newcomers to dog food. At the time of writing, Years.com are only 5 months old but have already made waves in a very crowded dog food market.
All their meals are created by a fine dining expert and ex-luxury Yacht Head Chef, alongside a Specialist in Veterinary Clinical Nutrition and all reviewed by their Board-Certified Vet Nutritionalist.
If fact their recipes are the best ever rated fresh, whole-food meals on the independent advice site AADF - All About Dog Food at a whopping 96%.
They currently offer a range of 5 recipes all including a high variety of ingredients (over 20 per recipe) with vegetables, seeds, fruit, herbs and botanicals. It's worth noting that all recipes are grain and legume free, which is great for dogs suffering from intolerance.
In addition to taking into account your dog's breed, ailments, allergies and activity levels, Years.com alter the balance of nutrients in their meals to take account your dog's life stage. They also offer a range designed for puppies with puppy specific micronutrients and a unique puppy botanical blend.
However, the biggest difference between Years.com and their rivals (for me) is storage. Whereas their rivals require freezing and refrigeration which can lead to storage issue for dog lovers, Years.com can be stored in your cupboard.
It's all down to the way their food is cooked NOT the addition of preservatives. Uniquely designed trays with steam vessels, reduce the cooking time and temperature required, so the food is minimally processed.
Their cooking process means that you can store Years.com in your cupboard for up to 3 months. It only needs to be popped in the fridge once opened. This is a massive plus for anyone with a relatively small fridge/freezer.
Years.com provide 'Stay Fresh' lids with your first order to help keep those opened trays fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge. This was the only flaw we could find in an otherwise exceptional offer. The lids didn't fit well and seemed too flimsy to provide a secure seal.
Admittedly this is a flaw rather than a deal breaker and easily solved by decanting or simply using cling film.
Oh, and there's the Superfood Supplement to accompany your dog's meals. Tailored to your dog's breed (to address common ailments) it also contains a blend of probiotics and prebiotics to support healthy gut flora.
We were certainly impressed by the look and aroma of their fresh dog food. You can clearly see the range of ingredients and the food looked chunky and appetising, unlike the usual 'pate' look of wet dog foods.
Years don't simply use human-grade meats but insist on using human cuts of meat such as chicken thigh, salmon fillet and matured steak. Certainly sounds more appetising than meat meals or animal derivatives !
You have the choice of a 2,4 & 8 week plan or you can dip your toe in the water with their great value 7 day trial box.
Clearly long term, the 8 week plan works out the best value for money. The menu is personalised for each dog but generally small dog (6kg) plans are around £1.98, medium (12kg) £2.61 and large (26kg) from £3.75 a day.
We feel that their pricing is clear and straightforward, detailing both daily and monthly costs including delivery.
Our Verdict - All of the above means that if you're looking for a highly nutritious dog food, with the largest ingredient diversity we have seen, that is also good value and tailored to your dog, Years.com could be for you. Especially if you are concerned about freezer storage, we'd recommend considering Years.com.
You can try Years.com from just £3 for a 7 day transition trial
Enter discount code SMARTBARK for free delivery on any order
If you would like any further information, why not read our deep dive review - Years.com Dog Food Review: A Complete Nutrition System
2. Different Dog
Reasons to Buy :
+ Option as a topper
+ Starter boxes available
+ Money off 1st box
Reasons to Avoid :
- If you have limited freezer space
Behind the Brand: Established UK fresh dog food brand
Range: Canine Nutritionalist designed fresh food plus treats, bone broths and supplements
Variety: 13 recipes including a range designed to support common health conditions
Different Dog are a leading fresh brand and definitely a key part of the dog food revolution.
After working in the pet industry for four years, husband and wife Charlie and Alex Thurstan decided to start creating their own dog food and Different Dog was born.
The company has gone from strength to strength and now has 1642 Trustpilot 5 ⭐️ reviews.
With an 'All About Dog Food' nutritional rating of an exceptionally high 90 –93% (recipe dependent), you'll struggle to find a more nutritious dog food on the UK market.
Of course, the first thing to say about Different Dog is that their premium dog food is hand-cooked following nutritionalist designed recipes. Their recipes are grain free and contain at least 60% meat with seasonal fruit, vegetables and superfoods added.
The ingredients, sourced locally from British suppliers where possible, are then cooked gently before being frozen for delivery.
It doesn't stop there. Their recipes only include high-quality cuts of British meat, no cheaper fillers and we love that their packaging is eco-friendly and compostable.
In fact, they are so sure that your dog will love their food that they offer your money back if the bowl isn't licked clean !
Offering an online subscription service, we found their short on-line quiz straightforward and Different Dog use all that information to offer home cooked recipes to suit your dog
Delivered directly to your door, all you need to do is defrost each meal and dish up either direct from your fridge or it can be gently warmed to release the aromas.
In testing, we were astonished by just how appetising the Different Dog recipes looked. You can easily identify key ingredients within the dish and to be honest each meal looks fit to serve up to the family as well as the dog.
Once defrosted, their fresh food lasts up to five days in the fridge, so each meal could easily be portioned and used as a topper for several meals.
Out of all the fresh foods we reviewed, we found that Different Dog had the only packaging that was easy to reseal - so no need to decant.
Different Dog is not the cheapest dog food on the market, and there's always a price to pay for quality nutrition. However, you could consider using it as a topper reduces the daily price significantly whilst improving the nutritional value of your dog's meal.
We love this budget-friendly idea as not everyone can afford to feed their dog solely on fresh delivered dog food.
The menu is personalised for each dog but generally if you chose to feed your dog exclusively on Different Dog, small dog (6kg) plans are around £2.20, medium (12kg) £3.30 and large (26kg) from £5.28 a day. Clearly using Different Dog as a topper, will reduce this price significantly.
It's worth mentioning that Different Dog have a recently extended range of dog treats, broths and supplements.
Our Verdict - The bottom line is that if you're looking for a top-quality fresh dog food, from a company with years of experience, personalised to suit your dog and delivered to your door, then we'd suggest taking a closer look at Different Dog.
For 35% OFF your first two boxes
Use discount code SMARTBARK35
If you would like any further information, why not read our deep dive article - Different Dog Food Review
Reasons to Buy :
+ More sustainable option
+ Two week money-saving trial available
+ Small weekly deliveries available
Reasons to Avoid :
- Limited range of 4 recipes
Behind the Brand: First UK insect-based fresh dog food brand
Range: UK veterinary nutritionist developed fresh food menu
Variety: 4 recipes
Launched in 2022, Tuggs are the first insect-based fresh dog food on the UK market.
A highly innovative dog food company, award-winning startup Tuggs offer nutritious dog food using a combination of meat, vegetables and insects to offer a more sustainable alternative to more traditional dog foods.
Tuggs is establishing itself in the fresh dog food market and serves tens of thousands of dog meals across the UK every month.
With an 'All About Dog Food' nutritional rating of an exceptionally high 90%, all their recipes are high in protein and free from grains, legumes and other nasties like artificial preservatives. In fact all their recipes contain at least 65% meat and insects.
OK, so lets discuss those insects !
From both a nutritional and environmental point of view, insect-based dog foods are well placed to lead the dog food industry. Amazingly, insects are exceptionally high in protein with essential amino acids as well as important minerals, making insects nutritionally comparable with meat and fish. Environmentally, insect farming is significantly less demanding on the environment compared to traditional meats: it uses less water, needs less land and generates fewer greenhouse gases. Why is this important ? Well a scientific study estimates that pets account for 20% of global meat and fish consumption. I know - mind-blowing !
We love that Tuggs are offering a blend of insect and meat protein, as for many dog-lovers this could be their first foray into the world of insect-based dog foods.
If you're thinking that you'll see insects in the food then you're going to be disappointed. The food looks just like other fresh or raw dog foods.
As with the other dog foods featured in our review, Tuggs offer an on-line subscription service. Their questionnaire is quick and painless, with standard questions regarding age, breed, activity levels, allergies etc.
Delivered frozen, we particularly liked the flexibility of the delivery schedule. Small freezer? No problem, you can request small weekly deliveries. In fact you can select the frequency of your delivery from 1–6 weeks.
Admittedly, we were initially underwhelmed by the vacuum packeted pouches let's be honest, Different Dog's packaging is much smarter. However, as soon as the food was transferred to the freezer, the benefit of this type of packaging was obvious.
We managed to pack 3 times as many meals in the same space. This is great news for dog-lovers with limited freezer space. In fact the only flaw we could find with the Tuggs offer was the limited selection of only 4 recipes.
Simply defrost the pouches as you need them ( Tuggs suggest 24 hours to fully defrost in the fridge). Once defrosted, their fresh food needs to be used within 2 days of opening.
In terms of the overall look of the food, we felt it had more of a pate consistency than some of the other foods tested so the ingredients were harder to identify.
Also, it's worth mentioning that unless you are feeding the exact amount in a bag, you will need to decant partly used bags into a container for the fridge.
Lets talk cost. Tuggs is the cheapest dog food in this review so if you're looking for the best value dog food, Tuggs would be a great choice.
They also offer a two week money saving trial. This is a great opportunity to check that your dog loves the food but it also lets you check how much dog food you can store in your freezer. The more you can store = less deliveries = cheaper per day.
You could opt to feed your pup a complete diet of Tuggs or choose half-and-half by mixing it with your current dog food to keep the cost down.
The menu is personalised for each dog but generally if you chose to feed your dog exclusively on Tuggs, small dog (5kg) plans are around £1.50, medium (15kg) £2.50 and large (30kg) from £3.50 a day. Of course we'd recommend taking the on-line questionnaire to get a more accurate price for your dog.
Our Verdict - Ultimately, if you are looking to reduce your carbon pawprint whilst offering your four-legged friend highly nutritious dog food at a great price, then then we'd suggest taking a closer look at Tuggs. We particularly liked the flexibility of the deliveries, small order options and of course those planet saving insects.
For 50% OFF on your first order, enter discount code SMARTBARK50 at checkout
4. Butternut Box
Reasons to Buy :
+ Individually packed
+ Money off 1st box
+ Offer one-stop shop for food, treats etc
Reasons to Avoid :
- Fridge/freezer storage considerations
Behind the Brand: Popular UK fresh dog food brand
Range: Fresh food, range of treats, dental sticks, broth, biscuits and poo bags
Variety: 12 recipes including vegetarian and plant-based options
Let's be honest, no article discussing the best fresh dog foods would be complete without a nod to probably the best known fresh dog food brand - Butternut Box.
Established way back in 2016, they now deliver over eight million meals to dogs in the UK. There are some very happy dogs out there!
Dog lovers everywhere adore the product with the company enjoying amazing customer retention and rave reviews.
Their food is fresh, delivered, customised and nutritious so let's take a look at why we think they are one of the best dog foods on the UK market today.
Butternut Box uses a comprehensive online quiz to tailor one of their meal plans specifically to your dog. Requesting information such as your dog's sex, age, breed, allergies and any health issues, Butternut Box identify the most suitable recipes.
When we tested their ordering system we were offered a range of custom recipes and recommended to select several to offer some variety in our dog's diet.
All the recipes in their range achieve an average 'AllAboutDogFood' rating of 87%, which means they are not as high as Years.com and Different Dog, but Butternut Box is still a quality, nutritious dog food in the UK's massive dog food market.
Butternut Box is perfect if you like the easy life, as each fresh, pre-cooked meal is made in the UK then portioned before arriving at your door. Simply dish it up!
Each meal is individually packaged, which makes meal prep and storage easier and less messy overall.
Specially developed by nutritionists and vets, the meals are hypoallergenic with no added nasties. You don't need to worry about grain, soya, sugar or salt creeping in.
If your dog is prone to sore or itchy skin then opting for a hypoallergenic diet could be the answer.
Each meal is carefully balanced using human quality meat as well as vegetables and lentils then gently cooked before being packed and delivered to you frozen.
It's absolutely crucial to bear in mind your available storage when opting for a delivery schedule. Butternut Box will need to be kept frozen and defrosted in the fridge when needed.
Their recently expanded menu for 2023 includes some old favourites including beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, fish and pork and three interesting new recipes - Duo of Duck & Chicken, You've Got Game (venison with wild boar and guinea fowl) and Ready Steady Veggie.
We love the extended range as it helps dog lovers with picky eaters rotate recipes every week, making it much easier to entice those fussy dog with new flavours.
Butternut Box helpfully offer a 2 week introductory plan so you can transition your pup from their existing food slowly to avoid tummy upsets. You can also make sure that your dog enjoys the food before committing too much cash up front.
The menu is personalised for each dog but generally small dog plans start from around £1.31, medium from £2.66 and large from £3.92 a day.
Their pricing is clear and it's easy to understand exactly what your costs will be going forwards.
You have three options when ordering. You can save money by ordering larger quantities but remember you will need freezer space. Alternatively, if you have limited freezer space, you can order less but this increases the daily price.
Our Verdict - In a nutshell, Butternut Box offer a subscription service that delivers fresh, pre-portioned meals to your door. Butternut Box ticks all the boxes for fresh, nutritious, delivered and personalised dog food.
Butternut Box are offering Smart Bark readers 25% off their first box.
To take advantage of this offer, click on the link below.
Ultimately, all four fresh dog foods we feature offer tailored dog food at the top of the nutritional scale. If your dog suffers from allergies or a sensitive stomach they are an ideal option.
We'd recommend that you take each brand's on-line questionnaire to get a more accurate picture of the pricing, recipes and delivery timescales for your dog.
And please remember that it's really important to transition to a new food gradually. Take your time, we recommend over seven to ten days, slowly increasing the amount of new food whilst reducing the old food. This will allow time for your dog's digestive system to adapt to the new food.
How We Choose
We decided to start off our hunt for the best fresh dog food by analysing top-selling brands and exploring a whole range of popular and new companies that we felt had the best all-round offer for dog lovers.
The options were then filtered following discussions with each company, deep dives into third-party reviews, and comparison of each site’s pricing model, recipes, storage options and delivery preferences.
From our shortlist, we made sure we (and our team of Canine Testers), had tested the brands featured to check all claims and add some 'real world' feedback.
Almost all our products are sent to us by the companies involved and almost always as a result of our request. We only review the products we think are worth reviewing.
We think that the companies we mention are great options for anyone who’s interested in feeding their dog fresh pet food.
Thanks for stopping by and reading our article on the Best Fresh Dog Food available in the UK for 2023.