Thursday, March 11, 2010

Samples - Vital from Freshpet

You might remember a few months ago I switched Theo to a new food and was touting it's magical properties of awesomeness. Or last week, when I talked about how Theo could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money (He was never that way before the food switch)? Sufficed to say, I have been very pleased with Deli Fresh, which is the "gently cooked" sausage-like slice and serve food we have been giving Theo. And I'm going to tell you more about it, and a new product I just tried.

So here's the thing. I really like this company, Freshpet, that makes Theo's food. I'm not saying they're perfect, because I'd need to be clairvoyant to know that for sure, but I like what I can see. Their website is one of the most, what I would describe as open dog food websites I've seen. It takes some hunting around all the different areas of the website, but a lot of good information is there (and well presented!). And I don't mean a bunch of buzz words spewed on a mostly empty page with a bunch of pictures of cute dogs. I mean real, quantified information on a page with a bunch of pictures of cute dogs (why would you skip a chance at pictures of cute dogs?). For instance, they say their slice and serve food is "minimally processed" and "gently cooked". Well what the heck does that mean, exactly? It means this. Not only do they tell you the thermal units used to cook the food, but they give a handy dandy comparison to typical dry and wet foods as well. It's nice to feel like I'm not just taking their word for it. They're making a claim, backing it up with their information, and letting me decide for myself. As it should be!

You know what else is great? The ingredients in these gently cooked logs. No meals, no byproducts, nothing that suggests the unsavory bits of the animal. Does this mean their "fresh chicken" doesn't come from the 4Ds? Goodness I hope so! But at least I'm getting meat and not bones and beaks and what not. Also, every ingredient that's in there has a purpose (which they explain in their philosophy pages). The grain isn't filler, it's whole grain, it's nutritious. There are ingredients to provide fiber, prebiotics, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, etc. along with the usual vitamins and minerals. Nothing too scary. As I've said in the past, when you slice into the log, you can actually smell chicken. It has the consistency of real meat, and you can see the bits of the grains and fruits and vegetables sprinkled throughout.

I'm not trying to preach that what you should feed your dog. That's up to you, and what you think is best. I'm just trying to pay it forward. A friend of mine told me about Deli Fresh, and before that, I didn't even know products like this existed. And I am just a really big fan.

Anyway, in the course of events (aka, yada yada yada), last week I ended up with free samples from Freshpet in exchange for a review on this here blog. They had posted on the Freshpet Facebook page that anyone interested in free samples of their new product with a blog should contact them. I already touted them a number of times on this blog, so why not? By the end of the week I had four 2LB logs of their new Vital line of product. The main difference between the Vital line and the Deli Fresh line is that Vital is grain free. They focus more on high protein and antioxidants. 2 of the 4 varieties are 85% protein and 10% fruits and vegetables. It says so right on the package. I guess the other 10% is the vitamins and minerals? Another is 80%/10%, and they also have an all meat variety that is 90% protein! Yeah, that's a lot.

So far I've fed Theo 3 of the 4 varieties, and here's what I found:
  • The Vital and Deli Fresh products are very similar and quality. Just like the Deli Fresh, you can smell meat, and see bits of vegetable and fruit. It looks like real food that's been squished into a log.
  • 90% protein is kind of an insane amount! I ended up with a dog that was a 90% ball of energy. On Tuesday I took Theo for our usual morning run. Usually when we get back to our house, Theo collapses on the ground while he waits for me to take off his collar. This time he stayed standing, and when his collar was off, he ran for his tennis ball for me to throw for him. That was a first. And you can tell when you slice into it that it is really almost all meat. It looks like it.
  • You can tell a lot about a dog's health by their poop, and Theo's poop has been great this week. Regular intervals, nice and solid, etc. His system obviously processed the food nicely.
  • Theo didn't experience any discomfort in the switch between products. He ate it up like any other day, no visible tummy aches.
  • Need I even bother mentioning that Theo likes the food? Of course he did. It's food, ergo, he likes it. I don't know if he even noticed a difference, since he wolfs it down just the same.

Overall I am really pleased with the Vital food. I had never fed Theo a strictly grain-free diet before, and besides the little boost in energy, I didn't notice a big difference in him (which is a good thing, I think, since he's already on a high quality food). Each of the 4 varieties is aimed at a specific dietary need for some dogs (limited ingredients, alternative protein, etc.), but since Theo doesn't have any special dietary needs, I could feed him all 4. I know a lot of people do the grain-free approach, but as long as they're whole grains, I've never had a problem with them. I don't really subscribe to the ancestral diet idea, since by that same reasoning I shouldn't drink milk or eat cheese, which are both very good for me and delicious! But let's put it this way, if Deli Fresh didn't exist, I would but Vital. I really like both products for the same reasons, I just like Deli Fresh a hair more, I just like the focus of their ingredients a little better. And I hate to say it, but Vital isn't yet carried in the big 6lb logs at my pet store. When they are there side by side (which they may be next time I go, this is a new product after all!), I'll actually probably have a hard time deciding which to buy. I probably shouldn't switch between them, but I'll be tempted!

To find where you can buy Vital near you, here is their store locator. You might be surprised to find that it's carried close to you, I know I was! Be not afraid of the refrigerated section!

I'm fully aware that it sounds like Freshpet paid me in more than just meat for an endorsement, but really they didn't (I wish! I'm going to be needing the money very soon!). I would have written this up without a free sample (though free samples help me get over my laziness, let's be honest), just because I love it so much. I actually go out of my way to buy it, since the pet store I buy every other item for Theo doesn't carry it, which reminds me, I've been meaning to ask the manager about that because I sure would love to just make one trip. I actually just sent emailed them requesting they carry it!

Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter. Feel free to chime in if you've tried any Freshpet products yourself, your take on "gently cooked" food, or whether you subscribe to the grain-free approach or not and why.


Ivy@PaperElixir said...

Wow, interesting and insightful review, thanks! This is very timely, as I'm also contemplating switching Bryson's food. He's been on Innova for a couple years and has been doing OK, but ever since he's diagnosed with Addison's, I keep hearing about benefits of a raw diet (and this brand Primal raw food). I don't know if I wanna handle raw food twice a day with a little baby around, but want to keep an open mind if it's something that's gonna make a difference in his health. With all the research you've done, what do you think about raw?

Kelly said...

ooo thanks for letting us know about the free samples. I just asked if I could still be a part of it :)

That food seems great. I was just thinking this morning about how cost effective high quality food is. One $55 bag of Gibson's food lasted us 4 months! That's less than $15 a month. It makes me sad sometimes when people don't realize how important their dog's nutrition is :(

JuLo said...

Ivy, I'm kind of a half subscriber to the raw diet. I mean, I understand that dogs didn't exactly create fire millions of years ago to cook their meat first. Their digestive tracts are specifically made to processes the bacteria in raw meat. But the whole process involved with the diet, handling raw food, all the bone meal, making sure they get enough bone stuff, and other's just not for me, personally. See, wolves didn't just eat the raw meat, they gnawed the bones and stuff too, so if you're going to simulate that diet, you have to simulate the full diet. I also haven't interacted substantially with dogs on a raw diet, so I haven't seen for myself how awesome it can be, though I've heard about it plenty online. For me, this is a nice compromise. Gently cooking food still provides plenty of nutrients, and I doubt their bodies really miss the bacteria and what not. Just because their bodies are made to handle raw meat doesn't mean they're never going to get sick. It's not a perfect system. If you try raw, I'd love to hear what you think!

Kelly, I hope you're able to participate! I'd love to know what you think about it, especially since I believe Gibson and Theo have both been on the same dry foods before. Unfortunately it is undeniably more expensive than even high quality dry food, but I personally think it's not unreasonably priced by any means. And once you see the difference, it's totally worth it. Husband was totally convinced. :)

Philip's Mom said...

Ooooohhhhh!!! I was just picking up a fresh log of DeliFresh earlier this week, and saw Vital in the fridge. I was really tempted to get it to try (the salmon sounded yummy!), but it was more expensive and smaller, so I passed it up in the end. Needless to say, I was excited to see your post, so I just applied and hope to get some samples for review too :)

Philip is still in love with DeliFresh almost a year later, and I still wholeheartedly agree - it's totally worth the slightly larger costs. I'm curious, do you switch between the flavors, or stick to one? I usually get the chicken, and one day they only had duck left, so I got that instead, and Philip seemed a bit confused for a second when I gave him the first slice. Not to say he didn't like it, but it was cute that he actually noticed the difference.

As for raw, I'm on a similar page - I think it's great, but it's a lot of hassle to upkeep, and risks if you aren't careful. This diet is way easier, still healthy, and I'm sticking to it as long as Philip enjoys it.

JuLo said...

Your store has duck!? The store I go to only has the chicken and turkey flavors. I do switch between them, but I usually get chicken because the turkey tends to have a bit more moisture. Theo doesn't seem to mind the change between the two. He always downs his food, either way.

Philip's Mom said...

Oops, maybe turkey is what I meant :) It's the brown one heh, I have ducks on my mind. I did notice that the chicken is a bit more solid, and the other one a bit wetter, but thought I just got unlucky with the log, interesting! Well, Philip ate it just fine, he just kinda gave me a look saying "Wait, this isn't the same... oh whatever, I eat it anyway!" and then shoved it down his throat as with anything edible.

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