FreshPet Cat Food Review
When Freshpet co-founders John Phelps and Cathal Walsh were working for a major Australian pet food manufacturer in the early 2000s, fresh food represented 22% of the country’s pet food market. Back in the United States, the pet food department was all bags and cans.
Realizing that Australia’s fresh pet food concept would go over as well—or better—in America, the Freshpet founders went to work with veterinarians, nutritionists, and scientists to develop a food that was neither heavily-processed nor raw. The food is described as a middle point between two extremes, combining freshness, convenience, and safety.
Freshpet was launched in 2006. Today, the company says over 1 million people across North America feed their dogs and cats Freshpet.
What types of cat food does Freshpet offer?
Freshpet foods are steam-cooked products that are pasteurized to destroy pathogenic bacteria.
Freshpet foods are made in the company’s Pennsylvania facility. Almost all of their ingredients are sourced from the United States and Canada. Freshpet notes that while they source synthetic vitamins and amino acids internationally, none of their ingredients come from China.
Freshpet foods are made primarily from meat with a variety of vegetables and supplemental ingredients. The Freshpet lineup includes both grain-free and grain-inclusive products.
As an all-natural brand, Freshpet foods are made without artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. They’re fortified with synthetic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Freshpet cat food is complete and balanced according to AAFCO standards.
Freshpet’s cat food selection includes three lines—Select, Vital, and Nature’s Fresh.
Select is the brand’s largest and most diverse line. It includes a variety of chunks, chubs, and cups of food.
- Chicken & Beef Grain Free Gourmet Paté
- Grain Free Gourmet Paté with Salmon
- Grain Free Chicken & Ocean Whitefish Recipe
- Grain Free Chicken & Pumpkin
- Turkey & Turkey Liver Recipe
- Complete Meal with Salmon
- Grain Free Tender Chicken & Beef
- Tender Chicken & Beef Recipe
- Tender Chicken Recipe
The Vital line has just two recipes and offers “only what your pet needs and nothing more”.
- Grain Free Chicken & Beef Recipe
- Grain-Free Chicken & Ocean Whitefish
Freshpet’s Nature’s Fresh line uses chicken from farms that follow the standards established by the Global Animal Partnership or GAP. The organization rates livestock businesses according to a 5-step animal welfare rating system.
The Nature’s Fresh line uses chicken raised in facilities rated GAP Step 1 or Step 2, the lowest two steps in the system. Products with the Step 1 designation contains chicken that lived in uncrowded environments without any crates, cages or crowding. Chickens from Step 2 facilities build upon the foundation set by Step 1 and lived in an enriched environment, perhaps including hanging branches for the birds to perch on, straw bales to scratch, and natural lighting.
- Grain Free Chicken & Ocean Whitefish
Has Freshpet cat food ever been recalled?
No. Freshpet has never been recalled.
What do customers think of Freshpet cat food?
Reviews are mostly positive on retail sites and on Freshpet’s website, but Consumer Affairs ratings, forums, and independent bloggers tell a different story.
Unhappy customers share consistent complaints. The first recurring complaint is a smell. Some bags of Freshpet have an odor described as “sulfurous”, “gag-worthy”, “like vomit”, and “sour”. People who report a bad odor occasionally mention illness, saying their pets vomited or had diarrhea after eating the food.
The second common complaint is that the food was rotten. Some say their food went bad after just one or two days. Others say it was already spoiled when they opened the bag.
Freshpet’s spoilage problem reached a low point in 2015. That year, customers across the United States went to social media with pictures of fuzz-filled bags of not-so-fresh Freshpet. The company’s response was varied, but multiple representatives told consumers that the mold growth occurred due to small punctures in the bags allowing air to get inside, adding that they were working to make their bags stronger.
Some speculate that these issues have never been Freshpet’s fault, hypothesizing that retailers were responsible. Inconsistent product rotation, too much time spent at room temperature during stocking, or poor temperature control in Freshpet display fridges could lead to premature spoilage.
Here’s what a few real customers have to say about Freshpet cat food:
“I have several problem cats on this product. Jesse would throw up after he ate so I started feeding him Freshpet and that problem is now solved. BB and Ashes are getting up in age and their coats were oily and matted looking. I put them on this and now their coats is soft and shiny and they’re putting on weight. Isaac is one of my foster failure and loves his Freshpet and well as Mickey and Gracie. And then there’s Ava…She’s been struggling with an ongoing URI since she was trapped during a TNR rescue and the quality of this food helps to keep her eating and gaining weight.” – Shug
“Freshpet cat food – After trying numerous expensive high end cat food, this is the only food that has helped my cat. She has had chronic diarrhea. I feed her the select chicken with vegetables and she loves it. It is sold in grocery stores and pet stores.” – Jennifer
“I been buying the rolls and then the bag of chicken for my dog for many months. I got a bag of multi protein complete meat last night at Target and feed my dog next day (without noticed). When I open the bag a night time to feed him again noticed a green/grayish color in the meat so I check the rest of the food. For my surprise, Mold. Went to the store to returned. I hope and pray my dog don’t get sick.” – Johanna
“I just purchased this for my cats, trying to focus on raw, healthier foods without a bunch of additives. Unfortunately, every one of my cats hates this stuff. They smell it and turn away. Thank goodness it was a fairly small bag, but for $7 it was a waste of money.” – JulesHouston
Read more customer reviews on PetSmart.
Freshpet Vital Grain Free Chicken & Beef Cat Roll Review
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Beef, Chicken Liver, Natural Flavors
This recipe from the Vital line is one of Freshpet’s most popular products. It’s a smooth paté-style food that comes in a tightly-wrapped roll. Instead of scooping it out like a traditional paté, you serve it by slicing the roll as if it’s a cylinder of breakfast sausage.
The first ingredient is chicken, a nourishing source of animal protein. The second is chicken broth, which contributes to the food’s 78% overall water content. Again, the food has a similar moisture level and texture to a canned paté—the only difference is that this food isn’t preserved in a can.
The third ingredient is beef, another source of animal protein. Beef is followed by chicken liver. This organ is a species-appropriate and delicious source of protein and vitamins.
The food includes “natural flavors”, an additive Freshpet describes as “a proprietary blend of natural ingredients used to enhance the flavor of our fresh foods.” In cat food, the term typically refers to a flavor additive made from hydrolyzed animal tissues.
The food contains eggs as a final source of animal protein.
After animal ingredients, the recipe includes tapioca starch, which the company says helps to bind the ingredients together. In addition to tapioca starch, the food is stabilized with carrageenan. Though food-grade carrageenan is generally considered safe, it may be contaminated with degraded carrageenan—a known inflammatory agent and possible carcinogen.
Carrageenan is followed by pea protein. While it’s unclear exactly which protein sources are ideal for cats, we do know that cats are obligate carnivores and that fresh animal tissues provide all the amino acids cats need. Plant protein may serve as a cost-effective alternative to animal protein sources. Pea protein is accompanied by pea fiber, a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Though Freshpet promises that the food doesn’t contain any nitrates, it does contain celery powder, a natural source of sodium nitrate.
According to the guaranteed analysis, this food is 53% protein minimum, 32% fat minimum, and approximately 16% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis.
This Freshpet roll has some great qualities—it’s relatively low in carbohydrates, contains clearly-labeled meats rather than by-products, and it uses a mixture of muscle meat and chicken liver to deliver species-appropriate nutrition. The company’s use of tapioca starch is frustrating, as is their decision to include carrageenan. While they help to give the food its shape, these ingredients also plump up its carbohydrate content and, in the case of carrageenan, could do serious harm.
And then there’s the spoilage problem. The idea of refrigerated cat food is novel, exciting, and inspiring, but it’s not working consistently for Freshpet. The food has a tendency to go rancid in the store and before the expiration date.
All this considered, the benefits of the company’s fresh cooked food may not be worth Freshpet’s flaws. You’ll find simpler, safer, and more species-appropriate foods in the canned cat food aisle. And if budget is a concern, many wet, freeze-dried, and raw foods surpass Freshpet in the price department, too.
At Petco, each 1-lb roll costs $5.29. If you follow the company’s feeding guidelines of 1.25 ounces per pound of bodyweight, it will cost just over $4 per day to feed the average 10-lb cat, putting Freshpet among the most expensive brands on the market.
Where can you buy Freshpet cat food?
Freshpet is sold in pet stores like Petco, PetSmart, and independent specialty retailers. You’ll also find it in some natural groceries. You can buy it online through Instacart, Freshdirect, AmazonFresh, Peapod, and Jet.