Primal Cat Food Review

Primal makes raw food and treats for dogs and cats. The company is based in San Francisco/Mateo, California and has been in business since 2001. You can find lots of interviews online  with the company’s president, Matt Koss.

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Along with Primal Formulas, which offer a complete and balanced diet, the company makes mixes and grinds which are for supplemental feeding – you have to add some of your own ingredients. According to Primal, all of their raw foods and treats are produced using the freshest human-grade, antibiotic and steroid-free meat, poultry, and game, as well as certified organic produce, minerals, and unrefined vitamins. Their foods are based on the BARF diet (Biologically-Appropriate Raw Foods). Their foods do not contain any grain, wheat, rice gluten or rice protein-concentrate. They do not import any ingredients from China. Primal uses proteins from U.S. farms and ranches that are USDA-inspected. All poultry for chicken products comes from California. All venison and some lamb come from USDA-approved farms and ranches in New Zealand. You can find the countries of origin for Primal’s ingredients on this page.

Who Manufactures Primal?

According to Primal’s web site their food is 100 percent human grade. All of their raw frozen pet foods and treats are made in temperature-controlled, state-of-the-art, certified USDA and State Department of Agriculture food manufacturing facilities. Per one source, the company was using facilities in Portland, Oregon in 2007. According to this blogger who visited Primal’s facility in 2015, it’s located in San Francisco, but there is no description and there are no pictures. Primal says they make their food in small batches to ensure its freshness, safety, and consistency. You can read about their safety measures here.

Primal Cat Food Recalls 2021

  • Primal had a recall in March 2015 that involved a single lot of raw frozen cat food – Feline Turkey Raw Frozen Formula 3-pound bag. The FDA tested the product in response to a single consumer complaint. Testing of two bags of the food found that it was low in thiamine.
  • In 2011 Primal had a nationwide recall of their Feline Chicken & Salmon Formula (4-lb nuggets) because of Salmonella concerns.
  • The AVMA has issued statements opposing raw feeding for pets. Feeding cats a raw food diet, however, is growing in popularity based on sales data.

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Overall Primal Cat Food Reviews and Analysis

Primal makes a lot of products for dogs and cats, with slightly more emphasis on the canine formulas. The mixes and grinds, which are supplemental foods that aren’t complete until you add your own ingredients to them, are not specifically made for dogs or cats. Some products, such as some of the Freeze-Dried Primal Treats, are suitable for both cats and dogs. If you are ordering Primal products, make sure that your cat can eat the products you select. Here is the list of products that Primal considers suitable for cats.

SavyParksGirl @ says…

My cats love me even more now that they get some freeze dried raw! I’ve tried to never feed my animals low end food but the more I read the more I realized raw is the best option for them. My little cat, Taz struggled with not gaining weight and having upset stomach episodes. Vet cleared him as healthy. I put him on a combination of this food and wellness core canned and he’s gained weight with very few instances of upset stomach! And my fat cat has lost weight on this program. I wish I could afford to feed my dog raw as well!

Raw-Frozen Nugget formulas for cats currently include seven formulas: beef & salmon; chicken & salmon; pheasant; pork; rabbit; turkey; and venison. These Raw-Frozen formulas use 100 percent human grade ingredients. They are antibiotic and steroid-free. They have certified organic produce and certified organic minerals, as well as unrefined vitamins to be as natural as possible. They have fresh ground bone to supplement the calcium content. We can use the rabbit formula as an example for these foods. The ingredients in this formula include: Rabbit (with ground bone), Rabbit Livers, Rabbit Hearts, Organic Collard Greens, Organic Squash, Organic Celery, Cranberries, Blueberries, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Sardine Oil, Taurine, Organic Quinoa Sprout Powder, Dried Organic Kelp, Organic Cilantro, Organic Coconut Oil, Cod Liver Oil, Organic Ginger, Vitamin E Supplement. The food has 19 percent crude protein (min), 5 percent crude fat (min), 2 percent crude fiber (max), 69 percent moisture (max), 3.3 percent ash (max). The food contains 93 percent rabbit and 7 percent produce and supplements. This food has 39 calories per ounce. The food is AAFCO-approved for all life stages. You can see more nutritional information on the page for the food. These are raw frozen foods so they are easy to feed and they don’t have the mess that comes with mixing and feeding ingredients you put together yourself at home. They just have to be thawed before you feed them to your cat.

Primal Raw Pronto formulas are similar to the Raw Frozen Nugget formulas for cats. They come in chicken & salmon; pork; rabbit; and turkey. Even the ingredients and formulas are the same. The only difference between Primal Raw Pronto and Primal Raw-Frozen Nugget formulas is the fact that Pronto comes in small, bite-sized pieces that are easy to portion for your cat. They also thaw quickly. Just remove the desired amount from the bag, let it thaw for a few minutes, and serve to your cat.

Primal Freeze-Dried Formulas have the same kind of human grade ingredients, from the same sources, as Primal’s Raw-Frozen foods. The feline products currently include five formulas: beef & salmon, chicken & salmon, pork, turkey, and venison. We can use Primal Freeze-Dried Feline Turkey Formula as an example. The food has the following ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Necks, Turkey Hearts, Turkey Livers, Organic Collard Greens, Organic Squash, Organic Celery, Cranberries, Blueberries, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Sardine Oil, Taurine, Organic Quinoa Sprout Powder, Dried Organic Kelp, Organic Cilantro, Organic Coconut Oil, Cod Liver Oil, Organic Ginger, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (natural preservative). The food has 57 percent crude protein (min), 23 percent crude fat (min), 2 percent crude fiber (max), 3 percent moisture (max), 8.4 percent ash (max). The food has 93 percent turkey, 5 percent produce, and 2 percent supplements. It has 148 calories per ounce. It is AAFCO-approved for all life stages.

The difference between Primal Freeze-Dried formulas and Primal Raw-Frozen Nugget (and Pronto) is that the freeze-dried foods have had much of the moisture removed. The food has been freeze-dried and the frozen water has evaporated. The moisture content of the freeze-dried formulas is very low. You must add water to the freeze-dried foods before feeding to your cat!

Primal also makes Raw-Frozen Mixes and Raw-Frozen Grinds. These products are for supplemental feeding. They are a good choice for people who want to use them as a base and add some of their own ingredients to feed their cats. Primal Mixes contain fresh ground bone provide calcium. They also contain certified organic produce. They come in beef, chicken, lamb, pork, sardine, and turkey. We can look at the pork as an example. Ingredients in this food include: Pork Hearts, Pork Livers, Ground Pork Bones, Organic Collard Greens, Organic Squash, Organic Celery, Cranberries, Organic Ginger, Organic Cilantro. It has Crude Protein (min) 15 percent, Crude Fat (min) 6 percent, Crude Fiber (max) 1 percent, Moisture (max) 75 percent, and Ash (max) 1.8 percent. Although it has some desirable ingredients, this is not a complete diet for your cat.

Primal Raw-Frozen Grinds are also made for supplemental feeding. They currently come in six formulas suitable for cats: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, sardine, and turkey. We can use sardine as an example. Ingredients for the sardine formula include: Whole Sardines (Includes bones and innards). (Likewise, ingredients for the other Grinds formulas are also proteins.) The guaranteed analysis for the Sardine Grind shows: Crude Protein (min) 14 percent, Crude Fat (min) 10 percent, Crude Fiber (max) 1 percent, Moisture (max) 70 percent, and Ash (max) 3.2 percent. Again, this is not a complete diet for your cat but it could a good part of your cat’s diet if you added other ingredients.

There has been discussion/debate over the term “human grade” as used by Primal and some other pet food companies. These foods cannot (and should not) be eaten by humans. The FDA gets a little testy when pet food companies use this term and in the past they have gone to court over this labeling. However, times have changed. Today companies will use this terminology when they are using human grade ingredients and their pet foods are made in human food facilities. FDA formerly considered human grade food pet food as soon as it came into contact with non-human grade ingredients (this is a very informal explanation – see the letters at the link below). FDA seems to have given up and they are leaving this matter to the states. You can read more about this discussion in these letters. What this means for consumers in the future is that the claim “human grade” will probably become more widespread – and may not always be true. However, Primal has used this term for a long time and we see no reason to doubt the quality of their ingredients.

Fed according to directions, we think Primal’s raw foods for cats look good. Not all cats are excited about raw food. Some cats like raw food immediately but others take some time to get used to the food. And some cats never like it. A starter/sampler pak can be a good idea while you let your cat try the food. Some people do have concerns about feeding raw food similar to the concerns expressed by the AVMA with regard to bacterial contamination but we think that Primal has a good record over the past 15 years when it comes to their products and recalls. Two recalls – one for low thiamine and one for possible Salmonella – in 15 years is not bad for a company that makes raw pet food. We also think that the human grade ingredients, grass-fed beef, organic produce, and other ingredients make these foods a good choice for your cat. They are high in protein and low in carbs.

Individual Recipe Review Primal Feline Chicken & Salmon Pronto Formula:

We think that Primal Feline Chicken & Salmon Pronto Formula would be easy for many cat lovers to feed so we’ve chosen it for our review. With small, bite-size pieces, it’s easy to pour the food from the bag and let it thaw in your cat’s bowl. According to Primal, the small pieces should thaw quickly. You don’t have to add anything to the formula. It is complete and balanced as is and AAFCO-approved for all life stages.

The food contains Chicken, Chicken Necks, Chicken Gizzards, Salmon, Chicken Livers, Organic Kale, Organic Squash, Organic Carrots, Organic Apples, Organic Broccoli, Cranberries, Blueberries, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Parsley, Salmon Oil, Taurine, Organic Coconut Oil, Cod Liver Oil, Organic Quinoa Sprout Powder, Dried Organic Kelp, Alfalfa, Vitamin E Supplement.

Looking at the first five ingredients, four of them are from chicken and one is salmon. They include muscle meat, a source of bone/calcium, and organ meats. The salmon is also an excellent source of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids from cold water sources. According to Primal they use finely ground chicken bones to provide calcium in their formulas. Clearly the chicken, chicken organs, and salmon are wonderful sources or protein, vitamin A, and healthy fats for your cat, as well as other vitamins and minerals.

Overall the food contains 85 percent chicken and 5 percent salmon. Eight percent of the food is produce and 2 percent of the food is supplements.

While cats don’t need carbohydrates from a nutritional viewpoint, in the wild they would get some vitamins and minerals from eating the stomach contents of their prey. This food provides some vegetable matter in the form of kale, squash, and other things. Some of the vegetable matter is also a source of fiber. Cranberries and blueberries are antioxidants – cranberries, in particular, are often cited as being good for the urinary tract. Vitamin E is another antioxidant and a preservative. Kelp is a source of trace minerals such as iodine. You can go through the entire list of ingredients and find reasons why things are included for the health of your cat. We don’t see anything here that would raise concerns. Montmorillonite Clay is used in some pet foods as a way to remove toxins. The food also has added taurine to make sure your cat is getting all he needs in his diet.

If your cat likes raw foods, we think Primal Feline Chicken & Salmon Pronto Formula would be a good choice. Recommended.

Calories: 47 per oz.

Guaranteed Analysis:

  • Crude Protein (min) – 13%
  • Crude Fat (min) – 10%
  • Crude Fiber (max) – 1%
  • Moisture (max) – 73%
  • Ash (max) – 2.9%

Nutritional Statement

Primal Pet Foods Feline Chicken & Salmon Pronto Formula is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages.

Dry Matter Basis: This food has an estimated 48.2 percent protein, 37 percent fat, and 3.7 percent fiber, and 0.4 percent carbohydrates. (AAFCO recommendations for protein for adult cats are a minimum of 26 percent; and 30 percent for growing kittens; and 9 percent fat for both adult cats and growing kittens.)

Please note that Primal states on the web page for this food that 2.4 percent of Feline Chicken & Salmon Pronto Formula is carbohydrates. We can’t come up with this figure using the percentages provided in the guaranteed analysis.

Final Thoughts

We think that Primal’s foods are very good. If you are considering feeding a raw food to your cat, Primal would be a good choice. Granted, the AVMA and some veterinarians express concerns, but many cat lovers advocate feeding raw and they report good results. Primal also uses HPP (High Pressure Processing)  for their poultry – usually the most likely culprit where Salmonella is concerned. So, while the food is raw, they take extra precautions with it. We recommend Primal for cats if you are interested in feeding a raw diet.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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