The Best Dog Food Meal Delivery Service
- April 2, 2018 - In this update, we tried out Pet Plate — a new brand with a growing social media following. After ordering, unboxing, and serving up its freshly cooked beef and chicken meals, we’re confident it deserves a spot in our winner’s circle. While it doesn’t offer as many unique flavors as our previous third place winner, Pure Dog Food, Pet Plate’s shipping fees are much more affordable (and our dogs couldn’t tell the difference).
The Best Dog Food Meal Delivery Services
Dog food meal delivery is a relatively new phenomenon (most companies have only been around for one or two years), but it caters to dog owners who want to feed their pet safe, high-quality raw food without having to stock up at the pet store every week. It’s a lot like meal delivery services for humans — you sign up to get custom meals delivered around your own busy schedule. But unlike with Blue Apron, you won’t have to cook the meal yourself: Just measure out the right portion; thaw it out; and serve it up to your pup.
Our top pick, NomNomNow, stole the show. Your order is cooked fresh every week and customized to your dog's weight, age, and health goals. We appreciated how each meal was packaged individually for our convenience, too. Its neat, squeezable food baggies meant no clean-up was needed, and our dogs loved trying out the extra samples of all five recipes that came in our first box. NomNomNow also gives you options to work your subscription around your lifestyle: You can easily add additional dogs to each order, and pause or cancel your subscription through the website, phone, or email. Pricing is based on your dog's weight, but plans start at $28 per week.
We also liked The Farmer’s Dog and PetPlate. The Farmer's Dog offers just three formulas (chicken, pork, and turkey) and PetPlate offers just two (turkey and beef), but if you know what your dog likes, they’re both solid options.
Plans are also priced according to your dog's weight. The Farmer’s Dog starts at about $16 per week, and PetPlate starts at $20 per week. There’s a good chance either option will be cheaper than NomNomNow, but both companies’ meals are packaged in twos, so it’s up to you to portion servings correctly.
How We Found the Best Dog Food Meal Delivery Service
We focused on 15 nationwide companies that offered subscription-based, complete, raw meals — since you could just as easily subscribe to regular dry dog food deliveries on Amazon or Chewy, we skipped any that only delivered dry food, or that required you to supplement their recipes with additional ingredients.
We cut anything that didn’t meet FDA and AAFCO regulations.
Dog food sold in the US is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Together, they create regulations and investigate complaints to make sure that commercial food made for animals is “safe, properly manufactured, and properly labeled.” However, dog food manufacturers aren't required to get FDA approval before selling — they're only required to properly label their products, and labeling rules can vary by state.
We go into the details of FDA labeling in our review of the best dog food, but for meal delivery services, we wanted to make sure that every company’s recipes were labeled as nutritionally complete and balanced.
This means that they either adhere to AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, or have passed feeding trials following AAFCO procedures. Basically, this label shows that the manufacturer has applied for and received approval from the FDA and AAFCO that its formula is nutritionally adequate. Because feeding your dog a nutritionally incomplete diet can result in serious nutrient deficiencies over time, we only considered companies whose recipes were all labeled as complete as well as balanced.
Then we took a closer look at the ordering experience.
Not all dog food is created equal, and when an industry is as new as dog food meal delivery is, the ordering experience and customer service among competitors can separate the truly deluxe from the so-so. We dug into the websites of the 11 remaining contenders to compare what each had to offer.
We favored companies that personalize their food to your pet.
Unlike just grabbing whatever looks alright on the shelves of a pet food store, ordering on meal delivery sites allows you to make quicker, smarter decisions about your dog’s food. And the best should be able to customize your shopping experience by helping you personalize the order according to your dog’s individual needs. We especially liked how some, like NomNomNow and The Farmer’s Dog, had us answer a short quiz about our pet’s weight, health, and habits to come up with the right serving size. Some, like Raw Wild and Pure Dog Food, skip that step — you choose the recipes, but have to figure out the correct portion size.
The more recipes, the better.
Even when companies allowed us to personalize our orders, we preferred those that had a greater range of recipes and serving sizes. Just like humans, dogs can be picky eaters, and even tire of — or develop allergies from — eating the same stuff over time. And like humans, serving size can differ — a huge brick of meat isn’t practical for a tiny dog, and a few spoonfuls per serving won’t make a big dog happy. The more unique recipes and serving sizes there are, the more likely you’ll be able to find what’s just right for your pup.
It should be convenient for you, too.
The best should work around your life, not the other way around. We sought out companies that made ordering, pausing, and canceling meals as simple as possible. Our favorites let us skip weeks, stock up before a vacation, or easily cancel on their websites. Less flexible companies, like Lucky Dog Cuisine, required us to receive deliveries every week without fail, or only once a month. If you’re trying to stock up for a trip away from home, or try different food for a week or so, you’re out of luck.
After tallying up the results, we moved forward with the seven finalists that scored above average. They all made great first impressions online, and we wanted to see how easy they were to store and serve on a daily basis.
- Balanced Blends
- Pure Dog Food
- Raw Wild
- The Farmer’s Dog
We unpackaged the finalists and served them to our canine taste-tester.
Over the course of one week, we stocked our office fridge and freezer with dozens of pounds of dog food. Then, we rolled up our sleeves, unpackaged everything, and served up a substantial amount of gourmet canine cuisine to our tester, Haven.
As we thawed, scooped, and squeezed meal pack after meal pack, we paid attention to a few key things:
- Packaging: We were looking for neat, secure packaging that was easy to break down. We didn’t encounter too many problems here — most were insulated with plastic foam and dry ice to keep the food chilled upon arrival.
- Instructions: The convenience factor for meal delivery services is null if you have to break out a kitchen scale and measuring spoons multiple times a day. Meals that included straightforward instructions — “serve one packet daily,” for example — won us over. Those with vague or completely lacking instructions were docked points.
- Ease of serving: We wanted mealtime prep to be as quick and mess-free as possible. We favored options that let us get food from package to food bowl quickly and with minimal effort on our part. Those that ended up getting raw meat or juice on the counter (or, sadly, on our clothes and faces) during prep and serving dampened our enthusiasm.
- Storage: If you’re like us, the prospect of raw meat bags lying willy-nilly in your fridge is not an appealing one. We liked brands that provided neat, Tupperware-like containers for simple and sanitary leftover storage after feeding time.
Our Top Pick
NomNomNow performed consistently well across all of our tests. Along with The Farmer’s Dog and Ollie, NomNomNow had the sleekest website, which quizzed us on our dog’s breed, age, health, and eating habits.
As soon as we opened the box, we were impressed. We only ordered one formula, but our first order included full-sized samples of all five formulas offered, along with a huge bag of chicken jerky that our office dogs gobbled up quickly. Everything came in an insulated, recyclable box filled with a padded foam layer and dry ice packs to keep the food chilled. The packaging for Ollie and The Farmer’s Dog was pretty similar — secure, insulated containers with neatly packed food and some fun freebies thrown in. The main difference was in how the individual meals were packaged.
NomNomNow comes in individual, tear-and-serve pouches; The Farmer’s Dog uses larger squeezable baggies that hold two meals each; Ollie comes in plastic trays (reminiscent of Lean Cuisine) that you scoop out. As far as instructions and meal prep went, NomNomNow was by far the simplest. We loved that each meal was wrapped separately, eliminating the need to measure out portions or store leftovers.
We expected Ollie’s neat little food trays to perform comparably, but we were ultimately disappointed. Even when thawed, the food seemed dry, sticking to itself and the tray. Our welcome kit came with a plastic scooper sized in proportion to our dog’s weight — but it was too deep to scoop enough food out of the shallow trays. We had more luck using a dinner spoon to break the food into pieces, then transferring them into the scooper.
Not only did we then have to wash the dirty scooper and spoon, but we also had to wipe up the stray crumbs left on our counter. With NomNomNow, we could squeeze out the pre-packaged portion, throw away the plastic baggie, and be done with it in under a minute.
As with every other company, the total price will vary depending on your dog’s weight — meals for a 5-pound Chihuahua will cost about $28 per week, whereas an 80-pound Golden Retriever’s costs about $64. NomNomNow offers new customers 50 percent off their first two orders, no matter your dog’s size.
How long do the meals stay good? Raw dog food should not be stored in the fridge for any longer than five days. If kept unopened in the freezer, it will be good for up to 6 months. Just make sure to thaw frozen meals in the fridge several hours before meal time.
Along with runner-up Pure Dog Food, NomNomNow offers the most formulas of all our finalists at five total recipes. That means if your dog gets tired of Heartland Beef Mash, you can easily let them sample the four other recipes (Tasty Turkey Fare, Chicken Chow-Wow, Porkalicious Potluck, or Egg & Veggie Medley) to find a new favorite. It also sells chicken jerky, which can be added onto any delivery ($14 for a 4 oz. bag).
We loved the option to add multiple dogs to your profile, too — as with our other two finalists — NomNowNow let us shop for both a Dachshund’s and a Siberian Huskey’s diets at the same time.
The one thing NomNomNow didn’t come out on top for was delivery flexibility: You’re locked into weekly deliveries of 14 meals per order, so you can’t vary your delivery frequencies as you can with Pure Dog Food or The Farmer’s Dog. However, you can pause your subscription up to two weeks in advance by just logging into the website and adjusting your settings. And if you’re going out of town and need to stock up for a pet sitter, you can receive extra meals by emailing customer service directly.
Canceling your subscription also takes a bit of work. While you can pause your next two deliveries on the website, you’ll have to call or email customer service to permanently cancel your subscription. On the plus side, a customer service rep was quick to respond to our request without trying to make a last-ditch sales pitch.
We’ll admit, even though we were impressed by the sleek website and personalization quiz online, we were pretty hard on The Farmer’s Dog when it first arrived. Next to the bright-orange-embellished Ollie packaging, NomNomNow’s generous samples, and Pure Dog Food’s plastic containers, we felt skeptical about its mushy food bags and tray for storing leftovers, which looked like a compostable takeout container. But in practice, it worked well: We were able to get food in the bowl and stored away in the fridge without delay or mess, every time.
The Farmer’s Dog package came in a recyclable, insulated box, like NomNomNow and Ollie, and also came with a free insulated grocery bag. The included flyers give personalized feeding instructions, and a transition guide to help you safely change your dog’s diet to raw.
Unlike NomNomNow, which allows you to easily tear off the opening to the sealed baggie, we had to use scissors on the Farmer’s Dog packs. And since the food is packed right up to the edge, it’s easy to accidentally get food on your scissors. But once you cut the bag open, you can squeeze out whatever amount you want. Our instructions told us to feed our dog half a bag of food per meal. The bags aren’t resealable, however, so you’ll need to fold up the leftover pack and store it in the container. We wish it felt sturdier or more airtight, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker — we were easily able to store our leftover meal bag in it, and you can use your own if you prefer.
Depending on your dog’s weight (or target weight), prices range from as little as $16 for a five-pound dog and up to $67 (for an 80-pound dog) per week. The Farmer’s Dog only offers three recipes (Beef, Pork, and Turkey), so if you value recipe variety, you might prefer NomNomNow or Pure Dog Food. But it’s easy to try it out if you’re not sure, as The Farmer’s Dog offers a refund for the first delivery if you’re not satisfied. It also offers some of the most flexible delivery options of all the finalists. You can choose for deliveries to arrive in intervals anywhere between 2–12 weeks, with 14 meals each, which means planning around vacations is a cinch.
Note that your account information will need to be “reviewed” before you can place an order — a customer service rep told us “it usually takes a couple of weeks for new accounts to be processed," which we found pretty disappointing. But if you want your food ASAP, you can do what we did — email them and ask for your order to be expedited (which customer service carried out for us promptly). And for whatever reason, you can easily pause or cancel your subscription on the website.
If you were only familiar with one of these brands before reading this review, it was probably PetPlate. The company boasts a heavy social media presence and was featured on a 2016 episode of SharkTank. We had high hopes — and PetPlate delivered — just not as strongly as our other two favorites.
PetPlate offers just two unique flavor options: heartland beef and oven-roasted turkey (or a mix of both). This pales in comparison to NomNomNow’s five options, but it’s enough to satisfy most dogs.
Each container holds a day’s worth of meals, and serving instructions are clearly labeled on the back: Scoop out half for breakfast, pop the lid back on, and store it in the fridge until dinnertime.
While we preferred NomNomNow’s tear-and-serve pouches, PetPlate’s containers are still way ahead of the pack. By comparison, RawWild was a big disappointment: We struggled to tear open its vacuum-sealed plastic packs of raw deer and elk, and were puzzled about the best way to store a steak-sized amount of leftover, bloody meat.
With PetPlate, we appreciate how easy it is to skip a delivery, pause your subscription, or cancel altogether in your account settings. Some companies (*cough, cough* Ollie) require you to call or email a customer service rep before they stop billing you. It’s only a minor inconvenience, but we prefer brands that don’t try to rope us back in when we’re ready to leave.
Like our other top picks, PetPlate’s pricing is based on the weight of your dog. Your initial trial order starts at $20 for two weeks worth of meals. After that, orders are shipped every four weeks and start at $80 per month (~$20 per week). If you have multiple dogs, you can add them to your plan, too.
In their neat little labeled plastic cups, the food from Pure Dog Food looks like something we could pick up at the deli during our lunch break. One of our coworkers, without knowing it was dog food, even admitted that the Mega Omega Salmon & Pasta looked pretty tasty.
Delivery frequency is pretty flexible. You can choose to have your order delivered every one, two, three, or four weeks. Just keep in mind that the shipping fee is pretty hefty — it cost us $30 just to get our order from LA to Seattle, but if you’re in the Los Angeles area, delivery is free.
Like NomNomNow, there are five recipes: Popeye Chicken & Spinach, Turkey Tried & True, Clean Chicken & Quinoa, Proactive Beef & Pumpkin, Mega Omega Salmon & Pasta, plus four flavors of treats.
There are only two serving sizes for Pure Dog Food — pints ($7 each) and quarts ($14 each), though you can order as many as you like per delivery. Pure Dog Food recommends, weekly, feeding your dog 5 pints, or 2.5 quarts, per 10 pounds your dog weighs. For example, a 25-pound dog would eat 12.5 pints (or 6.25 quarts) per week.
Unfortunately, there’s no free trial for new subscribers, but it’s easy to pause or cancel your subscription anytime through the website, phone, or email. If you want to hold off subscribing until your dog has tried it out, you can also purchase individual pints or quarts through their website.
Did You Know?
Raw isn’t for every(dog).
Many people sing the praises of raw dog food — it can be a good solution for allergy-prone pups, and it promotes healthy hair and skin — but it’s not a canine cure-all. As with any type of dog food, it still carries some risk of bacterial contamination. To be safe, avoid serving raw food to puppies or senior dogs, whose immune systems are generally weaker and may not be able to combat bacteria.
Humans are vulnerable to cross-contamination, too. Dr. Gary Richter, Director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital, warns: “Be careful in households with small children or immunocompromised people. Appropriate precautions should be taken when handling and feeding raw meat, regardless of prior testing for bacteria.” If your raw food isn’t packaged securely enough, it may leak in the fridge or counter during thawing — we found this be the case with our order from Balanced Blends.
To lower the potential for cross-contamination, we recommend ordering from a company that securely seals their food, and storing leftovers in an airtight, non-porous container. For food bowls, avoid porous materials like plastic or porcelain — opt for stainless steel instead. Always wash your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with raw food before and after handling. Never leave leftover food sitting out for any longer than 20 minutes, after which bacterial growth can abound.
There are different types of raw food.
“Raw” doesn’t necessarily mean uncooked chicken breasts in the grocery deli. Raw dog food is really a blanket term that describes many different types, but they generally fall under these categories:
- Uncooked: Refers to what comes to mind for most people when they hear “raw” — not medium rare, rare, or lightly sizzled, but literally raw. Only a few of the companies we looked at sold truly uncooked raw food, but we weren’t impressed at how messy our countertops, tools, and hands got with prep, which is a big no-no due to contamination concerns.
- Cooked: Meat and produce that’s cooked under temperatures and pressures equivalent to those for at-home cooking for humans. Most of the companies we looked at sold cooked raw food, which means the meat you’re handling isn’t just-off-the-bone raw, but more like taco filling or chicken casserole.
- Freeze-dried: Freeze-dried raw food is created when the moisture from cooked dog food is vaporized in a low-temperature vacuum chamber. This results in dog food that is extremely light and mess-free, while not being as processed as dry dog food. Freeze-dried food is often sold in the form of small nuggets, which can be eaten as is, broken up into crumbs, or rehydrated into a mushier meal with the addition of water.
“Human grade” doesn’t mean much.
A lot of dog food products are marketed as “human-grade," but we found in our research that exactly what the term means is pretty up in the air. The AAFCO states that the term “human grade” has “no definition in any animal feed regulations”. We know you want your best friend to eat as well as you do, but it’s better to look at the ingredients and guaranteed analysis to see whether or not the food is high-quality.
Give your dog some time to adjust.
Unless your dog has a stomach of steel, it’s important to make sure that changing his diet happens gradually, not all at once. A slow and steady diet transition is even more important when the old food differs greatly from the new food — if you’re transitioning from canned beef to cooked beef, the change won’t be as drastic on your dog’s system as a change from chicken-and-corn kibble to raw elk meat.
Exactly how to carry this out will vary according to your dog’s individual habits — if your dog suffers from any health issues, discuss diet changes with your vet first — but a general rule of thumb is to take at least a full week to fully transition from an old food to new food.
This means starting off by just mixing in a small amount of new food to your dog’s old food so the ratio of old-to-new food is around 90%/10%, then gradually increasing the amount of new food over time. If your dog begins vomiting, has diarrhea, refuses to eat, or exhibits any other concerning behavior in reaction to the change, switch back to the old food and contact your vet.