As more and more pet parents are becoming educated about the amazing benefits of a raw diet, pet food brands are finding new ways to deliver the nutrition you're seeking. As technology has improved over the years, raw pet food has made the jump from the freezer to the shelf by way of freeze-drying and dehydrating processes. But what’s the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated? Is one better than the other? And how do you choose?
Freeze-drying is a process that uses a vacuum chamber to remove the moisture from raw, frozen ingredients by applying extreme pressure. This pressure also destroys any harmful pathogens that may reside in the meat. No heat is applied during cooking, so nutrients and live enzymes are retained, and the end result is still considered a raw food. Cooking with heat can damage nutrients and destroy enzymes, which are important for maintaining healthy digestion--so freeze-dried foods are a great way to give your pet the nutrition nature intended.
Freeze-drying is a rather expensive process, requiring large, advanced machinery, but it's also the most effective way to achieve the nutritional benefits of raw food in a convenient, shelf-stable product. If you're someone who's on the go with your pets a lot or simply don't have a lot of freezer space, freeze-dried pet foods are the perfect solution for you. However, freeze-dried foods are typically more expensive than their frozen counterparts, so if you're looking for the best bang for your buck and aren't pressed for time or freezer-space, then frozen raw foods may be more suitable to your lifestyle. Remember, freeze-dried foods are the same as frozen, except the moisture has been removed. It's always a good idea to rehydrate freeze-dried foods when serving them as a stand-alone meal. But it's perfectly fine to serve them straight from the bag, as a meal-topper or treat.
Contrary to freeze-drying, the dehydration process does apply heat to the ingredients. Dehydration removes moisture in the product by blowing warm or hot air all around it. Because heat is applied, the ingredients are actually cooked, so dehydrated foods are not considered raw. Unlike freeze-dried foods, dehydrated foods are not quite as nutrient-rich due to the higher temperatures in the cooking process. And while most pet parents give preference to raw or freeze-dried foods, some pets have extreme immune deficiencies and can't digest raw food well. Dehydrated foods are considered to be a step up from kibble, since they undergo a much gentler cooking process, making them a great option for pet parents seeking a less processed, but fully-cooked diet.
If you think of pet food as a spectrum, kibble would be on one end and raw foods would be on the other, with dehydrated foods in the middle. Dehydrated foods aren't as processed as kibble, but they aren't considered raw either. A great option for anyone who doesn't like the idea of handling raw food, but still want to feed their pets a healthier, less-processed diet.