Freeze-dried, air-dried and dehydrated treats made from raw whole food ingredients offer you and your pet the best of both worlds. They’re healthy and nutritious, and they’re also convenient and easy to handle.
More people are switching to raw diets for their dogs and cats, which means there’s an ever-expanding range of nutritious raw pet food products to choose from – and that includes treats. High quality treats made from simple raw food ingredients are far healthier than the low-end commercial pet treats you find on most store shelves. Because the ingredients in these raw food treats are freeze-dried, air-dried or dehydrated, they maintain their nutritional integrity. The processes used also kill pathogens, a plus for those wary about handling raw meat. And raw food treats are highly palatable and less likely to contribute to weight gain than poor quality pet treats.
Raw food treats are highly palatable and less likely to contribute to weight gain than poor quality pet treats.
Freeze-dried, air-dried or dehydrated?
In this process, the raw food is first frozen. It then has the moisture removed from it while it’s still in the frozen state. Simply put, this is done through a process called sublimation, which involves transforming a solid (in this case ice) directly into a gas (water vapor), while bypassing the liquid stage. To achieve this, frozen food is placed in a vacuum which vaporizes the water in the food and draws it out before it can turn into liquid.
“The first step in freeze-drying is to freeze the food below its triple point to ensure that sublimation, rather than melting, will occur,” explains Patti Salladay of Northwest Naturals. “This is done in our blast freezer, which drops the product temperature to -30°F degrees.
“The second phase is primary drying (sublimation), in which the pressure is lowered, and indirect controlled heat is added to the food in order for the water to sublimate,” she continues. “The vacuum speeds sublimation. About 95% of the water is removed in this phase. The product is then loaded into freeze dryers, the vacuum is initiated and the controlled heat plates make the ice crystals in the product vaporize.
“The final phase is secondary drying (adsorption), during which the ionically-bound water molecules are removed. By raising the temperature higher than in the primary drying phase, the bonds are broken between the product and the water molecules.”
Freeze-drying preserves raw food without jeopardizing its flavor or nutritional integrity. “It retains taste, smell and texture, which is very appealing to pets — especially those that are picky or have dental issues,” say Patti. “Freeze-dried treats combine the benefits of raw food with the convenience of kibble.”
2. Dehydration and air-drying
As with freeze-drying, the goal of dehydration and air-drying is to remove moisture from the food while preserving its nutritional content. In the case of dehydration, this is achieved by exposing raw unfrozen food to low heat for a long period of time. Because such low temperatures are used, dehydration doesn’t negatively impact the nutrients, enzymes and amino acids found in the food. Air-drying is similar to dehydration, and can be done using either warm or cool air. The cooler the air, the more nutrients are preserved.
Ziwi Peak is one company that uses air-drying to make its raw pet treats. “Air-drying is a technique that has been used for centuries to naturally preserve meats,” the company states. “Our method stays true to this artisan approach, while eliminating the need for artificial preservatives, sugars or glycerines. Our slow, gentle, twin stage air-drying process crafts a food that’s as nutrient-dense and digestible as a completely raw diet, but is safe and clean to handle and can be stored for up to 21 months.”
LifeFORCE also uses an air-drying method to make its treats. “Our cool air-drying process is based on air circulation, and the temperature doesn’t get above 70°F (21°C),” says president and founder, Tim Hockley. “Our goal with this type of drying process is to slowly remove the moisture from the ingredients in the most non-invasive way possible, ensuring optimal raw flavor and texture. By using a cool air-drying process, we can provide a product that has the most bio-available raw nutrition possible.”
“Our treats are produced using a dehydration process,” says Susan Dalton, PhD, of Dr. Dalton’s Premium Treats. “They benefit from this process because dehydration preserves most of the naturally-occurring nutrients that are a wonderful benefit of raw meat. The product also maintains a readily recognizable meat shape, taste and smell that’s alluring to dogs.
“Our processes add extra properties to our treats,” adds Dr. Dalton. “They’re oil- and grease-free to the touch, which means no hand-wiping is needed after handling. They don’t carry unpleasant odors, and are specifically created to withstand moderate pummeling, meaning they don’t easily crumble.”
Many additional companies along with the ones above specialize in crafting high quality freeze-dried, air-dried and dehydrated raw food treats for dogs and cats (see below). Whether you already feed your pet a raw diet, and want raw food treats to go with it; or are just looking for convenient yet healthy treat choices that are packed with nutrients and free of unhealthy additives, this is an ideal route to take.
Here’s a list of companies that offer high quality freeze-dried, air-dried or dehydrated raw food treats for dogs and cats.
Dr Dalton’s Premium Treats, drdaltons.com
Mountain Dog Food, mountaindogfood.com
Northwest Naturals, nw-naturals.net
Rocky Mountain Raw, rockymountainraw.ca
True Raw Choice, truerawchoice.com
Tuckers Raw Frozen and Treats, mytuckers.com
Ziwi Peak, ziwipets.com