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Fresh from the fridge meals

Welcome to the era of “fresh from the fridge” meals for your feline friend. You can find these “refrigerated foods” in refrigerators at pet stores and some grocery stores and even delivered to your door, packaged in dry ice. Most offer fresh ingredients that are free of preservatives.

Where the trend started

Let’s go back in time to the year 2006. That’s the year Freshpet, considered a pioneer in the fresh fridge food era, launched its pet food range from its headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey.

“Since 2006, Freshpet has embarked on a mission to improve the lives of cats and dogs through the power of fresh, real food,” said Dr. Aziza Glass, the company’s veterinarian. “That means making recipes with 100% naturally farmed poultry, beef and fish, along with fiber-rich garden vegetables and antioxidant-rich fruits.”

Prepared meals are quickly transported by temperature-controlled vehicles to specially designed Freshpet refrigerators in stores. Freshpet also partners with retailers to deliver directly to pet parents. The company offers more than 50 packaged meals and sandwiches that can be stored in the refrigerator without fillers or preservatives until ready to serve. Cat kitchen choices offer a variety of proteins, including these popular choices: grain-free pâté with salmon plus tender chicken and beef patties in 1-pound rolls that are stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

“Freshpet’s meals are gently cooked, making all 12 essential amino acids available to our pets — far more than what you’ll find in the harsher, high-temperature cooking methods required to make kibble,” adds Dr. Close up.

Based in Oakland, California, Nom Nom Now is another major player in this “fresh cooked food” market. All recipes are grain-free and gluten-free, and are formulated by the company’s veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Justin Shmalberg. A favorite with cats, the Chicken Cuisine features chicken thigh, breast and liver plus carrots and spinach and a range of essential vitamins. All ingredients are made in the United States from renowned food manufacturers.

“As a veterinary nutritionist, I have long recommended and developed homemade diets for clients’ pets,” says Dr. shmalberg. “The Nom Nom food is prepared to order and individually portioned in vacuum-sealed pouches that ensure the food is fresh on arrival. In addition, the product is transported with dry ice.”

Nature’s Logic started in 2006 in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a range of quality dry and canned foods for cats and dogs. The company now offers light cooked frozen recipes in beef liver, chicken and lamb flavors for cats.

The popularity of these fresh pet food options is steadily growing. Freshpet, for example, has maintained double-digit net sales growth every year since 2014.

©TAK | Getty Images

Before you buy and try

“There is, of course, something appealing about giving your cat a ‘fresh meal’,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and co-author of The Clean Pet Food Revolution.

He offers you this checklist to help you make the right choice to meet your cat’s nutritional needs:

✔ Check on the label that the food is AAFCO approved and nutritionally complete and balanced.

✔ Click online and check for food recalls and read online reviews about the company that makes these meals.

✔ See if the company supports its nutrition and health claims. Having a board certified vet nutritionist on staff is a plus.

✔ Ask your vet about your cat’s specific health and dietary needs before switching to another meal.

“If the fresh food checks all those boxes and the pet parent doesn’t mind the extra cost, then I say go for it,” says Dr. ward.

Invest in good food

dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic vet in Colorado, says commercial, refrigerated cat food costs more than bags of kibble or cans of food. “It comes down to paying now or later,” says Dr. Hofve, founder of the website littlebigcat.com. “If you want to save on veterinary costs in the future, invest in your cat’s food now. Less processed ingredients are better digested and provide more nutritional value for your cat.”

keyword: digestibility. Cats are notoriously not big water drinkers. Scooping up high-quality food with liquid offers two advantages: better digestion of the ingredients and the production of healthy poop in the litter box.

“Often the first time pet owners notice a gut health or nutritional problem is when they clean up their pet,” says Dr. Tabitha Hookey, a Royal Canin scientific support specialist. “Symptoms of poor gastrointestinal health include vomiting, diarrhea, change in appetite, weight loss, or abnormal stool quality.”

She adds, “A high-quality diet should start with carefully selected ingredients, which are digestible and bioavailable (meaning the nutrients are properly absorbed and used by the body).”

Safety first

dr. Hofve urges people to maintain good hygiene practices in the kitchen when choosing freshly prepared chilled and frozen foods. If the refrigerator food is left on a counter and not properly refrigerated for too long, the pet can be at risk for salmonella and other health risks.

“If you buy these foods, make them your last message and get home quickly to refrigerate them,” she says. “Most of these meals are cooked to some degree, but not all of them. Don’t leave it on the counter and take a call from your uncle, because letting it come to room temperature can quickly contaminate the meat. with bacteria.”

And here’s her parting advice: Work with your vet about adding prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to your cat’s diet to maintain a healthy gut.”

Keep cool!

Here’s our sampler of some of the fresh, cooked and refrigerated foods out there. Buy these at the supermarket and pet store or on the basis of a subscription.

Freshpet Select Fresh Chicken & Beef Grain Free Gourmet Paté; $3.99/1 pound. roll; verspet.com

Name Name Chicken Kitchen $50 two-week trial (with 20% off discount); nomnomnow.com

Nature’s Logic Light Cooked Frozen $12.99 / 1.5 pounds. individual role; natureslogic.com

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