Simple Alternative to a traditional Raw Diet
In order to make feeding raw food to our pets as convenient as possible, many companies are making freeze dried, dehydrated and air dried raw foods. These types of raw food do not need to be kept frozen or thawed prior to feeding, saving time and hassle. Not to mention, if you are squeamish about your pet eating raw meat, or are just starting the transition to raw, these foods are a good way to dip your toes in the water. Another positive point is that by removing all moisture from this food, any growth of bacteria, yeast, or mold is inhibited – which is why these foods have a longer shelf life. Our dogs and cats are our family, and naturally we want to feed our families only the best.
Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are NOT identical. However, because these innovations are relatively new in the pet food industry, "freeze-dried" and "dehydrated" tend to be used interchangeably when referring to foods that contain nearly moisture-free raw ingredients that have not been baked, extruded, or subjected to the high heat of the canning process. But here's the difference:
Dehydrated foods . . .
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines dehydrated as a material that has "been freed of moisture by thermal means." In other words, dehydrated foods contain ingredients heated to the point where their moisture dissipates, leaving behind fundamental, dry remains.
Freeze-dried foods . . .
Freeze-dried foods also contain ingredients that have had their moisture removed. While freeze-drying is a form of dehydration, it does NOT use heat to eliminate moisture. Instead, freeze-drying removes moisture from already-frozen ingredients in a vacuum or low-pressure environment. A relatively gentle procedure compared to heat-driven dehydration, freeze-drying takes longer than dehydration and essentially "locks-in" each ingredient's composition and structure without changing it in any other way. Freeze-drying also preserves an ingredient's flavor, texture, size, and shape, whereas dehydration can alter these characteristics.