With more and more people demanding top quality, human grade foods for their pets, there has been a surge in sales of raw and freeze-dried raw foods.
In 2015 retail sales of raw freeze-dried dog and cat food jumped 64 percent from $25 million to $40 million and sales of raw frozen pet food jumped 32 percent from $52 million to $69 million.
Consumers have become quite savvy. They (we) expect transparency from the companies manufacturing raw foods. Where ingredients are sourced, how foods are processed and shipped, and which quality controls are in place have become common questions.
This has opened the door for some new, innovative direct-to-consumer raw food companies.
One such company is Balanced Blends of Boulder, Colorado, which produces complete and balanced raw diets for cats and dogs.
When they first approached me about reviewing their food, I had a whole lot of questions. They not only answered every single one, they impressed me with their obvious devotion to providing excellent, complete and balanced raw food diets for cats and dogs.
Any food I consider for my clients or for my own pets must meet my very stringent criteria:
Ingredients must be human grade
No Ingredient can be sourced in China
Formulas must be bio-appropriate for each species
Full disclosure about which safety practices are utilized
Convenience/availability to consumers
Now it was time to evaluate Balanced Blends.
Everything that goes into Balanced Blends is human grade and sourced in the USA
“At Balanced Blends we only source natural and/or organic ingredients. All of our proteins are inspected and approved by the USDA, free of antibiotics or hormones and, in the case of chicken - raised cage-free. All of our vegetables (only found in our dog food recipes) are organic. All of our proteins are sourced from local farmers. We have made an effort to get to know our local farmers and stay abreast of their new products and any other changes in their operation,” shared Tim Snipes, President and CEO of Balanced Blends. “Our quest is to always be in a position to source very healthy ingredients for our products. As we introduce additional proteins, we will continue to work with our current local farmers and, additional and equally natural and healthy sources.”
According to Snipes, all of the ingredients are human grade short of the mineral and vitamin supplements, which are not human grade for the simple fact that the supplier is focused on animal feed and follows the inspection and regulations related to animal feed.
“All of the vitamins and minerals we source carry an unambiguous statement from the manufacturer, of their country of origin. Further, all of our vitamins and minerals are pathogen tested prior to shipment to Balanced Blends. If any of the pathogen tests are positive, that batch is rejected,” offered Snipes.
In addition, the foods are free from gluten, fillers, artificial coloring and artificial preservatives.
Formulas are Bio-Appropriate
Cat foods are 99.5 percent meat, organ, bone and egg yolks and .5 percent vitamin/mineral mix. Dog Foods are 90 percent meat, organ and bone and 10 percent produce, vitamins and minerals.
Stellar safety protocols
Balanced Blends takes food safety very seriously. They utilize several important practices – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, Good Manufacturing Practices and high pressure processing (HPP). HPP is applied to the foods in their final packaging, helping to eliminate recontamination. All foods are lab tested by a third party laboratory and only released for sale after pathogen test results are negative.
Foods are shipped directly to the consumer in a cooler, compete with dry ice. When the Balanced Blends cooler arrived at my home, the food was still frozen solid, no small feat when shipping to South Florida.
The food is packaged in rectangular 8-ounce portions. I will admit - I was not crazy about the plastic packaging. I defrosted the brick of food as is. It proved to be quite messy to then transfer it to a glass container. The next time, I removed the food from the plastic while still frozen and defrosted it in the glass container. This was a whole lot easier. Still, the extra step of having to cut open the plastic to remove the food may be a turnoff for some pet parents.
So, how does the food taste? I turned to my cats as well as a client’s cats for help in this area.
As any parent of multiple cats will tell you, one food seldom fits everyone’s taste. This proved to be true in my house. Let me preface this by saying that my cats are super spoiled. They have refined taste and prefer novel meats such as venison and rabbit over chicken and beef. That said, one of my cats took to both varieties of the Balanced Blends pretty quickly. The other, not so much. I decided to enlist the help of one of my clients with two cats that enjoy raw food. She pretty much had the same results – one cat enjoyed the food, the other did not. With cats, texture and mouth feel plays a big role in which foods they prefer. Cats accustomed to homemade raw foods or brands like Rad Cat may take to Balanced Blends rather well. Those on raw foods that come in nugget form may not. It really is an individual thing.
Want to try Balanced Blends?
The company is offering a special pre-order deal through a Kickstarter Campaign. From April 26, 2016 through May 27, 2016, order 10 pounds of raw food and save $20 to $30. There will be free shipping for all pre-orders. In addition, all backers with receive an extra five pounds of food for every 20 pounds ordered (of the same item) for 3 or 6 months after the campaign ends, depending on which level you choose.
After the Kickstarter pre-order campaign is concluded, Balanced Blends will be offering an auto ship service. All orders of 20 pounds or more will always receive free shipping. Clients will be able to edit, change, pause or cancel the service at any time.