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CARNA4 vs Orijen Dog Food: Our 2023 In-Depth Comparison

Kerry-Ann Kerr

By Kerry-Ann Kerr

CARNA4 vs Orijen Dog Food

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The world of dog food can be a confusing one to navigate. Pet Food manufacturers offer different features but seem to promise they’re the best. One has hundreds of ingredients, most of which you can’t pronounce, one is high in protein, and another is grain-free. So, which do you pick?

To help you with this decision, we regularly look at some of the biggest names on the market. Today, we’re looking at Carna4 and Orijen, both of which promise high-quality ingredients and the very best for your precious pup.

Read on to find out which one came out on top and why.

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A Sneak Peek at the Winner: Orijen

Rating Image Product Details
Our Favorite
Winner
ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  • High-quality ingredients used
  • Made in Canada and the U.S.
  • High in protein
  • Second place
    ORIJEN Amazing Grains Six Fish Recipe ORIJEN Amazing Grains Six Fish Recipe
  • High-quality ingredients used
  • Rich in omega fatty acids and essential oils
  • Filling
  • While both brands are excellent, Orijen was our clear winner. Its dedication to your dog’s nutrition and health is worth the premium price tag, which in the end is actually cheaper than its competition.

    About CARNA4

    CARNA4 is named after the goddess Carna, who the Ancient Romans believed protected their internal organs and helped their bodies gain nourishment from food.

    They Saw a Gap in the Market

    CARNA4 was created by David Stauble and Maria Ringo. They believe raw feeding is ideal but understand that it isn’t practical for all dog parents. So, they created CARNA4, which is convenient but doesn’t compromise on quality.

    The People Behind the Food

    Maria and Dave have joined forces with a team of nutritionists, engineers, and food scientists, and they have 50 years of combined experience in the dog food industry.

    They also work with a third-party research laboratory, Mortec Scientific Inc., specializing in food production. The ingredients are grown on Canadian and American farms, and the food exceeds AAFCO standards. CARNA4 works with other family operations that share their views on sustainability, a drug-free food chain, non-GMO, and humane farming practices.

    CARNA4 isn’t as widely available as Orijen, but they have a list of retailers who stock their food and are looking to expand their U.S. and Canadian networks.

    The Ingredients

    The recipes are all pretty consistent, and they have grain and grain-free recipes. The nutritional information you’ll need is clearly outlined on their website for easy access. For each recipe, there is a breakdown of the ingredients and nutritional content. The duck, chicken, and fish all sit at 29% protein, 15% fat, and 4% fiber.

    There is even a Recommended Feeding Guide for you to use if your dog is at the puppy stage, less active, or a senior. They recommend feeding your dog less of their meals than other dry foods because CARNA4 is concentrated in easily absorbed, high-quality ingredients.

    Crossover Ingredients

    CARNA4 keeps its ingredient list small, which means once you’ve read one, you’ll notice some of the same names appearing again and again such as egg, sweet potato, and carrots, and something called Flora4 that we’ll talk about later.

    There is, of course, a reason for this: the ingredients in Carna4 are high-quality. In our in-depth analysis of the ingredients, you will see some similarities between recipes.

    Pros
    • Uses high-quality ingredients
    • All natural, no synthetics
    • No vitamin and mineral pre-mixes or preservatives
    • Grain and grain-free available
    • Exceeds AAFCO standards
    Cons
    • Not as widely available as other brands

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    About Orijen

    Orijen links back to the Latin term “origin,” which alludes to the company’s aim to return to the original diets of canines and felines. Champion Pet Food is Canadian-based and manufactures all of Orijen’s food. They have two plants, one in Canada, Alberta, and another in Kentucky, USA.

    Three Principal Ideals for Orijen

    Unlike CARNA4, which has more of a small business feel, Orijen is a giant. It was founded in 1985 and is sold in 70 countries. According to the company, there are three principal goals for its food.

    First, their food aims to be biologically appropriate for dogs. There is debate on whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, and Orijen cites the anatomical build of a dog, its canine teeth, jaw, saliva, and enzymes, as reasons the dog is a carnivore.

    Second, they always use regionally sourced ingredients, which means they are transparent about where their ingredients come from and support small, local businesses.

    And third, they never outsource their manufacturing. This means every step of the manufacturing process is monitored by Orijen.

    The Food

    Orijen only uses fresh, non-GMO ingredients. They never use fillers, by-products, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

    Orijen has grain and grain-free options, and their healthier grain options include oats, quinoas, and chia, among some other gluten-free options. For their dry food, they use an 85%/15% ratio, which basically means 85% of their recipes are made up of animal-based proteins, while 15% is from a balance of fruits, vegetables, and botanicals. Two-thirds of the animal proteins are fresh or raw, creating a tasty, nutrient-dense meal.

    Plenty of Choices

    Chances are, you will find something suitable for your dog as there are several recipes. Orijen has varieties such as life stages, weight loss, freeze-dried formulas, standard dry food, and wet meals. It is, however, one of the pricier brands out there.

    In contrast to CARNA4, the ingredients list of Orijen is longer. However, this does not mean it is better or worse because what matters is what is listed in the ingredients.

    Ingredient Splitting

    Several ingredients on the list are legumes: red lentils, pinto beans, green lentils, navy beans, chickpeas, and peas. Listing the ingredients in this way has been likened to the recipe design practice of “ingredient splitting.” This basically refers to a misleading marketing practice of dividing an inferior quality ingredient into several parts. This allows the company to list “desirable” ingredients first and push less desirable ingredients further down the list, creating the illusion that there is less of the undesirable ingredient in the food.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients used
    • Made in Canada and the U.S.
    • High in protein
    • No fillers, by-products, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
    • Meets AAFCO standards
    Cons
    • Expensive

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    3 Most Popular CARNA4 Dog Food Recipes

    1. CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food Chicken Formula

    The first two ingredients are fresh chicken and chicken liver. Both are quality items the cooking process is gently baked to retain maximum nutrient quality.

    The eggs complement the chicken and chicken liver since they are also an excellent source of protein with essential amino acids which your dog needs for growth and muscle development. The Atlantic Salmon used is quick-frozen and has been be-boned. It’s a fantastic source of protein, omega-3, and vitamins, which are suitable for maintaining healthy skin and coat and preventing arthritis.

    The combination of probiotics, natural enzymes, barley seed, flaxseed, lentils, and peas is called “Flora4” and blends natural sources of vitamins, and minerals.

    While this is one of the best-selling recipes, it is a chicken recipe, which is a known allergen. So, it’s something you should be aware of when buying it if your dog hasn’t ever had chicken before.

    Pros
    • Quality ingredients used
    • All natural
    • Gently baked
    • No vitamin and mineral pre-mixes or preservatives
    Cons
    • Chicken is a potential allergen

    2. Carna4 Hand Crafted Dog Food Duck Formula (Grain-Free)

    Carna4 Handcrafted Dog Food, Duck

    The first two ingredients are duck and pork liver. Chicken and beef are two of the most popular meat flavors, but there are other novel proteins that pet parents don’t always think to try, and duck and pork are a good combination. Duck is rich in iron and provides your dog with a lean, easy-to-digest protein source.

    The recipe’s liver, on the other hand, contains 10 to 100 times more nutrients than muscle meat. It’s not only one of the most nutrient-rich organs, but it’s also packed with iron, protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids.

    There is also herring in the recipe, which is a fantastic source of calcium, omega-3, and vitamin D for strong bones and a healthy coat and skin. It is high in DHA and EPA, and like salmon, it also combats conditions like arthritis.

    The Duck Formula is grain-free and ideal for dogs with gluten sensitivities and allergies. There has been a link between heart disease and grain-free diets, but the research is ongoing, and there is simply not enough known about the link between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

    Pros
    • Quality ingredients used
    • No vitamin and mineral pre-mixes or preservatives
    • Suitable for dogs with allergies
    Cons
    • Be aware of grain-free investigations

    3. Carna4 Hand Crafted Dog Food – Easy-Chew Fish Formula

    Carna4 Easy-Chew Fish Formula Sprouted Seeds Dog Food

    The Easy Chew Fish Formula is designed for all life stages but with a customized softer, smaller nugget for the mouths of puppies, small breeds, and older dogs that might now have problems chewing.

    The first two ingredients are herring and perch. Perch is rich in vitamin B3, calcium, niacin, phosphorus, and riboflavin, which are essential nutrients for your dog. The omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for heart health, which makes perch an excellent addition.

    Pros
    • Quality ingredients used
    • No vitamin and mineral pre-mixes or preservatives
    • Suitable for dogs with allergies
    • Rich in omega fatty acids
    Cons
    • Unsuitable for some dogs
    • Smelly

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    3 Most Popular Orijen Dog Food Recipes

    1. ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

    ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

    Orijen’s first five ingredients are always raw or fresh animal proteins, and it’s true for this recipe. There is chicken, turkey, flounder, mackerel, and chicken liver. The recipe also has turkey giblets, including the heart, liver, heart, and gizzard. The seventh ingredient is herring, which means the first seven ingredients are meat or fish. That almost makes the rest of the ingredients on the list feel less important.

    The dehydrated chicken in this recipe contains more than four times the amount of protein as fresh chicken. Plus, unlike chicken meal which is considered to be more of an undesirable ingredient, dehydrated chicken is not exposed to high temperatures, and more of the meat’s nutrients are retained.

    Next are the eggs, which are easy to digest and high in protein, fatty acids, and vitamins that promote your dog’s overall health. This recipe is clearly high in protein, which is sitting at 38%, while the fat is at 18%. This might not be the diet for a dog that does not lead an active lifestyle, is prone to putting on weight, or is older and leads a more sedentary lifestyle.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients used
    • High in protein
    • Rich in omega fatty acids and essential oils from fish
    • Grain-free
    Cons
    • Unsuitable for some dogs
    • Potential allergens

    2. ORIJEN Amazing Grains Six Fish Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Orijen Amazing Grains Six Fish Recipe

    Amazing Grains promises 90% premium animal ingredients and no legume ingredients. The protein and fat are both 38% and 18%, respectively. The first six ingredients are mackerel, herring, salmon, pilchard, flounder, and monkfish.

    Oat groats are listed after the fish, and they are meant to be digested slowly. This reduces the glycemic load and will make your dog fuller for longer. Next is millet, which is rich in B vitamins, potassium, and iron and is easy for dogs to digest.

    The recipe suggests the most succulent parts of the fish, bones, and organs are used to simulate what your dog’s ancestors ate in the wild. Of course, when a wolf hunts it doesn’t just eat the muscle; it consumes nearly all of its prey. While this recipe focuses on the meat aspect, it also doesn’t stray from this promise by adding in fruit and vegetables. Plus, ingredients like pears, apples, and cranberries are packed with vitamins and minerals that support your dog’s overall health.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients used
    • Rich in omega fatty acids
    • Filling
    Cons
    • Unsuitable for some dogs

    3. ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food & Topper

    ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food

    This freeze-dried option from Orijen is produced in small batches to preserve the nutrients. The ingredients include meat, fish, organs, and bones and contribute excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.

    Raw boar, for example, supports lean muscle growth and function, the heart and immune system’s health, and assists cognitive functions. Organ meat is more nutritious than muscle meat, and from the liver, there are nutrients to support digestion, reproductive organs, the immune system, bones, and mental health.

    The protein level sits at 36% and the fat at 35%, making this the highest in both categories so far. With a high protein and fat level, Regional Red is suitable for dogs with active lifestyles.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients used
    • Rich in nutrients, minerals, and vitamins
    • High in protein and fat
    • Benefits of a raw diet
    Cons
    • Unsuitable for some dogs

    Divider 3

    Recall History of CARNA4 and Orijen

    There haven’t been reports of any USA recalls for either of these dog food brands. Orijen cat food was recalled in Australia due to problems related to its products being treated with radiation at customs. Orijen has since stopped distributing its products in Australia.

    CARNA4 vs Orijen Comparison

    Close up of beautiful dog eating from the bowl
    Image Credit: dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

    We’re nearly at the end of our comparison, but before we finish up, we’ve got a few extra factors that might be important to you when deciding between these brands.

    Taste

    The brands are equal in this category, relying on quality meat sources as their main ingredients. However, Orijen gets the point since it uses more meat than Carna4.

    Nutritional Value

    When it comes to nutritional value, the brand that comes out on top depends on what you’re looking for in a diet. Orijen has an above-average percentage of protein and fat and a below-average percentage of carbohydrates. CARNA4 has an above-average percentage of protein, an average percentage of fat, and a below-average percentage of carbs.

    CARNA4 wins the category for its unique use of sprouted seeds instead of sticking to the standard cereal grains that most commercial kibbles use. It is also the first brand to create synthetic-free dog food that exceeds the nutritional values established by AAFCO using only all-natural ingredients.

    Price

    Orijen won this round because it provides more options, and there is more room for a price discrepancy; some of its recipes aren’t as expensive as others.

    Selection

    Orijen is more widely available, both from stores and online, which makes it slightly more convenient, so the point goes to Orijen.

    Overall

    Due to availability Orijen is the winner, but it was much closer than it first appeared between both brands. While one still has the feel of a small business and one is much larger, they both have similar ideals.

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    Conclusion

    When picking a winner between the two brands, it wasn’t easy at times to choose. While both are quite similar, Orijen is heavy on their meat, while Carna4 has a lighter list of ingredients. Every ingredient that goes into both brands is high-quality and nutritious. However, Orijen is the overall winner due to its availability in the market.

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