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We’ll tell you the honest truth: if you’re looking for human-grade, non-GMO dog food, you won’t find much better than The Honest Kitchen. They offer many different minimally processed recipes in dehydrated, pate, and dry food form, without the hassle of storing frozen meals or the harsh high-temperature processing of standard kibbles. Instead, all of their recipes are cold-pressed, roasted, dehydrated, or use a combination of these methods. For dehydrated food, all you need is water and a clean dog bowl for dinner to be served.
The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Beef Clusters dry food is even better than dehydrated options, though, in our opinion. It’s less expensive and easier to serve than dehydrated foods with a price closer to standard kibbles than dehydrated or frozen meals. If you have a little more room in your budget, our dog’s favorite choice was the Turkey, Duck, and Root Veggies Butcher Block Pate. Alternatively, if you already have food that you like (but your dog doesn’t), The Honest Kitchen offers pour overs to make the meal a little tastier.
At a Glance: What We Reviewed
|Our Favorite||Grain Free Beef Clusters||
|Dehydrated Grain Free Beef||
|Dehydrated Whole Grain Turkey||
|Turkey, Duck & Root Veggies Butcher Block Pate||
|Pour Overs — Salmon & Pumpkin Stew||
About the Honest Kitchen
Who Makes The Honest Kitchen and Where Is It Produced?
In 2002, The Honest Kitchen formed in California under Lucy Postins’s leadership. Today, Lucy continues to oversee the company, which has since expanded into an entire team of dedicated dog-lovers. The Honest Kitchen also creates cat food and dog treats.
What’s Different About The Honest Kitchen?
The Honest Kitchen holds their food to higher standards than most pet food companies, which typically adhere to livestock feed standards. Animal feed grade food can include some pretty disgusting, humanly inedible ingredients such as 4-D meats¹. Companies operating under animal grade standards can legally include meat from animals who were diseased, found dead, dying, or destroyed. Even worse, pet foods with “meat by-products” that don’t disclose the source of the protein can actually contain euthanized dogs and cats¹, although this hasn’t been definitively proven.
Not only is this a sickening practice, it’s not a healthy-conscious choice to feed our pets since there may be trace amounts of the euthanasia drug in their food. While The Honest Kitchen products aren’t meant for human consumption, all of the products conform to the same strict testing that would be required of our food, and 4-D meats are definitely not allowed.
The Honest Kitchen goes against the grain of most pet food chains by declaring that their ingredients are 100% non-GMO. Additionally, many of their ingredients are organic, and all of their chicken will be GAP-certified by 2024. They source their ingredients locally when possible, which intentionally reduces carbon emissions. The Honest Kitchen sources 84% of their ingredients from the U.S.
Is The Honest Kitchen Grain-free?
There are grain inclusive and grain free options to fit every pup’s needs. While grain-free is a popular choice with holistic companies, we’re not completely on board with the trend. In 2018, the FDA¹ investigated a rise of the development of cardiomyopathy in dogs who were fed grain-free diets. However, the grain-free recipes were usually filled with pea, potato, and lentil ingredients which contain a lot of carbohydrates, and lacked taurine, which is an essential nutrient.
Taurine deficiency¹ has also been linked to cardiomyopathy, so we’re unsure if these grain-free recipes were problematic because of the lack of grains, the surplus of pea and lentil ingredients, or the lack of taurine. Since there haven’t been any further reports, we are a little hesitant to suggest grain-free recipes for dogs without known gluten allergies.
All of the recipes we reviewed include taurine and probiotics, which are excellent additions for a healthy diet and help counter possible issues with grain-free recipes. Additionally, the grain inclusive options opt for organic oats instead of wheat, which we feel is a better choice for dogs who do have gluten sensitivities.
Has The Honest Kitchen Ever Been Recalled?
Since The Honest Kitchen holds itself to human-grade standards, their food undergoes rigorous testing before being released for sale. Every batch is tested at a third-party facility and held back from shipment until it receives an all-clear.
It’s perhaps due to this stringent process that The Honest Kitchen has only had one recall in its twenty years of operation. In 2013¹ they voluntarily recalled five lots of food after possible salmonella contamination from parsley from a third party source. They have subsequently ceased business relations with the supplier, and there haven’t been any more issues since.
Is Dehydrated or Dry Food Better?
Even though all of The Honest Kitchen’s recipes are minimally processed, the dehydrated food is less processed than their dry food which must be cold-pressed, roasted, and then dehydrated. Dehydrated food might be better since it’s closer to the natural source, but it’s also much more expensive and requires a little preparation.
Each 10-pound box of dehydrated The Honest Kitchen dog food makes 40 lbs. of ready-to-eat meals once mixed with water. We estimate that it would cost about $115 a month to feed a medium-sized dog. Dry food or dehydrated food can be a better choice depending on whether you prefer a dehydrated food for the nutritional benefits, or if you need a more budget-friendly option with less mess.
Reviews of The Honest Kitchen Dog Foods We Tried
1. Grain Free Beef Clusters – Our Favorite
|Main Ingredients:||Beef, Potatoes, Peas, Beef Liver, Lentils|
|Calories:||427 kcal per cup|
We loved The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Beef Clusters because it combined the ease and affordability of typical dog food with the premium standards we’d expect from food with a heftier price tag. This dry food is cold-pressed, roasted, and then dehydrated at low temperatures. This is a much more nutritionally efficient process than throwing the kibbles into a 500°F+ oven at a standard dog food manufacturing plant. Beef is the first ingredient, which is better than many “premium” foods that might have a cheap meat meal or plant-based ingredient in the #1 spot.
However, being a grain-free food, we were neither surprised nor pleased with the surplus of pea and potato ingredients, which are high in starch. This food is formulated by the AAFCO for all life stages, but The Honest Kitchen doesn’t recommend it for active dogs or seniors.
2. Dehydrated Grain Free Beef
|Main Ingredients:||Dehydrated Beef, Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes, Dehydrated Potatoes, Organic Flaxseed, Dried Coconut|
|Calories:||514 kcal per cup|
This beef recipe whips up in just a couple minutes. All you have to do is add water, stir, and wait until the powder solidifies into more tangible chunks for your dog to devour. Dehydrated food retains more flavor than dried kibbles, which can make it Fido’s favorite choice. We like how beef is the first ingredient.
Although this is a grain-free recipe, which we don’t prefer, we like how flaxseed is included because it’s a good replacement source of fiber that typically comes from oats or wheat. Flaxseed is also a beneficial source of omega 3s. We do wish there were fewer potato ingredients, however, because potatoes are heavy in carbohydrates. Grain Free Beef is AAFCO certified for all life stages, but it isn’t recommended for less active or senior adults. We’re speculating that the high carb and protein content probably contributed to this suggestion.
3. Dehydrated Whole Grain Turkey
|Main Ingredients:||Dehydrated Turkey, Organic Oats, Dehydrated Potatoes, Organic Flaxseed, Dehydrated Carrots|
|Calories:||470 kcal per cup|
Turkey is an excellent alternative protein for dogs with food allergies. Not only is turkey the first ingredient, but it’s also the only meat, which is ideal for dogs who would benefit from a limited ingredient diet.
Dehydrated Whole Grain Turkey features organic oats as its whole grain ingredient. Oats are a smarter choice than wheat, which can be troublesome for dogs with gluten sensitivities and is never included in any The Honest Kitchen recipes.
While we would like to see potatoes replaced by a more nutritionally dense ingredient, such as brown rice, we’re pleased to see that they’re accompanied by other vegetables such as carrots and cabbage further down the list.
This recipe is AAFCO-certified for all life stages, but only recommended for moderately active adults. It wouldn’t be the ideal choice for puppies, active adults, or seniors.
4. Turkey, Duck & Root Veggies Butcher Block Pate
|Main Ingredients:||Turkey, Turkey Bone Broth, Turkey Liver, Duck, Sweet Potatoes|
|Calories:||343 kcal per cup|
Your dog will hungrily root through their bowl to eat this butcher block pate. The majority of the main ingredients are derived from turkey, and duck waddles close behind as a supporting meat. While we don’t usually encourage grain-free diets, this recipe may be beneficial for dogs with a supposed food allergy since it avoids grains, chicken, and beef.
This formula can be fed as a meal topper or as a meal in itself. It’s recommended for puppies and adults, but not ideal for seniors or extremely active dogs.
The main reason this wasn’t our favorite choice is due to its high price tag and very limited ingredients. Turkey, Duck & Root Veggies doesn’t include any green vegetables, such as broccoli, or grains. This food is probably best for dogs with sensitive tummies, or to use as the canine version of chicken noodle soup when your furry friend is sick.
5. Pour Overs — Salmon & Pumpkin Stew
|Main Ingredients:||Turkey Bone Broth, Salmon, Pumpkin, Apples, Butternut Squash|
|Calories:||67 kcal per cup|
Treat your pup to a pour over that tastes like a meaty pumpkin pie. This meal topper makes dry food a little less, well, dry, and gives your dog something extra to be grateful for.
Pour overs aren’t formulated to be a complete meal, so be sure to supplement with your dog’s favorite kibbles. We’re happy to see that this meal topper features very limited ingredients. Additionally, there aren’t any preservatives, so be sure to store the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days if needed. If you aren’t planning on using it all at once, you might want to use a spoon instead of squeezing the carton because the liquid separates slightly. You don’t want to give your dog only broth one day, and then all vegetables and meat in the second serving.
6. Superfood Pour Overs — Lamb & Beef Stew
|Main Ingredients:||Beef Bone Broth, Lamb, Beef, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli|
|Calories:||92 kcal per cup|
This beefy meal topper not only gives some taste to bland dry food, but also empowers your dog with superfoods like spinach and kale. We like how Lamb & Beef stew uses nutritious ingredients instead of relying on junk food to make meals more palatable.
Like the other pour overs, this recipe doesn’t contain any preservatives, so you’ll need to store any opened cartons in the refrigerator for up to three days after opening. With almost 100 calories per carton, this superfood pour over might not be the best choice for senior dogs who are struggling to stay fit.
7. Ocean Chews Hearty Wolffish Skins Beams
|Main Ingredients:||Dehydrated Wolffish Skins|
|Calories:||37 kcal per average treat|
The Hearty Wolffish chews are available in two sizes, a small chew and a large chew to fit your dog’s needs. Dehydrated fish skins is the sole ingredient, which is a natural source of Omega 3s. Because there’s only one ingredient, there are no harmful preservatives to worry about. The large chews are supposed to have an extended chew time, but unfortunately, we saw our small dog devour them within a few minutes. These treats are perfect if you’re looking for a snack for your dog, but probably not what you want if you’re trying to find a chew to occupy them for hours.
Our Experience With The Honest Kitchen Dog Food
From the moment The Honest Kitchen box landed on my kitchen floor, Tuggles the Maltipoo couldn’t wait to dig in. He’s usually a fairly picky eater who eats his dry food only when he must, so you can imagine my surprise when he literally tried to rip open the bag of Grain Free Beef Clusters before I could lift it out of the box.
His love for the food lingered beyond his initial sample. Tuggles had such a positive experience with Grain Free Beef Clusters that I actually switched his food to this recipe following the trial. However, as previously mentioned, I don’t completely trust grain-free diets, so I want to give him the comparable The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Beef & Oat With Turkey Clusters Recipe as his daily meal once it’s back in stock. The ingredients are very similar, except that it swaps peas and potatoes for oats and barley, and features turkey as an extra source of protein. Even so, his extremely positive reception was one reason why we gave Grain Free Beef Clusters such a favorable review, and why he’s still eating it today.
I was impressed by how quickly the dehydrated food solidifies once you add water. It’s ready to eat within a couple minutes. Just be sure to give it a good stir. Even though the wait time was shorter than the time it takes to make a cup of coffee, Tuggles remembered the taste of Dehydrated Grain Free Beef when I was preparing his second sample, and promptly bopped the container out of my hand while we were waiting for it to take shape. He loves it!
Tuggles gobbled up the Whole Grain Turkey sample within a couple minutes. His little kitten brother Moses also tried to get in on the fun.
The Turkey Duck & Root Veggies Butcher Block Pate was probably Tuggles’s favorite pick. He devoured an entire carton within a couple minutes!
I was excited to give him the Pour Overs because the recipes include some of his favorite ingredients. The Pour Over Salmon & Pumpkin contains apples, and the Superfoods Lamb & Beef Stew featured broccoli. He loved them both. I’m considering adding them both to my pet store list to make his daily life a little better.
The Ocean Chews Hearty Wolffish Skins were appreciated, but quickly destroyed. I really didn’t think they quite lived up to their supposed reputation as “extended” chews, but Tuggles has managed to chomp through different chews very quickly before. He does have strong teeth despite being a little Maltipoo. Also, oddly enough, he wouldn’t eat the very ends of the chew, so I ended up with little bits of fish skins laying around my house. Again though, this could be a Tuggles problem that doesn’t reflect badly on the chews.
I really appreciate The Honest Kitchen’s commitment to human-grade ingredients. I think I will continue to buy their products. While Tuggles really liked the dehydrated recipes, I did feel that $100+ per month for his food may be a little out of budget, so I think we’ll stick with the clusters for now.
The Honest Kitchen offers dehydrated, pate, and dry kibble options that are considerably healthier than the majority of dog foods on the market today. With human-grade, non-GMO ingredients, we feel better feeding our dogs these recipes than heavily processed hard kibbles that contain animal-grade meats and genetically modified fillers. The Honest Kitchen serves a variety of options to fit your pup’s needs, including grain inclusive and grain-free recipes featuring several choices of meat proteins. Of the recipes we reviewed, we liked Grain Free Beef Clusters best. This recipe combines the better qualities of kibble and dehydrated food with none of the negatives. It’s a healthier, less processed choice than your standard kibble, and you don’t even have to stir it.