It’s fun to find yummy chew toys, comfy pet beds, and handy pet supplies for your furry pal, but when it comes to choosing the right dog or cat food? Not so much. If you’re of the camp that pets are family, we’d have to say we agree (and maybe their no-strings-attached love and lack of backtalk makes them your favorite household member, at that). So if you’re thinking, “I want to feed my dog/cat like family instead of grabbing the cheapest bag of kibble at a pet store near me,” we get it. That’s why — with the help of Dog Food Advisor, which rates thousands of pet food brands, as well as Amazon reviewers — we’ve compiled a list of 8 grain-free and grain-inclusive dog and cat foods that you can feel good about.
To clarify, there are lots of great pet foods out there and no single food is “best,” as every animal has different dietary needs. However, you might be surprised that you won’t find big names like Fromm, Royal Canin, Purina, and Blue Buffalo here. That’s because we sorted out a handful of the highest-rated foods to bring you a few top choices. Whether you’re looking for a quality food that’s sustainably sourced, almost raw, or budget-friendly, these (pet) mom-approved 2020 picks contain whole foods to nourish your companion as healthily as possible.
Best Humane & Sustainably-Sourced Pet Food: Open Farm
If you’re looking for a healthy kibble that’s better for animals and the enivornment, Open Farm is a great choice. Manufactured in Canada, the company is committed to transparency and using traceable ingredients, meaning you know exactly where they came from. Further, this kibble is made with non-GMO fruits and veggies that are sustainably sourced, as well as farm-raised meat free of antibiotics. For extra assurance, Open Farm foods are Certified Humane, and its fish blends bear the OceanWise seal for sustainability. Dog food varieties include grain-free Homestead Turkey & Chicken, Grass-Fed Beef, Wild Caught Salmon, and more.
“As a vegan, this dog food is super important to me,” raves one reviewer. “It is the only dog food on the market (that I’ve found) that has incredibly strict and measured regulations on the humane treatment and life quality of the farm animals. Added bonus: the sustainable farms that are sourced have a much lighter impact on the environment which is another perk. And my dogs love it!”
Open Farm’s commitment to traceability and sustainability is reflected in its cat food, too. Filled with real locally-sourced produce humanely-raised meat and OceanWise-certified fish, this brand is good for your cat and your conscience. Recipes featuring whitefish, salmon, turkey and chicken, and lamb are sure to please your feline’s picky palette. Although the brand doesn’t currently have wet food options, this is a winner for your kitty’s kibble needs.
Explains one buyer, “I have a cat that is allergic to just about every food on the market so it’s very hard to find something she is able to digest without getting sick. This food is not only sourced ethically and naturally, but it has nothing she’s allergic to in it!” Adds another, “We have two rescue cats from the shelter and noticed improvements in both their coats and energy levels on this brand compared to other foods we tried them on. After having them eat this for a year our vet couldn’t believe how much healthier they were compared to when we brought them in for [their] first check-up!”
Best Biologically Appropriate Pet Food: Orijen
Orijen’s dog food is formulated to be “biologically appropriate,” meaning it’s specifically designed to cater to a canine’s biological needs. And if you do a little research, you’ll learn this kibble is among the best of the best: It’s made in Kentucky (at their Dogstar Kitchen, to be exact) with local non-GMO ingredients that arrive at the facility fresh or raw. And while this food is not Certified Humane, the company outlines its 90-180 supplier screening process on its FAQ page; in short, they strive for food safety, sustainability, and responsible sourcing. You can grab a bag in Original, Regional Red, Six Fish, and Small Breed varieties, all grain-free.
“I regularly write a blog about the kinds of pet foods people should avoid, the marketing scams and sneaky ways the pet food industry,” explains a top Amazon reviewer. “Happily, the makers of Orijen have all the right ingredients, truthful marketing, and transparency in place. he package contains the names of local sources where these ingredients come from, unlike many companies who outsource products and processes to other countries. Further, and this is REALLY important, each bag breaks down the percentage of each protein ingredient so that you can tell how much animal protein your dog is getting.”
You guessed it: Orijen’s cat food line is also “biologically appropriate,” except this one’s for feline friends. No matter which variety you choose, you can expect the same fresh-made, regionally-sourced ingredients as in the dog food, as well, and you’ll love how these high-protein blends are purrfect for furry carnivores. Better yet, you’ll have extra peace of mind knowing that it’s made in the US, in the company’s Kentucky-based kitchen.
Reviewers admit that this stuff is expensive, but many add that since it’s so nutrient-rich, a little goes a long way. “Despite the fact that it’s more expensive than other brands with meat by-products, and chicken/turkey meals it is more filling for my cats and therefore they are less hungry throughout the day,” explains one cat-dad. “When I was feeding them IAMs it seemed they were always hungry.”
Best Quality Pet Food On A Budget: Taste of the Wild
This one made Dog Food Advisor’s list of best budget-friendly dog foods, and based on its impressive Amazon ratings — over 3,400 reviews, 80% of them being 5-star — it’s no surprise why. Available in both grain-free and grain-inclusive formulas, if you opt for the latter, you’ll be glad to know it’s still free of wheat (a common pet allergen), corn (a cheap and easy filler), and other nutritionally empty ingredients; it contains grains like quinoa, millet, and chia seeds, instead. These kibbles are also free of excess “junk” like preservatives and dyes. This US-based brand also promises that these ingredients are sourced sustainably from around the world.
“My two Goldendoodles were having chronic ear infections,” says one pup parent. “I switched them over to Taste of the Wild based on research about grain-free food and dog allergies and I couldn’t be happier. My dogs have not had a single ear infection in the two years that they have been on this food! I really love that I can switch between flavors without any digestion issues.”
As wholesome, budget-friendly, and highly-reviewed as Taste of the Wild’s dog food is, its cat food upholds a similar standard. The feline formulas are (also) protein-rich, then blended with fruit and veggie superfoods that contain antioxidants. Like the brand’s puppy chow, the feline formulas contain ingredients that are sustainably sourced from around the world, but the food itself is manufactured in five facilities around the US. It’s available in wild grain, grain-free, and even wet food varieties.
The dry, grain-free food alone (pictured) has over 1,640 Amazon reviews, which are overwhelmingly positive. “I didn’t have to slowly introduce the food,” says one customer when she made the switch for her cats. “They when right for it! I see a difference in my cats already after 12 or so days. No more hair loss. brighter eyes. More energy. More lovins. Happy cats.”
Best Raw(ish) Pet Food: The Honest Kitchen
If buying rolls of refrigerated raw food on Amazon weirds you out, we have to say, we don’t blame you. (That said, there are plenty of reputable, subscription-based raw food suppliers out there.) And if feeding your companion uncooked food gives you cross-contamination concerns or simply weirds you out, The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated mixes (in multiple flavors) are the next best thing. Made with organic grains, lots of protein, and no preservatives, by-products, or GMO’s, you can feel good about feeding your dog this human-grade food. Just add water, and serve your pooch a stew that tastes like it’s freshly made by you.
Both grain-inclusive and grain-free formulas have top marks on Dog Food Advisor, and Amazon buyers seem to whole-heartedly agree. “When I found this company everything was different,” shares one buyer. “Their website is packed full of every bit of information you could ask for. Also, the fact that they had their food certified safe for human consumption mattered. I purchased a trial box to check it out. It is just like making oatmeal and it actually smelled like food – not dog food. I could also see all of the things they claim to put into their food right there in the bowl.”
Good news for cat lovers who want to “just add water” for a real-food meal: The Honest Kitchen has two grain-free varieties for cats, as well. You’ll love that Kitty’s meals consist of human-grade ingredients that are nutritious and free of GMO’s, by-products, and preservatives. Your pal, on the other — er, paw — will just know they’re eating delicious food. One thing to note: while the dog food version is made with organic grains, this grain-free food does not claim to have any organic ingredients. But if real, nutritious meals are what you’re after, this is a decent, relatively affordable choice.
“This cat food has been a godsend for our three-year-old Cornish Rex,” says one Amazon reviewer. “He has a ‘sensitive system,’ to say the least… and we tried just about every cat food brand out there from the time he was six months old. He has never gotten sick from this food, even after eating it exclusively for the past six months or so (that in itself is a miracle). His fuzzy coat has actually been growing in thicker and curlier, and so have his whiskers. His eyes also look much brighter now. He just looks so happy and healthy now.”
Feeling enlightened? Check out more of our mom-approved home & kitchen picks to make mom life in 2020 just a little bit easier.