Muenster Milling’s Freeze-Dryer, located in Muenster, TX
By now, most of you have heard the term “freeze-dried,” and have probably seen it on the shelf at your local pet food retailer or online. It’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the pet food industry and for good reason. The process gently removes moisture from the food without cooking it, leaving you with a nutritious, shelf-stable, uncooked product to feed your dog.
Why is freeze-drying a superior process for producing pet food?
It’s simple really, you get out of the freeze-dryer what you put into it without having to add extra fillers. The freeze-dried process was initially developed to maintain structural integrity and nutrient levels in foods for our astronauts. When cooking foods, vitamins & minerals are lost during the heating process. In freeze-dried, since everything happens in a frozen environment, the proteins aren’t denatured, so vitamin/mineral concentration isn’t lost. The freeze-dryer provided our astronauts with a complete and balanced diet that was light and could be reconstituted, while ensuring they had all the nutrients necessary for their travels. Another important application of freeze-dried products is in pharmaceuticals. As expensive as prescription drugs are, the manufacturers can’t afford to lose half of the integrity of their product to the heating process – which is why, oftentimes, pharmaceuticals are freeze-dried.
Our goal for feeding your pets is to give them the nutrients they need without having to pack in an abundance of high-calorie carbohydrates to make it happen. Carbohydrates are sugars that have low nutritional value for carnivores – but do a great job of holding kibble together, making extra carbs a common ingredient in conventional pet food. Since freeze-drying removes water from foods while frozen, carbohydrates are no longer needed to hold the foods together. Freeze-drying also negates the need to add glycerin to foods (used many times in baked & cold extruded treats). When freeze-dried, a dog’s diet is more simple & pure without extra filler ingredients.
This image was taken shortly after opening our freeze-dryer in Muenster, TX. The ice you see on the condenser plates is the moisture we have removed from the meat via freeze-drying.
What exactly is the freeze-drying process?
- We put frozen, raw meat onto trays in our freeze-dryer.
- The temperature lowers to around -60°, turning the water content in the meat into ice.
- A vacuum seal lowers the pressure to less than .06 ATM (atmospheric pressure).
- The trays heat up gradually. Once above 32° and without pressure, the water in the meat moves directly from ice form to vapor form, skipping the liquid form entirely (like dry ice evaporating on a counter).
- The water vapor collects on condensing plates (similar to the way frost condenses to your car in the winter), effectively drawing the moisture out of the meat. This condensing process can take anywhere from 24-48 hours.
- After all moisture has been removed, the vacuum is released and we’re left with a shelf-stable, super-nutritious raw meat product you can feed your dog or cat without any fillers or added carbs!
This is what frozen chicken looks like prior to entering the freeze-dryer. The trays slide onto the shelves and the sublimation process begins, taking water directly from ice to vapor.
How to incorporate freeze-dried into your pet’s diet
- Freeze-dried foods can be 100% of your dog’s diet by allowing them to transition to a full carnivore diet over the course of one week.
- Incorporate freeze-dried as 25-50% of your dog’s diet by mixing it in with kibble or canned foods.
- Feeding freeze-dried during the day and kibble at night is a popular method.
- Gradually adding freeze-dried meal toppers to kibble can be used to slowly remove carbohydrates from the diet.
- Use freeze-dried as a treat only. Personally, when feeding as a treat, I like to hide freeze-dried foods throughout the house and let my dogs “hunt” for it.
Image of our Freeze-Dried Elk & Venison Meal Topper. All it takes is a little sprinkle over their regular food, and your dogs’ mealtime will never be the same!
However you choose to incorporate the freeze-dried product into your dogs’ diet, you’ll want to make sure you monitor how much food your pets are eating. Freeze-dried foods are more rich in protein and nutrients than conventional pet foods, so your pet will likely need a lower quantity of food in general. But every single dog is different and will have different needs. You are the best judge of your dog’s body condition, and you can easily help your dog by ensuring you adjust the feeding amounts as directed. If you need any help putting together a freeze-dried feeding program for your dog, please reach out to us and we can help set you up a program. Send us a note: [email protected]