Dehydrated vs. Freeze-Dried Pet Food – Know the Difference

Many people mistakenly use these two terms interchangeably, but they are very different processes. Since both procedures produce similar nearly moisture-free foods it is understandable that there can be confusion in people’s minds. Let’s explore some of the important differences.

Dehydrated Dog Food

Dehydration has been used for centuries although modern technologies have vastly improved the quality of foods produced. Dehydration involves slow, gentle cooking that uses warmed air to waft away the food’s natural moisture. This process requires heat, usually over 104 degrees, at which most protein enzymes are killed. It is a moderate process, easier on food than canning, extrusion, or baking, all of which require very high heat. Foods made through canning, baking and extrusion are considered “dead food” because they are processed in ways that absolutely kill all enzymes. Sadly, most dehydrated foods, certainly dehydrated proteins, will also not contain live enzymes.

So Why Use Dehydrated Food?

Dehydration’s main advantage in food preservation is that done right, it reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. Molds, fungi, yeast and other contaminants need moisture to thrive, and correctly dried foods eliminate most moisture. Another boon to using dehydrated foods is they do not require preservatives as they are naturally preserved if stored away from moisture, heat and light. These foods will absorb about 70% of original moisture when re-hydrated, making them a good choice for pets unwilling to drink sufficient water.

Freeze-Dried Dog Food

While the freeze-drying process is not new, it has only been in popular usage since the 1950’s. Through the process of sublimation, moisture is drawn out of the frozen raw ingredients without entering a liquid state.  This very gentle process using low heat (normally under 104 degrees) retains ingredient’s flavor, texture size and shape, and most importantly raw enzymes remain intact. This process does not denature the food in any way, retaining full nutritional value and resulting in less risk of allergies.

Why Use Freeze-Dried Food?

If stored properly away from moisture, heat and light, freeze-dried foods remain viable for many years without the necessity of preservatives or additives of any kind. Freeze-dried foods are lightweight, easily portable and extremely clean and bacteria-free. The slower, lower heat process of freeze-drying is worthwhile as more nutrients are intact resulting in a healthier food.

The Healthiest Choice is Freeze-Dried Food

Both dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are considered “live foods” because they use far lower heats than other traditional food treatment methods. Unfortunately, to kill bacteria dehydrated meats must be processed at temperatures around 150 – 165 degrees, hot enough to kill all raw enzymes. However, using highly exacting temperature standards, freeze-dried foods preserve raw enzymes, making them a true raw food. If you are interested in the healthiest choice in food preservation, there is no doubt that freeze-dried foods would have to be your choice.

By Carol Kendig

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