Vital Essentials Raw Food Review

Today’s review is on one of my recently purchased yet harder to find brands which I didn’t know existed until 2017. They have been around since 1968. You may have heard of them if you happen to live in or around Wisconsin: Vital Essentials.

Did you know they also have provided food for wild cats at the Milwaukee Zoo?

It is a family-owned company. All products are made in a USDA & FDA inspected facility in Green Bay and the meats & supplements they use are human grade.

This is important to me because I don’t want to feed my cats an uncooked product that isn’t high quality, clean meat.

They refer to their food as The Alpha Prey Model Diet. This means they are trying to mimic what a wild carnivore would eat in nature:  muscles, organs, and bone. No grains or starches.

Also, the word alpha is included because in a wolf pack, the ‘alpha’ would eat first and get the majority of the organs, which are a great source of important nutrients.

That does not apply to domestic cats so much, as they prefer to be loners but I find they do enjoy raw chicken hearts as treats.

A domestic-sized cat in the wild would mostly eat prey like mice whole, so they would get organ meats in addition to the rest of the mouse.

Vital Essentials uses only muscle meat, organs and bone. They have fewer supplements listed on the ingredient list than other brands. No rendered by-products are ever used, guaranteed.

They also guarantee that no foreign ingredients are used.

There are two lines of single protein frozen raw diets available, one labeled for cats and one labeled for dogs.  They make both frozen raw and freeze-dried raw versions.

Vital Cat frozen food chub

 

There is one main IMPORTANT difference between the two lines of frozen raw. The cat line contains raw goat’s milk, which is dairy, and that makes the company’s “no junk” claim false.

I emailed them to ask why they included dairy, and their response was simply 2 reasons: texture and “nutrients”.

Texture can be an important factor for cats, because many have strong texture preferences. Cats are known to be extremely picky eaters.

I can tell you that the texture of the thawed Vital Essentials raw is pretty much the same, whether it is the one labeled for cats or the one labeled for dogs.  I’ve tried both lines on my cats.

Also, I have fed them Allprovide & Rad Cat, and neither contain dairy, but they both have a nice texture that my two cats like.

I mean, when you grind up meat, organs and bones together, how many different textures can you make out of that?

With any raw food there will be some liquid/blood (once it has been thawed) and depending on how finely ground it is there will be some chunkiness to it.

All flavors of Vital Cat contain added water anyway. All flavors except rabbit contain eggs, which could be a potential allergen if your cat has poultry allergies.

Vital Essentials Vital Cat thawed chub

I haven’t figured out a way to open these without making a mess.

As far as nutrients go, goat milk will ONLY contain the nutrients that are necessary for the survival and growth of a baby goat (the proper term is kid), nothing more; nothing less.

More importantly, any form of dairy is contraindicated for anybody (animal or human) who is prescribed tetracycline antibiotics.

This is because the dairy (milk, whey, butter, cream, yogurt, frozen yogurt, cheese, sour cream, etc.) prevents the medication from being absorbed correctly so it won’t work.

This class of antibiotics includes doxycycline, which is commonly prescribed to cats for herpes flare-ups and upper respiratory infections (URI). It is one of the best two antibiotics for URIs, the other one is Clavamox.

Doxycycline is the antibiotic that is used to treat Lyme disease. It is also used for dogs that are being treated for heartworms, because that worm carries a bacterium called Wolbachia that is released into the bloodstream when the worms die off.

Never forget that most cats & dogs are lactose-intolerant. If your pet is, you will see them have vomiting and/or diarrhea after ingesting dairy.

Mother’s milk is intended for the survival of babies of the same species as the mother, who have tiny baby guts. Adults don’t need it.

In college, the veterinarian teaching one of my classes said that vomiting & diarrhea are the #1 reason pets are brought into the vet clinic and the main cause is dietary indiscretion.

There are dry foods that contain dairy too, but that will be covered in a separate post.

For the frozen raw, there are several flavors and package sizes available.

For cats:

Chubs (8 ounces) in chicken, turkey, duck, and rabbit

Mini patties (2 pound pack) in  chicken, turkey, duck, and rabbit

Family size (3.5 pound pack) in chicken, turkey, duck, and rabbit

Vital Cat thawed raw food

This is what it looks like when thawed & plated. Just needs a garnish.

 

Vital Cat frozen raw rabbit

Vital Cat rabbit passes the taste test.

 

For dogs:

Nibblets (3 pound bag) in beef, chicken, and turkey

Mini patties (2 ounces each- 3 pound bag) in beef and chicken

Patties (6 pound bag) in beef, chicken, turkey, duck, rabbit, fish, and wild boar

Chubs (5 pounds) in beef, chicken, turkey, and duck

Vital Essentials raw dog food chicken

This is the dog chicken patty. It looks like it has the same texture as the Vital Cat line.

Vital Essentials bag tip

 

Either line can be fed to cats or dogs. All formulas are nutritionally complete for all life stages.

I approve of the ingredients overall except for the dairy. Otherwise, all formulas are very species-appropriate for felines.

Disclaimer: my cats are really addicted to Rad Cat, and it is difficult to test new raw foods on them. Your cat may love a food that my cats don’t.

First I tried the frozen raw nibblets in chicken & beef, because that was the only kind I could find in a store. The nibblets are like little pillows. That is the only way I can describe them.

They did not like these that much, but would eat them when  mixed with canned pate. I was surprised they did not like the beef, since they used to eat the beef Nature’s Variety Instinct and beef canned foods.

Take a look at the beef ingredient list, and you’ll see they include beef tripe. Many beef cat foods don’t also contain tripe. Cats who normally like beef may not like tripe.

Tripe is basically cow stomach lining. It’s not just for pets; many people all over the world enjoy this delicacy.

Next we tried the Vital Cat frozen raw chubs. I bought turkey, rabbit & duck. They seemed to like rabbit the most and did not like the turkey or duck.

I also bought a bag of the chicken patties. My cats ate the chicken nibblets when I mixed them with canned food so I’m going to try that again because the Vital Essentials in that size is cheaper than the Rad Cat. We’ll see how it goes.

Vital Essential Raw patties for dogs

 

The patties in the dog line are similar in size to the Nature’s Variety Instinct patties, just not quite as thick.

One reason I would recommend this brand is because they have a huge variety of treats that are appropriate for both cats and dogs, and those who need to stay on a limited ingredient/single protein diet too.

My cats are weird and won’t eat the freeze-dried treats at all…..maybe because they’ve been on a moist diet most of their lives so they don’t recognize dry treats as edible?

Most common brands of treats, like Temptations, are purely junk. Don’t feed those, please.

Vital Essentials rabbit bites treats

These are the rabbit bites. Named appropriately because they sure are bite sized.

The Vital Essentials treats & food toppers are freeze-dried.  Freeze drying retains nutrients and allows food to have a longer shelf life. Something I really appreciate is that the freeze-dried products don’t have much if any smell to them.

A unique product for cats is their freeze-dried minnow treats.  A lot of pet owners on social media say their cats love the minnows. I will not be buying these as we are a fish-free household.

All of the fish treats (minnows, wild Alaskan salmon, & ahi tuna) are contraindicated for cats with fish allergies.

Other treat flavors available for cats are: chicken breast, chicken giblets, chicken hearts, duck liver & rabbit bites.

Tip: if your cat won’t eat the dry treat, you can try soaking it in water to soften it. If they won’t eat it on its own soft, I would mix it with wet or raw food.

Vital Essentials chicken hearts treats

Yum! Who doesn’t love raw chicken hearts? lol

FYI, a new treat  labeled for dogs that they released not too long ago is called turkey ‘fries’. That means testicles. Turkey testicles. People eat them too, often deep fried. There is even a festival dedicated to them.  Not sure that I would give those to a cat though.

Vital Essentials makes another unique type of product called food toppers. These are essentially a powdered version of their freeze-dried foods. Toppers come in 4 flavors: beef, chicken, turkey & fish.

You can add toppers to any kind of food (dry, raw or canned). This achieves the same effect as buying freeze dried meat treats and crushing them yourself.  Adding a topper to your cat’s food may help if you’re in the process of transitioning to a new food.

I saw these when I was shopping at Bentley’s Pet Stuff and grabbed a bag to take a closer look at the package. It looked completely powdered but I could feel a whole uncrushed mini patty inside.

This brand is only available at select stores; you will NOT find in a big box store or grocery store or Target.

Most stores that say they carry Vital Essentials just have the treats or freeze-dried products. The frozen raw is harder to find and I have only found it at Bentley’s Pet Stuff, online at Chuck & Don’s Delivers or Total Dog Company.

The cost will vary by where you buy it from, but I paid $2.99 for the 8 ounce Vital Cat chubs. They had a Rabbit chub that was around $4.99 but it appears to have been discontinued at Bentley’s.

The 6 pound bags of the patties range depending on flavor. I paid $33.99 for the chicken patties.

The most expensive flavors are the beef and wild boar. I saw that those are around $45-ish and the duck is around $38. That is not too bad- it is similar to the Nature’s Variety Instinct patties for dogs.

Would I recommend this product to a friend? Yes to everything but the Vital Cat, because it contains dairy. Double yes to the treats & toppers.

 

Pros:

  • High quality products
  • Made in USA
  • USDA & FDA inspected
  • Single Protein formulas
  • Lots of freeze-dried treat options
  • Zero fillers, starches, carbs, gluten, or grains, or plants

 

Cons:

  • Cat foods contain dairy, which is contraindicated for cats taking tetracycline antibiotics (sorry, herpes kids)
  • Cat chubs are small
  • Expensive per pound compared to homemade raw
  • Frozen raw can be harder to find (depending on what state you live in)

 

Be sure to check out the other raw food reviews too.

Have you tried Vital Essentials for your pet? Leave a comment and let us know!

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6 comments

  1. Lisa Simone says:

    I have 3 cats that are currently eating a combination of wet and dry cat food.I would like to start feeding them a raw food diet.What is the best way to make the transition from their current diet to the raw one.Should I mix the raw
    food with wet and gradually decrease the percentages? Also how many days is the frozen raw food you just reviewed good for after it is thawed?

    • admin says:

      Hi Lisa!

      The key to transitioning to raw is patience. That being said, raw and dry kibble are not compatible. Some cats can handle both, but many will vomit or have diarrhea with both types of diets in their system. Also, cats can prefer or be addicted to dry foods.

      You should eliminate dry food completely, but if your cats won’t eat the wet or raw foods you’ll have to add it back in so they don’t get sick (hepatic lipidosis).

      Either homemade or store bought raw will work. Try many different brands and protein sources. You can mix it with the canned if you want, but to start with I would put out a tablespoon of thawed raw by itself for each cat just to see if they will even eat it.

      Thaw enough to last 2-3 days maximum at a time, storing it in the refrigerator. I find that some cats do well on all raw but for those who do canned too I like a 50:50 ratio of each at the minimum, or 25% canned 75% raw.

      It will take some experimenting before you find out what foods your cats like best and what amount you will go through in 2-3 days. Good luck!

    • misty says:

      WOW your site has a lot of helpful information. The reviews are very helpful if you are looking to change your cats food or even if you are looking to get your first cat and trying to decide what food you want to get. I learned a lot reading this post. I had no idea that cats had a texture preference!