6 Things All Pet Owners Should Know About the Farmer's Dog – KetoNatural Pet Foods

6 Things All Pet Owners Should Know About the Farmer's Dog


The Farmer’s Dog arrived on the pet food scene in 2014. At the time, it was one of several startups selling more or less the same concept: “Blue Apron, but for dogs.”

Remember Blue Apron? It was the startup that popularized the idea of home-delivery meal kits (for humans). It grew incredibly quickly, spawning a cluster of copycats businesses before going public in 2017, only to flame out and lose most of its market value before being picked up off the scrap heap by the guy who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The group of pet food startups founded as Blue Apron was still in its ascendency promised something similar, but for pets. And venture capital investors apparently liked the pitch, because the companies managed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in the years that followed.

The Farmer’s Dog did this better than its peers, raising far larger sums than competitors like Ollie and Nom Nom Now. And all that money allowed the company to hypercharge its growth and become the dominant direct-to-consumer pet food brand in the country. Nowadays you’ll see its ads during the Super Bowl and read about rumors that it is looking to raise more than a billion dollars.

All of which may have led you to consider trying it with your own dog. But before you do we think there are six specific things you really ought to know.

1) It’s Not Really Customized to Your Dog

One of the cool things about meal delivery services like Blue Apron is they allow you to customize your menu choices depending on your dietary preferences and nutritional needs. Vegan, paleo, low-sugar—whatever you’re into, one or another meal delivery service can probably make it happen. 

And the Farmer’s Dog positions itself similarly, with a lengthy intake questionnaire that asks you all manner of questions about your dog’s health and repeated claims that it will use the information to “personalize” your recipe to your dog’s unique needs:

Which sounds cool too! There’s just one little problem: it’s not actually personalized for your dog, at least not in the way that you think.

In reality, there are just two things that the Farmer’s Dog “personalizes” for your dog: (1) which of its four recipes you choose (turkey, beef, or whatever) and (2) how much of it they send you. That’s it. Unlike meal delivery services for people, which customize your ingredients and dishes based on your nutritional preferences, the Farmer’s Dog does not substantively alter its recipes or nutritional contents in response to your survey questions. It has four different recipes, you choose one of them, and that’s it.

If you usually buy your dog food from, say, Chewy or Amazon, then that probably sounds an awful lot like the kind of “personalization” you’re probably already doing when you choose your favorite bag of dog food and then tell the retailer how often to ship it to you.

Does that count as “personalizing”? I guess that depends who you ask. But it’s certainly not new or unique.

2) It’s Not Really “Fresh” Either

If the Farmer’s Dog’s liberal interpretation of the word “personalized” makes you roll your eyes a bit, then prepare yourself, because the questionable use of health and marketing jargon doesn’t stop there. There’s another one and it’s probably even more disingenuous.

The Farmer’s Dog calls its diets “fresh.” Which, of course, sounds great. Fresh means healthy, right?

Well, maybe. But there’s a bit of a problem here too: the Farmer’s Dog isn’t actually “fresh,” at least not according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the group that regulates the labeling and sale of pet food in the United States.

For purposes of determining whether pet food products are labeled in false or misleading ways, AAFCO defines hundreds of common pet food terms. And these include the word “fresh.” More specifically, AAFCO says that an ingredient qualifies as “fresh” only if two things are true: (1) it was never frozen and (2) it was never cooked. Which sounds pretty common sensical to us.

But the Farmer’s Dog actually doesn’t satisfy either of these two requirements. Its diets aren’t raw (they’re cooked using something mysterious the company calls its “gentle cooking” method). And they’re frozen too—the packets literally arrive at your house frozen!

Which sure doesn’t sound very fresh to us. Our lawyers actually asked the company how they square this disconnect, but they never responded, which isn’t a great sign.

3) It’s Nutritional Profile is Good-ish, But Definitely Not Great

We already wrote a lot about this subject in this earlier article. So if you want to understand it in greater detail, and to get a refined sense of all the numbers and studies and whatnot, you should definitely check that out. But it boils down to a few main points, which we’ll summarize here.

In essence, the Farmer’s Dog contains somewhat more protein and somewhat less carbohydrate than “value” and “mass-market” kibbles, like, say, Pedigree or Hill’s Science Diet. And that generally makes it a healthier choice for dogs than those other products.

But there are plenty of dog foods for sale in the U.S. (dry ones, canned ones, raw ones, and plenty of other kinds) that contain similar protein and carbohydrate profiles to the Farmer’s Dog. It’s definitely not an outlier, at least not in terms of its nutritional profile. In fact, there are plenty of dog foods that contain way more protein (including far more meat-based protein) and way less carbohydrate (like 90% less) than the Farmer’s Dog.

In the modern pet food market, where so many products feature such shockingly unhealthy nutritional profiles, the Farmer’s Dog qualifies as “pretty good, but certainly not great.”

A second point about its nutritional qualities. The company also sort of tries to suggest that its mysterious “gentle cooking” method somehow (in some vague way that nutritional science hasn’t really figured out yet) makes its ingredients uniquely healthy. But there’s precisely zero evidence supporting this idea. There is not a single shred of evidence that the Farmer’s Dog’s special cooking system magically makes dog food ingredients healthy. 

What really matters to canine health is nutrition. And the nutritional profile of the Farmer’s Dog is pretty mediocre—it’s genuinely better than the least healthy pet foods in the market right now but nowhere near as good as plenty of others.

4) The Cost is Huge

The Farmer’s Dog works really hard to hide its prices from consumers. And it seems to be doing an excellent job. According to Google, about 25,000 consumers ask the search engine "How much does the Farmer’s Dog cost?” every month. That’s about 25 times as many people as are asking the same question about the popular brands Orijen, Blue Buffalo, and Natural Balance combined. And each of those three brands is way larger than the Farmer’s Dog. 

As we explained in detail in this earlier article, there’s a really good reason why the Farmer’s Dog doesn’t want you to know how much its products cost: they may be the most expensive dog food products ever sold in the United States.

The company does a good job of “unit-izing” its products in a way that makes their prices really hard to compare with dry and canned foods. But on a per-meal (or per-calorie) basis, the Farmer’s Dog costs something like 300% to 400% as much as the fanciest, most expensive dry foods currently being sold anywhere else in America.

This means that switching a 50-pound dog from an expensive kibble like Blue Buffalo to the Farmer’s Dog will increase your annual dog food expenditure by a couple thousand dollars every year. Woof.

So why does it cost so much?

There’s a specific (but surprising) answer to that question and it has nothing much to do with health or nutrition.

5) The Farmer’s Dog is 75% Water (and Less Than 25% Actual, Calorie-Containing Nutrition)

Yes, you read that correctly.

Dry dog food products are, well, dry. The moisture gets removed from them during production, which helps them stay shelf-stable for longer. As a result, most kibbles are only about 10% water. Meaning that the vast majority of these products is actual, calorie-containing nutrition—protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

But not the Farmer’s Dog.

While it isn’t entirely clear exactly what the Farmer’s Dog’s “gentle cooking method” actually is (although our best guess is they are injecting their ingredients with superheated steam), what is clear is that it doesn’t involve drying or freeze-drying. And that means that most of the moisture that’s naturally found in common pet food ingredients is still in there when the Farmer’s Dog seals them in a bag. As a result, on average, its products are at least 75% water.

This has a massive impact on the company’s costs, for two reasons.

First, it means that each serving (or each calorie) of the Farmer’s Dog weighs way more than each serving of kibble. As anyone who buys their dog food online probably already knows, shipping big, heavy bags of kibble around the country costs a fortune. But just imagine how much it would cost to ship three or four equivalently-large bags of water alongside each one! That’s essentially what’s happening when you buy the Farmer’s Dog.

The second reason that wet products like the Farmer’s Dog are so expensive is they need to stay frozen until you’re ready to use them, otherwise they quickly spoil and become contaminated with dangerous food-borne pathogens. This means that the Farmer’s Dog has to pack insulation and dry ice into each of its shipments to ensure that the products don’t thaw before they reach you. And all that extra “stuff” is also really heavy.

Also, don’t forget that the Farmer’s Dog delivers its products directly to consumers. So it’s not shipping all that extra weight around by the truckload. It’s sending individual boxes of dog food out to individual consumers. And that compounds the cost of moving all the extra weight across the country.

Tally all those various shipping expenses up and you can see why the Farmer’s Dog needs to charge so much for its foods. 

6) There Is No Evidence That The Farmer’s Dog Will Help Your Dog Live Longer

We’ve saved this one for last because it really is the most shameful thing about the company. Squint hard enough and you can just about excuse all the other sleight-of-hand as a plucky startup company trying to stay alive and be competitive in a really challenging market. But this one is harder to justify.

If you’re at all familiar with the Farmer’s Dog, then you’ve seen how the company is constantly implying (without saying so directly) that its products will help your dog live longer. Here are just a few examples:

The company’s trademarked slogan is “Long Live dogs.” 

The heartbreaking commercial that it ran during the 2023 Super Bowl is all about how sad and unfair it is that dogs live such short lives and why we all wish we could do something to help them live longer. They even titled the ad “Forever” (as in “how much would you be willing to pay for a dog food that would magically help your dog live forever?”).

The company also runs ads featuring very old dogs that allegedly eat its products (even though the animals are generally at least six or seven years older than the company itself). It even claims that its name is a nod to the fact that “farm dogs” are famously long-living:


You’ll notice that all of these references to longevity stop short of the explicit claim that “our products are likely to make your dog live longer than she otherwise would.” And there’s a good reason for that: there’s no reason to believe it will. There is absolutely no evidence that the Farmer’s Dog has any impact whatsoever on canine lifespan.

Which is fine, of course. There isn’t really any direct evidence that any specific brand of pet food will cause a dog to live longer than any other brand.

But that lack of evidence is why most brands also don’t try to imply that their foods have special longevity powers. (Blue Buffalo, which sells a product line that it calls “Life Extension” is another shameful exception.) It’s the same reason why most dog food brands don’t suggest that their foods will help your dog grow wings or learn calculus either—there isn’t any evidence that those things will actually happen.

For the Farmer’s Dog to so clearly and obviously introduce the specter of longevity into its marketing (without any evidence to back it up) is gross. It’s a form of preying on vulnerable pet owners grappling with the sad reality that dogs live unfairly short lives. And the company shouldn’t do it.


So Is It Worth It?

In the end, deciding what to feed your dog is always going to be a choice informed by all sorts of different factors. And with nearly a billion dollars in sales, it’s clear that lots of pet owners believe that the Farmer’s Dog is good value, despite the exorbitant prices. 

But if you’re considering making the switch because you believe that the Farmer’s Dog is raw, customized to your dog’s needs, never-frozen, a nutritional outlier, or likely to help your dog live longer, you are mistaken. Because none of those things are actually true.