Many dog-owners are joining the raw fed movement for benefits such as shinier coats, healthier skin, increased energy, and smaller stools. Even if you don’t feed your dog entirely raw, they can gain benefits from less processed treats and food. But, even the most minimal processing methods have their differences!
Air drying, freeze-drying, and dehydrating all preserve raw meat by removing moisture, but they have very different effects on taste, texture, and nutritional value. We air dry our human-grade meats because it is the best method for retaining nutrients, fats, texture, smell, and taste.
To air-dry our meat, we cut it into strips and hang it in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment that slowly, and naturally extracts moisture. The process means our treats actually look like meat, keep all their important nutrients, have a good texture, and most importantly still smell and taste amazing. Air drying is a method that has been used for centuries to maximize protein and is in our founder’s South African tradition.
Freeze drying is a highly scientific process where meat is cut into small pieces, pre-treated, flash frozen between −50 °C (−58 °F) and −80 °C (−112 °F) and placed in a vacuum chamber with inert gas to vaporize the moisture. Moisture isn’t the only thing missing at the end though! It causes fat to melt, meat fibers to get brittle, aroma to dissipate and reduces Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin B12.
Traditional methods of making jerky treats use high heat to dehydrate or dry roast meat strips quickly and cheaply, sucking out the air continuously while they cook. The high heat alters the structure of proteins and makes amino acids harder to access. It can also make treats really hard, leading brands to add other ingredients to soften them (looking at you, vegetable glycerin and sugar).
Harguindeguy, M. & Fissore, D. (2020). On the effects of freeze-drying processes on the nutritional properties of foodstuff: A review. Drying Technology, 38(7); 846-868.
Freeman, L.M., Chandler, M. L., Hamper, B. A. & Weeth, L. P. (2013). Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat–based diets for dogs and cats. Timely topics in nutrition, 243(11), 1549-1558.