Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start my pet on Steve’s Real Food?

Starting your pet on Steve’s Real Food is best achieved gradually over a couple of weeks. Begin by replacing a portion of your pet’s old food with the new food, and gradually adjust the ratio every few days—introducing a bit more new food while reducing the amount of the old. Most pets smoothly transition within about two weeks with no issues. Read more on transitioning here.

There are 28 patties in a 14-pound box and 40 patties in a 20-pound box. Bags of nuggets are packaged by weight and not by number of cups, so cups of nuggets may vary slightly per bag. You get approximately:

  • 16-18 cups from our 20 oz freeze-dried bags
  • 20 cups from our frozen 5 lb bags of nuggets
  • 40 cups from our frozen 9.75 lb box of nuggets
  • 5-8 cups from our Quest cat food
Feeding a raw diet is super easy! For feeding our frozen diets, simply portion out the amount your pet needs for the day, place it in the refrigerator to thaw, and then serve it in a clean dish. This process ensures that your pet gets the right amount of nutrition while enjoying the benefits of a raw diet. If your pet is not very young, very old, or has special dietary concerns, feeding the food frozen may be appropriate. If you’re feeding our freeze-dried diets, you must rehydrate them before feeding. Add the appropriate amount of water to restore moisture and texture, creating a palatable meal for your pet. As a good practice, always wash your hands and any surfaces that come in contact with the food to maintain hygiene standards. This straightforward routine ensures that your pet enjoys a wholesome, raw diet without any fuss.
Once rehydrated, we recommend picking up any uneaten food after an hour. You can store rehydrated food in the refrigerator for up to three days
Ideally, Steve’s Real Food should be fed thawed or slightly warm. It’s important not to cook the food as it harms or destroys valuable enzymes and nutrients. Ground bone is in every recipe, which should only be fed raw. For optimal serving, thaw the food in the fridge overnight and let it sit on the counter for up to an hour before serving. You can mix in hot water or bone broth for a warmer meal. Warming enhances aromas, making meals enticing for picky eaters and aiding digestion, which is especially beneficial for seniors, puppies, and dogs with digestive sensitivities. While some pets may do fine with cold meals, room temperature or warmer is advantageous for cats, smaller dogs, and those sensitive to colder temperatures. Our customer support can provide personalized guidance for specific concerns about serving temperatures.

Our raw pet food is guaranteed to be fresh and nutritious through the date indicated on the package. In general, frozen diets maintain their quality for up to 18 months, while freeze-dried diets remain good for up to two years when stored properly. For optimal freshness, it’s crucial to adhere to storage guidelines. Keep frozen diets in the freezer until ready to use, and store freeze-dried diets in a cool, dry place. The food can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 daysEnsure the packaging is sealed properly to prevent any compromise to the food’s quality.

The easiest way to feed raw food while traveling with your pet is to use our freeze-dried products, which are the same great formulation as the frozen ones, so no transition is needed! To feed freeze-dried, simply rehydrate it according to the packaging instructions. Frozen food can be kept in a thermal ice-filled cooler or in your motel room mini-fridge (thawed) for up to three days. To keep it frozen on your travels, use 5 lbs of dry ice in a cooler for every day of travel.
Generally, it’s unnecessary to transition between formulas within the same brand. However, we do recommend a gradual transition the first time they try a new protein. Once you know they do well on the new formula, it can go into their rotation with no transition period in the future. Check our transitioning guide for more information and tips to make it successful. Check our transitioning guide for more information and tips to make it successful.
Steve’s Real Food is versatile—you can use it as a complete meal or integrate it into your pet’s diet. Use Steve’s as a mixer, a food topper, or an alternating option with another brand or type of food. There are no strict rules. This is food, not a prescription, so choose what works best for your budget and lifestyle. The more fresh food included, the better, as studies have highlighted significant health benefits from replacing just 20% of a processed diet with fresh foods.

Yes, the original seven BARF diets are complete and balanced for both dogs and cats. Steve’s Real Food has developed a separate PREY model diet of frozen raw cat food and a freeze-dried raw cat food line to cater to our feline friends. Both options are complete and balanced for all stages of life.

Absolutely! Feeding your puppy or kitten a raw diet is a fantastic way to give them the healthiest start to life. Raw feeding closely aligns with their natural dietary needs, supporting optimal growth and development. We recommend beginning with an easy-to-digest protein, such as chicken or turkey. While our white fish diet is approved for all life stages, it is lower than other diets in calcium, which is an important nutrient for growing puppies, so we recommend feeding white fish in rotation with other proteins and not solely white fish for extended periods of time.
What is the Normal pH of Steve’s Real Food, and is it Okay to Feed Pets with Kidney or Urinary Issues?
Our target pH for our foods is an average acid level of 6.2 – 6.4. Check each product page for specific levels. The moisture in our food is very beneficial for supporting a healthy urinary tract. For pets with crystals or stones, it’s crucial to consider several factors beyond pH levels, such as the overall composition of the diet, moisture content, and the specific needs of the individual pet. 

If you are concerned that your pet may have kidney or urinary issues, consult with your veterinarian. Veterinarians can provide tailored guidance on choosing an appropriate diet for your pet’s specific health condition.

The Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio may vary between 1:1 and 1.6:1, depending on the specific diet. This ratio is essential for pet nutrition, is crucial to bone health and overall well-being.

For precise information about a product’s Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio, reference our product pages. Each product page provides detailed nutritional information, allowing you to make informed decisions based on your pet’s needs.

Raw food is often a healthy choice for pets with a history of pancreatitis, but it is essential to consult your veterinarian before introducing any new diet. Pancreatitis is a medical condition that requires careful dietary management, and individual pets may have different nutritional needs.  Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet’s health condition, assess their dietary needs, and provide tailored recommendations for managing pancreatitis.

The high-heat cooking process alters various essential components in food. It destroys beneficial elements like good bacteria, microbes, phytonutrients, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants, and more. Dogs and cats depend on these elements, and a heavily processed diet may not provide the full spectrum of nutrients their bodies require. This exclusive reliance on processed foods can result in a deficiency of vital natural compounds that support health and disease resistance, potentially contributing to accelerated aging and a lower quality of life. Including fresh, raw foods in your dog or cat’s diet provides their bodies with the diverse nutrients needed for optimal well-being. This approach allows their bodies to harness the full power of disease-fighting and age-defying mechanisms, promoting a happier and healthier life for your beloved pets.
B.A.R.F. is an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. It incorporates an 80% meat/organ/bone to 20% produce ratio. The added produce not only contributes essential nutrients but also increases the fiber content, aiding in digestion. B.A.R.F. diets are particularly suitable for pets transitioning to raw food for the first time. Prey diets boast a 95% meat to 5% superfoods formulation, placing a greater emphasis on a carnivorous diet. Prey diets are ideal for highly active pets, those needing to gain weight, or cats who who are obligate carnivores, Prey diets focus on delivering a higher percentage of meat content along with beneficial superfoodsto help achieve all nutrient requirements.
The caloric content of Steve’s Real Food and Quest Cat Food varies by diet. For accurate information, check the specific product page for each diet. You will find details about calories and other nutrition information on these pages. This ensures that you have the most precise and up-to-date information tailored to the diet you are considering for your pet.
A commercial raw diet like Steve’s Real Food offers a hassle-free way to ensure your pet’s meals are complete and balanced. Many people who attempt homemade raw diets quickly find they are complicated and time-consuming. Several nutritional requirements must be met, and the needs vary over time. If you want to make your raw pet food, we encourage you to research thoroughly. There are some excellent books available to help. Some good ones are: Steve Brown’s Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet or See Spot Live Longer, Dr. Judy Morgan’s cookbooks, or Feeding Dogs by Connor Brady.
While we don’t offer a diet specifically aimed at weight gain, you may need to adjust the amount you feed. Just like people, every pet has a different metabolism.

If your pet is underweight, try the following: 

  1. Reference our feeding calculator and select “underweight” to see feeding recommendations tailored for weight gain
  2. Take note of your pet’s weight, and then feed that amount for two weeks
  3. After two weeks, check and note your pet’s weight 
  4. If your pet is still underweight, increase the amount of food by 2%
  5. Feed the increased amount for two weeks
  6. Repeat steps 3 – 4 until the pet reaches the desired weight
Your pet may require a little more than our calculator recommends based on their breed, age, lifestyle, etc.  Remember, gradual weight gain is key to ensuring your pet’s well-being, so monitor their progress and make adjustments as needed. If you have further questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to our customer support for personalized assistance.
Inappropriate diet and lack of exercise are the two leading causes of weight gain in pets. Raw pet food promotes a healthy weight as there are no empty calories from fillers often found in processed diets. For pets aiming to shed some pounds, be mindful of overfeeding. Forgetting to count extra calories from treats and chews can contribute. Metabolism may slow down as pets age and become less active. If you are following a calorie-restricted diet and your pet is getting the appropriate amount of exercise and still can’t lose excess weight, consult your veterinarian to rule out a medical reason.

It is crucial to consult with your veterinarian before changing your diabetic pet’s diet. Every pet is unique, and individual health conditions may require specific dietary considerations. Your veterinarian can provide personalized advice based on your pet’s health status, weight, and other relevant factors. We recommend reviewing the detailed information on our product pages to facilitate the discussion with your vet. These pages contain valuable information about our diets’ vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Bringing this information to your vet appointment can assist in determining the appropriateness of our products for your diabetic pet.

Why has the color of the food changed since the last bag I got?

The variation in color you may notice in our raw pet food is completely normal and is a result of using natural, real food ingredients. Because we prioritize using unprocessed, whole foods, differences in color, odor, and texture can naturally occur. The color of produce, for instance, can vary based on when it’s harvested. 

Additionally, animals harvested at different ages, during various seasons, and while consuming different diets can influence the color of recipes such as pork, beef, and chicken. They can range from a light tan or grey to a darker red, reflecting the natural diversity in the ingredients we source.

It’s important to understand that these variations are not a cause for concern; rather, they signify that we are using all-natural ingredients and keeping our processing to a minimum. There is no uniformity in nature, embracing these natural differences is integral to our commitment to providing wholesome, unadulterated nutrition for your pets. If you have any specific questions or concerns, send a picture of the food to our customer support team at [email protected]

AAFCO is short for the American Association of Feed Control Officials. The regulatory organization advises each state on regulating pet food entering their state. They also have determined the levels of vitamins and minerals a food must have to be classified as Complete and Balanced for All Life Stages. This designation means that diets have been formulated to ensure they have the nutrients necessary for good health over the lifetime of your pet. However, AAFCO standards are easy targets and can be achieved using low-grade ingredients. Many commercial dry pet food companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out the cheapest ingredients available that will yield the test result necessary to pass. Raw food, on the other hand, naturally exceeds the AAFCO requirements.

Our raw pet food is guaranteed fresh and nutritious through the date indicated on the package. In general, frozen diets maintain their quality for up to 18 months, while freeze-dried diets remain good for up to two years when stored properly.

For optimal freshness, it’s crucial to adhere to storage guidelines. Keep frozen diets in the freezer until ready to use, and store freeze-dried diets in a cool, dry place. Ensure the packaging is sealed properly to prevent any compromise to the food’s quality.

Our pet food is formulated to meet the dietary requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for all life stages. AAFCO establishes comprehensive nutritional standards to ensure that pet food provides the essential nutrients needed for pets at every stage of life, from puppies and kittens to adults and seniors.

By adhering to AAFCO guidelines, our food is designed to offer a balanced and complete diet that supports growth, development, and maintenance throughout your pet’s life. Whether you have a playful puppy or a mature cat, you can trust that our pet food is crafted to provide the necessary nutrients for optimal health at every life stage.

Raw pet foods deemed suitable for both dogs and cats must adhere to the dietary standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO establishes guidelines for pet food to ensure it meets the minimum nutritional requirements for different life stages and species, including dogs and cats. While dogs and cats do have some different nutritional needs, many fundamental requirements overlap. High-quality raw pet foods formulated to meet AAFCO standards, like Steve’s Real Food, can provide the necessary nutrients to support the health and well-being of both species.
Raw meat diets are safe to feed your pets when manufactured correctly, and common-sense precautions are taken. At our facility, the safety of our raw pet food is a top priority. We begin by sourcing ingredients from human-grade providers to ensure high-quality standards.

A crucial step in our manufacturing process is the implementation of high-pressure processing (HPP), a cold-water pressure method that effectively eliminates harmful bacteria from the food. Furthermore, every batch undergoes thorough testing for pathogenic bacteria, and nothing leaves our facility without obtaining negative test results.

At home, treating your pet’s food with the same care as you would raw meat for your family is important. Keep the food at a safe temperature and practice good hygiene by washing hands and surfaces that come in contact with the food. Following these safe handling practices significantly minimizes the risk associated with feeding raw foods,ensuring the well being of your pets.
Dogs and Cats can handle a much larger amount of bacteria than humans can. Think about your dog drinking out of the toilet… Do they get sick? No, but you likely would if you took a nice big gulp. Dogs and cats can consume raw meat due to differences in their

digestive systems and evolutionary adaptations. Here are the key reasons:

  • Digestive System Variation:
      • Stomach Acidity: Dogs and cats have highly acidic stomachs, which help break down and kill harmful bacteria in raw meat.
      • Shorter Digestive Tract: Their digestive systems are shorter, reducing the time for potentially harmful bacteria to cause issues.
  • Evolutionary Adaptations:
      • Carnivorous Nature: Dogs and cats are carnivores, and their digestive systems have evolved to handle raw meat efficiently.
      • Natural Resistance: Over time, these animals have developed a level of resistance to certain bacteria commonly found in raw meat.
  • Enzymatic Differences:
      • Digestive Enzymes: Dogs and cats produce more digestive enzymes, particularly in their saliva, that help break down raw meat efficiently.
  • Historical Diet:
      • Wild Ancestry: In the wild, dogs and cats consume raw meat as part of their natural diet. Domestication has not significantly altered their ability to handle raw foods.

    For humans, consuming raw meat poses a higher risk of bacterial contamination and foodborne illnesses due to differences in our digestive physiology. Humans have a longer digestive tract and less acidic stomachs than carnivorous animals, making us more susceptible to bacterial infections from raw meat.

    It’s important to note that while dogs and cats can handle raw diets, proper hygiene and food safety practices are crucial to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination for both pets and humans.
We exclusively use the highest quality, 100% human-grade ingredients. This stringent ingredient selection serves as our initial defense against bacterial contamination. A critical step in our manufacturing process is using High-Pressure Processing (HPP). This cold-water pressure method is highly effective in eliminating harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, without compromising the nutritional integrity of the food. By combining these measures, we strive to assure pet owners that our raw pet food is nutritionally superior and held to the highest standards of safety and quality.

The parasite that causes the most concern in pork is a roundworm called Trichinella spiralis. It can cause the disease trichinosis. It used to be common in the United States, but that was long ago. 

Even though the risk is already very low, we take several steps to ensure our pork diets are clean and safe, starting with sourcing from high-quality family farms that raise free-range pigs fed a species-appropriate diet. Our manufacturing process includes high-pressure processing. This cold-water pressure method effectively eliminates pathogens such as harmful bacteria and parasites. Finally, we freeze the pork to temperatures well below what the CDC recommends for killing trichinella and other parasites.

Dogs, like humans, have a variety of microorganisms in their mouths, including bacteria and fungi, which play a role in their immune system and oral health. The risk of getting sick from a dog’s licking is generally minimal, but it can happen in rare circumstances, especially in immunocompromised individuals, regardless of their pet’s diet. Dogs also explore the ground, lick their feet and butt, and other animals, picking up germs on their nose and mouth, which can be shared with you.

Ultimately, deciding to let your dog lick your face is a personal preference. A clean raw food like Steve’s, which has all of the safety steps in place, won’t increase or decrease any risk of sharing germs, but it can help reduce tartar build up, which is a breeding ground for bacteria.
You may be seeing frost instead of freezer burn. Check for the difference between frost and freezer burn:

  • Frost: Forms when food is frozen, and the moisture creates ice crystals, which can evaporate and condense on the surface. It will resemble “snow” in the bag. These crystals can increase during small temperature fluctuations (even opening a freezer door for a few minutes). The presence of frost does not indicate that the food has thawed and refrozen. It will not affect the nutritional quality, nor should it compromise taste or texture.
  • Freezer Burn: This generally occurs when the food is exposed to air in the freezer, leading to the dehydration of the outer layer of the food, which usually takes months and months. Freezer burn manifests as discolored, dried-out patches on the surface of the food. Freezer burn can affect the food’s taste and texture, making it dry and less flavorful. While it doesn’t pose a health risk, it can lead to a decline in the overall quality of the frozen item.

To avoid freezer burn at home, don’t buy more food than you can use in a couple of months, rotate your stock, prevent long-term exposure to air, and keep your freezer running at its best. Routine defrosting and cleaning of the coils is recommended.
Bone is an integral part of our recipe because it’s the best natural source of calcium and phosphorus. Remember, we don’t use any synthetics, just real food ingredients! The bone is ground to 1/8 of an inch, so you may not even notice it, especially in the lighter-colored formulas. The pieces should never be large enough to cause a choking issue, and because they are raw, they are highly digestible. Never feed cooked bones of any kind to your pets.
Do you use synthetic vitamins or minerals?
No, we do not use any synthetic vitamin packs. All of the vitamins and minerals in the food come from whole food ingredients. We use third-party lab testing to ensure each food is complete and balanced.

We take great care in sourcing our ingredients to ensure the highest quality and ethical standards. Our meat comes from human-grade, USDA-inspected facilities that prioritize sustainable farming practices and humane treatment of animals. Exceptions include the lamb, which we get from New Zealand.

Our commitment to transparency means no fillers, preservatives, or unwanted additives are in our food. For complete confidence, a comprehensive list of our food sourcing is available on our ingredients page.

While many of our ingredients are organic, they don’t all have the certification. Steve’s Real Food strictly uses 100% certified USDA-inspected raw meats, fruits, and vegetables. All ingredients are non-GMO and free of pesticides, antibiotics, and added hormones. Our food meets almost every requirement for organic, but the organic certification is too expensive for many of our small farm partners. We prioritize the humane treatment and well-being of farm animals over organic status. All meats are pasture-raised, grass-fed, cage-free, or wild-caught in the case of fish.

Yes, we solely use GMO-free ingredients.

No, all our meat and poultry are processed in the same USDA-inspected plants that human food is made in, which means the thyroid is not allowed in the product.

Our complete and balanced recipes include fruits and vegetables to replicate your pet’s natural and nutritious diet. In the wild, predators typically consume the entire prey animal, including the stomach and intestines of herbivores. These internal organs contain fruits and vegetables, providing essential nutrients for a well-rounded diet. Observations of wolves in the wild have shown that they regularly eat fruits and grasses. It is believed that they seek these sources to obtain valuable nutrients. We do not use any synthetics in balancing our food. By incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into our recipes, we aim to offer your pet the same diverse nutrient profile found in the wild. Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals – in a more bio-available form than synthetic vitamin packs.
The high-heat cooking process alters various essential components in food. It destroys beneficial elements like good bacteria, microbes, phytonutrients, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants, and more. Dogs and cats depend on these elements, and a heavily processed diet may not provide the full spectrum of nutrients their bodies require. This exclusive reliance on processed foods can result in a deficiency of vital natural compounds that support health and disease resistance, potentially contributing to accelerated aging and a lower quality of life. Including fresh, raw foods in your dog or cat’s diet provides their bodies with the diverse nutrients needed for optimal well-being. This approach allows their bodies to harness the full power of disease-fighting and age-defying mechanisms, promoting a happier and healthier life for your beloved pets.
No, our pet food does not contain any preservatives. We prioritize the freshness and quality of our products through alternative methods. For our frozen raw pet food diets, freezing locks in freshness, ensuring that the nutrients are retained without preservatives.

In the case of our shelf-stable diets, we employ freeze-drying as a preservation method. This process removes moisture from the food, preventing the growth of bacteria and mold without the necessity for artificial preservatives. The result is a shelf-stable product that maintains its nutritional integrity while avoiding the use of chemical preservatives.
Is your packaging BPA-free?
Yes, our packaging is BPA-free. This is important because Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical often used in producing plastics and resins that has been associated with various health risks. BPA-free packaging reduces the risk of harmful chemical exposure, promoting your pet’s overall well-being.
We prioritize the safety and quality of our raw pet food through the following comprehensive testing procedures:

  • Microbial Testing: Regular testing for Salmonella, E. coli 0157-H7, and Campylobacter is conducted to ensure the absence of harmful bacteria.
  • Pathogen Testing for Meats and Goat Milk: Some meats and goat milk undergo pathogen testing before entering the pet food manufacturing process, adding an extra layer of scrutiny.
  • Batch Testing: Every batch of pet food undergoes thorough testing for pathogens to guarantee safety.
  • Environmental Contaminant Testing: Our foods are tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and other environmental contaminants to meet stringent safety standards.
  • Quarterly Nutrient Testing: Pet foods are tested quarterly for guaranteed analysis, including calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and other essential minerals.
  • Bi-annual Nutritional Analysis: A complete vitamin analysis and full nutritional profiles of pet foods are performed every six months.
  • Transparency: Thorough nutrition information for each product is shared on the website.
The plant is located in Aumsville, OR. We do not own this facility, but we work extremely closely with our co-packer, who grew up working in a raw pet food plant, his family business. He left the family business to go in his own direction and manufacture Steve’s Real Food.

We use HPP for all our formulas. After two years of rigorous research, it has proven to be the best solution to manage the microbial environment without synthetic preservatives. We conducted testing of 95 nutrients and saw no significant change in nutrient value. HPP inactivates food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, STEC- E.coli, and Listeria without changing the nutritional value of the food. It offers a safer option for consumers who are worried about food safety, have small children, are immune-compromised, or have a pet who is immune-compromised. Please read this bog about our decision and to view the results of our extensive testing.

Our food is manufactured under USDA and HACCP guidelines and stored below freezing. We make our formulas with sterilized processing equipment to prevent any possibility of contamination, and our machines undergo rigorous cleaning after every round of production. When you enter the facility, you must wash your hands and dip your footwear in a chlorine bath. Smocks, hair/beard nets, and gloves must be worn to protect the product from contamination.

We keep our food clean by using high-quality ingredients and following strict manufacturing processes. The FDA and the Oregon Department of Agriculture regularly inspect our factory, and both have shown approval for the high standards of cleanliness and quality they found there, remarking that our facilities go beyond their expectations.