FreeHand Dog Food (Dry)

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Rating: ★★★★☆

FreeHand Dog Food receives the Advisor’s second-highest tier rating of 4 stars.

The FreeHand product line includes four dry dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • FreeHand 2 Enrich
  • FreeHand 1 Engage (3 stars)
  • FreeHand 3 Empower (4.5 stars)
  • FreeHand 4 Energize Grain Free (5 stars)

FreeHand 2 Enrich was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

FreeHand 2 Enrich

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 29% | Fat = 16% | Carbs = 48%

Ingredients: Chicken meal, brown rice, brewers rice, pork meal, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), dried beet pulp (sugar removed), Menhaden fish meal, chicken, natural flavors, pearled barley, dried eggs, flax seed, canola oil, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, dl-methionine, l-lysine, blueberries, cranberries, apples, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, spinach, lecithin, taurine, l-carnitine, mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, niacin, folic acid, biotin, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, l-ascorbyl 2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C activity), zinc proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, cobalt carbonate, vitamin B12 supplement, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, Yucca schidigera extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 4.4%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis26%14%NA
Dry Matter Basis29%16%48%
Calorie Weighted Basis25%33%42%

The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The second ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The third ingredient is brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fourth ingredient is pork meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate.

The fifth ingredient is oatmeal, a whole-grain product made from coarsely ground oats. Oatmeal is naturally rich in B-vitamins, dietary fiber and can be (depending upon its level of purity) gluten-free.

The sixth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The seventh ingredient is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

The eighth ingredient is menhaden fish meal, yet another high protein meat concentrate.

Menhaden are small ocean fish related to herring. They’re rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. What’s more, in their mid-depth habitat, menhaden are not exposed to mercury contamination as can be typical with deep water species.

Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.1

The ninth ingredient is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With four notable exceptions

First, we find flaxseed, one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber.

However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

Next, this food contains canola oil. Unfortunately, canola can be a controversial item. That’s because some worry that canola oil is made from rapeseed, a genetically modified (GMO) raw material.

Yet others cite the fact canola oil can be a significant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

In any case, plant-based oils like canola are less biologically available to a dog than fish oil as a source of quality omega-3 fats.

In addition, we note the inclusion of dried fermentation products in this recipe. Fermentation products are typically added to provide enzymes to aid the animal with digestion.

And lastly, this food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

FreeHand Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, FreeHand Dog Food looks like an average dry product.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 29%, a fat level of 16% and estimated carbohydrates of about 48%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 30% and a mean fat level of 17%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 45% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 55%.

Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

Even when you consider the protein-boosting effect of the flaxseed, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a moderate amount of meat.

Bottom line?

FreeHand Dog Food is a plant-based dry kibble using a moderate amount of pork, lamb and poultry meals as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 4 stars.

Highly recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content.

We duly note here that according to the company…

“FreeHand matches your purchase with an equal amount of our premium RescueONE donated food to shelters and rescues”

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, due to the biological uniqueness of every animal, none of our ratings are intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in a specific dietary response or health benefit for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

In closing, we do not accept money, gifts or samples from pet food companies in exchange for special consideration in the preparation of our reviews or ratings.

To learn how we support the cost of operating this website, please visit our public Disclosure and Disclaimer page.

Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

08/19/2012 Original review
03/04/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • Carrie Herring Coulter

    I think this review needs to be updated?? When I try to go to lendafreehand.com, it takes me to Dog4Dog. Has the name/company been changed? You don’t have a review for Dog4Dog.

  • Johnandchristo

    FreeHand….

    I looked at your web site, very nice. Its a good thing that your doing. Keep up the good work. You guys are saints.

  • FreeHand

    Thanks to Dr. Mike for his review… We take great pride in the formulation that our chief nutritionist, Dr. Collings, created for all of our foods. And what’s more – we’re proud to be giving a superior product to those organizations that are trying to help save dogs looking for homes. If you’d like more info on us or our mission, visit http://www.lendafreehand.com

  • Emmy

    I’m not asking for a full analysis of every one.  I just wanted to know if Empower is rated 4 stars since next to it’s name it’s blank.  But Patty clarified it for me.

  • Emmy

    Ok, thanks.  I just wanted to be sure.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Emmy – It’s silly to expect Dr. Mike to review every single formula separately. This review is for the entire Free Hand line. The formulas he felt deserved a different rating that rating is in parenthesis. Empower is 4 stars as stated in the review.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Empower is 4*. He only gave the star rating of the ones that were above or below 4*. The rest are 4*.

  • Emmy

    Um, no it’s not.  It says:
    FreeHand 2 Enrich
    FreeHand 3 Empower
    FreeHand 1 Engage (3 stars)
    FreeHand Rescue One (3 stars)
    FreeHand 4 Energize Grain Free (5 stars)”FreeHand 2 Enrich was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.” and Enrich is 4 stars.  So, it doesn’t say anywhere for Empower. 

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Emmy – This review is for all the formulas. If you check the top of the review you’ll see Empower listed.

  • Emmy

    Any chance that you’ll be able to rate the Empower version too?  I love your site and really would like to use your reviews to help recommend the different versions to help promote this dog food to support dog rescues!

  • Shawna

    Agree!!

    Mary Enig PhD Nutrition, of the Weston Price Foundation has a really nice and hugely informative article on canola called “The Great Con-ola”. Have you read it? 

    I agree with Mike that canola isn’t the villian that many on the internet make it out to be.  But it is certainly not a healthful food (fat) — as you well know :)..

  • Dog Food Ninja

    You know, Mike, it occurred to me looking over this food that you link snopes.com as the source for why canola oil isn’t necessarily bad.  snopes.com also very handily dismisses the dangers of free aspartic acid by referencing the same bad science that the aspartam industry uses to defend their product.  Snopes.com may have some interesting information on their site, but they strike me as kool-aid drinkers when it comes to accepting what a handful of well-paid industry scientists claim about the products they represent.  I think they would dismiss grain-free high protein dog foods with Science Diet “research” if they were to do a piece on dog food.  Just my thoughts.  Nothing conclusive.  lol