Vital Essentials Dog Food (Raw Frozen)

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Rating: ★★★★★

Vital Essentials Raw Frozen Dog Food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Vital Essentials product line lists four raw frozen dog foods, each claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.

The Vital Essentials raw frozen products are available in pet patties, mini pet patties and (some) as nibblets.

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

Vital Essentials frozen raw dog food receives the Advisor’s top rating of 5 stars.

The Vital Essentials product line includes seven raw frozen dog foods. However, since we’re unable to locate AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements for these dog foods on the product’s web page, it’s impossible for us to report specific life stage recommendations for these recipes.

The Vital Essentials raw frozen products are available in pet patties, mini pet patties and some are available as nibblets.

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

  • Vital Essentials Fish Entree
  • Vital Essentials Beef Entree
  • Vital Essentials Duck Entree
  • Vital Essentials Rabbit Entree
  • Vital Essentials Turkey Entree
  • Vital Essentials Chicken Entree
  • Vital Essentials Wild Boar Entree

Vital Essentials Beef Entree was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Vital Essentials Beef Entree

Raw Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 54% | Fat = 34% | Carbs = 4%

Ingredients: Beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver, beef heart, beef kidney, beef blood, beef fat, herring oil (natural source of vitamin D), d-alpha tocopherol (natural vitamin E)

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 7.4%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
MethodProteinFatCarbs
Guaranteed Analysis16%10%NA
Dry Matter Basis54%34%4%
Calorie Weighted Basis39%58%3%

The first ingredient in this dog food is beef. Beef is defined as “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered cattle” and includes skeletal muscle or the muscle tissues of the tongue, diaphragm, heart or esophagus.1

Beef is naturally rich in all ten essential amino acids required by a dog to sustain life.

The second ingredient is beef tripe. Tripe usually consists of the first three chambers of a cud-chewing animal’s stomach. As unappetizing as it may seem to us humans, tripe is favored by dogs and sometimes even includes the stomach’s contents, too.

The third ingredient is beef lung. Beef lung is a protein-rich organ meat that’s also low in fat.

The fourth ingredient is ground beef bone, an excellent source of natural calcium.

The fifth ingredient is beef liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The sixth ingredient is beef heart. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing to us humans, heart tissue is pure muscle — all meat. It’s naturally rich in quality protein, minerals and complex B vitamins, too.

The seventh ingredient is beef kidney, an organ meat low in fat and rich in protein and essential minerals.

The eighth ingredient is blood, which consists mostly of water. And although it doesn’t sound very appetizing to humans, blood is naturally rich in protein (albumin), vitamins and minerals.

The ninth ingredient is beef fat. Beef fat (or tallow) is most likely obtained from rendering, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Although it may not sound very appetizing, beef fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The tenth ingredient is herring oil. Herring oil is naturally rich in the prized EPA and DHA type of omega-3 fatty acids. These two high quality fats boast the highest bio-availability to dogs and humans.

Depending on its level of freshness and purity, herring oil should be considered a commendable addition.

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 one notable exception

Except for the vitamin E, we find no added vitamins or minerals on the ingredients list. We would assume these essential nutrients are provided by the food ingredients in the recipe.

Vital Essentials Raw Frozen Dog Food
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Vital Essentials raw frozen dog food looks like an above-average raw 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 54%, a fat level of 34% and estimated carbohydrates of about 5%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 52% and a mean fat level of 34%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 6% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 65%.

Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to a typical raw dog food.

Free of any plant-based protein boosters, this looks like the profile of a raw product containing an abundance of meat.

Bottom line?

Vital Essentials is a meat-based raw frozen dog food using a generous amount of various species as its main sources of animal protein, thus earning the brand 5 stars.

Enthusiastically recommended.

Please note certain recipes are sometimes given a higher or lower rating based upon our estimate of their total meat content and (when appropriate) their fat-to-protein ratios.

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

07/25/2014 Last Update

  1. Association of American Feed Control Officials
  • The Final Say

    Totally agree with everything you said there. The owner of the local feed store where I purchase food also agrees.

  • Dori

    OH, I’ll have to check and see if they do anything like that around here. Thanks.

  • theBCnut

    We have yellow jackets all over the place here. When we cleared my property, the guy with the bulldozer kept churning them up. Fortunately, once they were disturbed, they decided not to stay, then the next year we had 3 hurricanes cross over and the water table was so high for so long that they seem to have mostly moved further away.

    It’s definitely better and much more reliable to figure out where they are coming out of the ground, so you know that the right place is being treated.

    I don’t know if it is still this way, but a few years ago the university(UF) was doing a study, so if you found a yellow jacket nest and called them, they would come and vacuum them up and take them away.

  • Dori

    Well, I wouldn’t believe the mosquito control people about it being harmless. Glad you made your husband shower immediately and wiped down the dog. I guess it’s one of those necessary evils. For some reason the last few days we are having a terrible problem with yellow jackets in the area that I live. I keep searching to see where they are going and coming from. I’m afraid for the dogs because the yellow jackets seem to be very interested in hovering close to the ground in the back yard area that is fenced in for us and the dogs. If I can’t figure it out I guess I’ll have to call someone but I haven’t done it yet because I don’t want them spraying insecticide all over the place. Sometimes I just hate living in the South. There’s always something to contend with bug wise.

  • theBCnut

    I keep the cats in and they are the only ones likely to have issues. The horses get a larger dose, but they are very healthy and can handle a larger dose. I understand the necessity, but I still don’t like it. My husband was out walking the dogs when they flew over last night. I made him shower as soon as he got in the door and I wiped down the dog. Fortunately, it was Gideon rather than one of the others. He can also handle more than my little old lady JRT and Micah with all his issues. The mosquito control people say the stuff is completely harmless, but….

  • Dori

    That’s pretty awful having to have them spraying for mosquitos every single night. Are they spraying near your property and, if so, does it affect your animals at all?

  • theBCnut

    I love Macs, but my husband, the computer security nut, is dead set against them. They don’t offer any antivirus protection etc. I know it isn’t a problem yet, but that’s because the dopes that write the viruses are going for bang, and with so few Mac users, there’s not as much bang. But as Macs get more popular, and they are, it’s going to happen and Apple is going to be caught flat footed. The other issue is that Apple thinks they know how everyone wants to do things, which for some reason is always not how we want to do things, contrary I guess.

  • theBCnut

    We’ve had so much rain lately that all the neighbors are flooded like we had a hurricane. I’m glad we paid extra to build our house on a hill. We’re pretty dry, but there is so much flooding that mosquito control has been out every night spraying and we’re hearing about West Nile in the next county north, which is just 6 miles from here.

  • Cyndi

    Yep, mine are only black and white. I have a ton of stuff to choose from, but not too many cute little characters. It’s raining here too. :( Supposed to rain for the next quite a few days. Yuck!

  • Cyndi

    I agree!

  • Dori

    Macs are easier to use that’s exactly why Apple has taken over the computer industry around the world.

  • Dori

    Like I said BC…..you crack me up! I was a die hard pc/windows user for years. Finally it broke down for good and I walked into an Apple store. Played with a Mac and walked out of the store with one. Best decision ever as far as computers go.

  • Dori

    Wee! I like the snowman, very cute at least I think it’s a snowman. Are yours only in black and white? It’s raining here today in Atlanta, yuk! ☔️

  • Dori

    Ain’t that the truth. The simple things in life just make us smile.

  • Dori

    It’s actually two little red paw prints. Wanted you to see that there are a ton of different characters. Have you been keeping up with the updates for your mac? If so then you should have the special characters button on the bottom of the Edit tool bar.

  • Cyndi

    Lol! Probably!

  • Cyndi

    Ha ha! Years ago, I hated the idea of switching to a mac for work. Now, that’s all I use. I borrowed my son’s laptop the other day, it’s a regular pc, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Macs seem so much easier to use now.

  • theBCnut

    If you had got it in your email, it would probably be a big happy yellow smiley face.

  • theBCnut

    Finally, a reason to buy a Mac!!

  • Cyndi

    Whatever character you just made there, just looks like a square to me. Maybe because I’m on a bit older mac.

  • Cyndi

    Ha ha!! Thanks Dori! Although I don’t have that flower looking thing and all sorts of other cute characters, but I have a few! I never knew about those! Thank you! It’s the little things that make my day, lol!

  • Cyndi

    ☺☃☻

  • Dori

    Always happy to help in whatever I can.

  • neezerfan

    I’m on a Mac, I never knew this! Thanks Dori!☺

  • Dori

    Allergy testing for dogs is notoriously unreliable. Most reputable vets will tell you that and not take your money. Animal allergy testing is not like allergy testing for people. I have a dog with multiple food allergies and intolerances and neither the canine allergist or vet will do allergy testing on her. They both have told me the same thing. They are costly and unreliable and wouldn’t do them.

  • Dori

    Are you on a pc or a mac? If you’re using a mac computer then look at the top tool bar on your computer. On the upper left hand side you’ll see “Edit”. Click on that then scroll to the bottom and you’ll see Special Characters. Click on that. You’ll see a smiley face, click on that and it will show you different faces, to the right of the original smiley face is a symbol that sort of looks like a flower, if you click on that you’ll get all sorts of other cute characters. Let me know.

  • 4FootedFoodie

    Hi Tammy,

    Unfortunately, allergy tests are not reliable; as evidenced by your Sweetie’s test results.

  • Tammy

    According to allergy testing I had a year ago, Sweetie was allergic to every protein except for turkey. That was all I gave her for a year. I just did allergy testing again, and now she’s allergic to turkey! She can have beef, buffalo, pork, venison, and fish. She’s also allergic to common fruits and veggies, so the VE brand was the only brand that comes complete with no need to add supplements and no veggies in it. I was going to switch to that brand and alternate the different proteins. Should I switch between brands even if it contains allergy foods?

  • Cyndi

    Dori, how did you make that little smiley guy??

  • Dori

    Tammy. Glad you’re feeding raw and happy you’ll be rotating between brands. Don’t forget that you should also rotate with the different proteins within the brands so long as your dog isn’t intolerant to any of the ingredients. ☺️

  • theBCnut

    To start with, you may have to do a transition every time you switch foods, but when your dog has become used to switching foods, you no longer have to transition, you just switch, one day goat, the next, fish. It took my dogs about 6 transitions with kibble to no longer require them at all. I really think it is easier to switch foods with raw. I fed a beef based food first, then fed half beef and half turkey for a couple days. Next I went to full turkey, then half lamb and half turkey. Then full lamb, then full pork, then rabbit, then fish, then goat, no more transitions. Now I feed a different raw every day.

  • Tammy

    I wanted to ask how you do the rotation of different raw diets. Do you transition every time by feeding small amounts of the different brand? Or do you just feed vital essentials one day and stella and chewy’s the next day? Thanks!

  • Dori

    Absolutely! But please, fingers crossed always. I do feel good about the foods we feed our dogs and the fact that our dogs are on rotation makes it less likely that they’ll get sick from a recall seeing as how we rotate and can’t get enough of the recalled food and their digestive systems are pretty healthy as opposed to low quality kibble fed dogs. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed always!!!

  • Kathy Niskala

    Thanks again Dori,I also use the raw rotation,that you do too!!! and don’t use commercial treats either….hope our food remains safe!!

  • Dori

    I feed Vital Essentials Raw, Primal Raw Formulas, Stella & Chewy’s Raw, Answer’s Detailed, OC Raw, Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw, Darwin’s Natural. I never ever have used Bravo nor would I. I know some posters use Bravo but, for me, from the very beginning I felt uneasy with the company (don’t really know why, just a bad feeling) and I avoid companies that have multiple re-calls. Others give companies a chance with the theory that they will clean up their act and learn from their mistakes. My dogs aren’t anyone’s guinea pigs. No disrespect to the guinea pigs. Anyway, that’s just how I feel about companies and their practices. I have done a lot of research on the commercial raws that I feed. As for treats, I use organic fruits and veggies for my girls and they love them so, there again, I don’t have to worry about treat recalls. :)

  • Kathy Niskala

    Thanks,Dori…what other commercial raw foods do you use..I just got an alert that Bravo is having another recall today! I won’t ever use them again…..

  • Dori

    Vital Essentials is one of the many commercial raw foods in my rotation and I don’t add any supplements to it. It’s not necessary.

  • Kathy Niskala

    I just started using Vital Essentials Raw.. in my rotation…should I use vitamin supplements when using this one? North West Naturals adds some vitamins to their mix….and so does Primal…just want it to be complete..Vital does use more organ meats in theirs……but just want to make sure!!

  • SandyandMila

    Great, I’m glad your dogs love it! I’ll have to try the goat milk and patties, my dog wasn’t a fan of the nibblets.

  • gmcbogger38

    I have fed the Vital Essentials Fish patties and am now feeding the wild boar. My dogs love it! I have also given my dogs the raw goat milk from VE. Top notch in my opinion. I couldn’t be happier.

  • Bobby dog

    Dori I am guilty of it too! It really does help to read or hear about the good as well as the bad because it usually helps us decide who we should give our business to.

  • Dori

    Bobby. I know just what you mean. Typically we’re quick to complain about a company or an employee but forget (truthfully doesn’t occur to us) to acknowledge good service. I will attempt to do better.

  • Nancy Calloway

    Service like that is extinct. In fact, when he called me the first time it was MID DAY – not mid afternoon, which means in Wisconsin it was an hr or two earlier. I am remembering now that I had to be somewhere at 1:30 PM and he called me back (the second call) while I was in the car on the way to my destination at 1:30. NOW THAT IS FAST.
    If they make their food with this kind of CARE and ATTENTION, then WOW WOW WOW!
    Shall we all be inspired? :)

  • Nancy Calloway

    I think he called bck within TWENTY minutes. And more interesting, he mentioned that even if the boutique stores he called did not STOCK Vital Essentials he would ASK them if they would order it for me anyway! He would then have to call a distributor I suppose, to set this up. (?) One store actually does carry the V E dehydrated. Another one sells the tripe. Both will order for me! I was unable to identify the stores myself on the website bec the “Store Close to you” map was down also Monday night. Honestly he was amazing and so positive!
    Kudos to him and the company!

  • Bobby dog

    Nancy:
    I love when people take the time to acknowledge good customer service; we often hear about bad service. Both are equally important to know IMHO!

  • Nancy Calloway

    NEVER in my life (65 years) have I ever experienced CUSTOMER SERVICE like I just got from this company!

    Monday evening EST: I was having trouble with their website; wanted to study the foods. Problems. Called the company. The woman there was not able much to help – said site was down, being worked on, didn’t know answers to my Qs, said she’d get a rep to call me tomorrow.

    Tuesday mid afternoon: Rep called. (I was surprised. was so fast). He could not been more helpful and his attitude was SERVICE ! Ended up telling me HE would call a few stores in my area (NC) to identify a human being who would ORDER THE FOOD FOR ME. Within 40 minutes he called back AND emailed to tell me he had two commitments in small boutiques close to me. Both would order whatever I want.

    His email followed up with names and locations of the stores, and phone numbers and human beings’ NAMES who would expect my call.

    He was most pleasant and happy to help in any way… said call him if there are any issues and he’ll do what he can.

    I could not believe how FAST he solved a problem for one little client in NC calling out of nowhere. SAYS A LOT.

    This is the BEST SERVICE I HAVE EVER HAD at any company.

    Cha Vang

    Cha Vang

    Inside Sales

    Carnivore Meat Company

    PO Box 9227

    Green Bay, WI 54308-9227

    920-863-7005

    He’s there if you need him. OH if the WORLDS corporations worked this way it would be a DIFFERENT WORLD!!
    Thank you Cha!
    Thank you Vital Essentials!

  • Betsy Dabbert

    Hi everyone, I am new to discussion..are you adding any veggies to this food? How often do you rotate? Just started using Bistro because of sweet potatoe in Darwin’s. My lab was very sensitive to it.

  • Caroline Capobianco

    Hey, thanks for reminding me! I totally forgot that I was going to do a follow-up review. Max did great with the fish. He really likes it too. I just bought the Beef and the Duck last week. Max loves the beef but isn’t crazy about the duck which is odd for him. Usually Max LOVES duck but he sticks his nose up at the VE Duck. The VE beef and duck were $28.95 each while the S&C I get is $26.95 (even the lamb) for the same amount (6lbs). I think I’ll be buying more S&C but I’ll still buy VE for variety.

  • dchassett

    How did Max do with the Vital Essentials fish?

  • SandyandMila

    Anyone try the goat milk? VE is a new item at the local store I go to and haven’t tried any of their products yet, but intend to soon.

  • Caroline Capobianco

    My local pet store just started carrying this. I got the fish formula to try. It was $22 for 6lbs. I’ll post a true review after I feed it to Max. It looks like a good product to keep in my rotation. I’m using Primal grinds, Stella & Chewy’s, Tucker’s raw, and now this.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Do you know what a 3 minute egg is? Boil for 3 minutes, crack it open. Simple. Though sometimes I will make a dozen hardboiled eggs ahead of time and use those instead.
    I give less kibble, so I can add raw food every day, some days egg is added too.

  • losul

    The way I do it is to melt a little coconut oil in a frypan over medium/low heat. Drop in the egg yolk and all and just stir the white part a little as it heats and congeals. Takes about a minute or less. I give with a meal.

  • Bunker21

    How do you lightly cook it? And do you give it in addition to the meal or as the meal?

  • Pattyvaughn

    My 13# dog gets an egg every other day. Every other egg is raw, the rest are lightly cooked.

  • losul

    I can understand that! However giardia and coccidia are protozoans, salmonella are bacteria. Salmonella are not very likely to be inside the shell, although possible. Much of the inhibitors in raw egg have to do with anti-bacterial defense, and also lysozyme in them.

  • Betsy Greer

    Dang it, he’s so cute I can’t stand it!

  • Crazy4cats

    I fed my big guys each two eggs last night. I did stick them in the microwave first, however, for about 30 seconds (the eggs, not the dogs!) I’m more worried about Salmonella than the biotin thing as they both have already had Giardia and Coccidia. Don’t need anymore diarrhea!

  • losul

    I’m not really advising to lightly cook the whites, it’s just what i choose to do, after research. I think it’s a good compromise between completely raw and completely cooked. Someone else might want to give raw sometimes and cooked sometimes.

    There’s also things like heat labile conalbumin which sequesters heavy metals (a good thing if the eggs contain things like lead or arsenic, more likely in storebought) but it also binds iron (not always so good).

    Completely raw maybe O.K. if not giving them in over abundance, IMO. My 35 pounder only gets 2 to 4 a week.

  • Cyndi

    Such a little cutie!! :)

  • aimee

    Unfortunately the article has no references and the published studies that are available refutes what he says. Case studies of biotin deficiency from raw egg consumption have also been published. He really needs to rewrite it with accurate information and credible references.

    ” The results show that the biotin contained in egg yolk is inadequate to counteract the deficiency of biotin caused by the avidin in egg white”

    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/118/5/604.long

    Digestibility of egg white is poor and when fed to pups as a protein source caused poor growth/weight loss and diarrhea.

  • LabsRawesome

    My Dachshund gets a raw egg 2 x a week. He weighs 16lbs.

  • Cyndi

    Great article! Thanks for posting! :)

  • losul

    I always lightly cook the whites. It might decay a few of the vitamins a little, but like you say it also destroys the avidin which binds biotin.

    Also, like Aimee says, raw eggs also contain various protease/trypsin inhibitors which interfere with protein digestion and are heat labile.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi-

    This link has some interesting information:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/02/09/raw-eggs.aspx

    Good Luck!

  • Cyndi

    Oh, one more thing, I would only use organic, cage free eggs. I get mine from a friend who raises chickens and ducks. So the eggs I get are as fresh as you can get.

  • Cyndi

    I’m not sure about that, with a dog that small. Maybe someone else can chime in and tell you how often would be good for a dog your size…

  • aimee

    The raw egg contains anti nutrient factors which interfere with protein digestion ( raw egg white is poorly digested), and bind biotin. Some feel that disadvantage is offset by possibly boosting glutathione, but that is a big maybe. No actual data showing that this occurs that I can find.

    My advise is to lightly cook the white.

  • Bunker21

    How often would you suggest? My dog is small – 13lbs.

  • Cyndi

    Adding raw eggs to your dog’s food is an excellent idea. I give my dog a raw chicken or duck egg, shell and all, with her raw food a couple times a week.

  • Bunker21

    Does anyone have thoughts on feeding raw eggs to a 11 month old pup in addition to their raw diet?

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Call your local better pet food retailer and ask if they carry greentripe.com products or can order it for you. Also, if you join a local raw feeding group, they will most likely make bulk orders as a group and that usually will get you good prices too. You can search for one on yahoo groups. Another option is Big Dog Natural air dried tripe recipe. It rehydrates well (well, I’ve only used their beef and chicken products and they rehydrate well).

  • jolie

    this stuff looks good but is so expensive :( was a replacement for green tripe at my local pet store

  • monkey

    How’s the food working out?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668659094 Catherine Sowell

    My 5 year old rat terrier chihuahua mix refuses to eat anything else. He wolfs this down faster than I can place his dish on the ground. Fantastic food.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Please come back in a couple months and let us know how you’re liking it and how you’re dogs are doing on it.

  • Dana

    I started feeding this food last week, ironically right before the review came out,  all of my dogs are very happy with it, and my 19 year old, that has started to get rather picky in her older days, LOVES it!! and is doing very well on it so far. 

  • InkedMarie

    Funny you should review this as you did Northest Naturals last week & the same person I know who feeds that, feeds this!

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Yes it looks like a good treat (nibblets) size since my dogs are small I have to watch their treats.  I also like S&C Carnivore Crunch.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    I’ve been waiting for a review on this. I’ve ordered the freeze-dried nuggets for my dogs before – good training treats.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    I’ve seen this before but forgot about it. I just ordered some to give with kibble for my own version of “Raw Boost” since Raw Boost didn’t have very many bits of raw in it!