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Is Raw Food Safe for My Cat or Dog?

As pet parents, we want to feed the best food for our pets. Often, as pet parents learn about raw food and the numerous benefits that come from feeding a minimally processed diet, the first question they ask is, “Is raw safe for my dog or cat?”

Instinct is here to tell you, raw is absolutely safe – when it’s made right. At a minimum, look for raw pet food that:

  1. Has been High Pressure Processed to remove pathogens
  2. Is nutritionally adequate (aka Complete & Balanced)

Bacteria risk and fear of an unbalanced diet are the most common concerns when you read about feeding raw pet food, and for good reason. Not all raw is created equal, and this article will equip you with what to look for.

Types of Raw Diets 

Many raw feeding concerns stem from raw diets that are homemade raw dog food diets. These are diets that some pet parents make from raw meat from the butcher, with additional ingredients like fresh veggies, supplements, and more. The issue with this approach is that meat from the butcher or grocery store can have pathogens like salmonella or listeria because the assumption is that you will cook it before eating. So, safety is the first issue when feeding store-bought raw meat to pets. In addition, you must be 100% sure you are creating a complete and balanced diet to make sure that you pet is getting the proper nutrients to thrive. This is not an easy task, and one that should be left to pet nutrition experts! 

Another other type of raw diet is pre-made dog food and cat food recipes sold in pet stores. Instinct Raw diets undergo a process called High Pressure Processing (HPP) to remove pathogens (more on that later!). We also test all our raw diets before they are shipped out to ensure they’re pathogen-free. However, not all brands follow these same safety & quality standards; HPP is not a pet food requirement. Some brands only HPP certain proteins, and others simply don’t do this step. Also, while most of what’s sold in pet stores is completed and balanced, it’s important to know the expertise behind the company to help determine the best raw brand for your pet. 

Nutritional Experience 

Instinct has a dedicated team of experts formulating and making our raw recipes, from food scientists to quality control specialists to our on-staff Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® (who, prior to her role at Instinct, was in practice for 31 years). Together, our team has decades of experience in pet food.  

The Instinct team is thorough when it comes to ensuring our formulations provide optimal nutrition. We test new pet food formulas to learn about processability and set processing parameters for routine production. Samples are then submitted to more nutrient analysis, palatability testing, digestibility testing and other testing as needed. Feeding trials are the most rigorous test procedure used to substantiate the nutrient content of a pet food. Our leading Instinct® Raw Longevity™ frozen formulas underwent an AAFCO feeding trial for growth and maintenance. 

Besides following our own high standards, we adhere to respected standards set by others. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) publishes guidelines to assist vets in making the best dietary recommendations for pet owners. For instance, WSAVA suggests choosing a brand that employs a PhD or DACVIM in Nutrition, among other recommendations – Instinct is proud to align with them all. See a copy of the WSAVA guidelines and our responses here. 

100% High Pressure Process – Quality, Safe Raw

As part of our commitment to safety and quality, Instinct uses High Pressure Processing (also known as HPP or Cold Pressure) to ensure our frozen and freeze-dried raw recipes are free of pathogenic bacteria, like Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria, and are safe for pets and pet parents. HPP ensures our raw food stays raw, hence retaining more intact nutrients than cooked pet food.  

HPP is a USDA-recognized pathogen reduction treatment technique using extreme water pressure, (greater than at the bottom of the ocean floor) to kill pathogens. This technique was first used in 1899 to pasteurize milk and has become widespread in foods for people, including juices, smoothies, and ready to eat foods such as hummus, packaged meats, guacamole, and stir fry meal bags. HPP preserves the sensory and nutritional properties of food, because of the absence of heat treatment. Probiotics are also added to our raw chicken recipes prior to HPP as an extra layer of safety against Salmonella. HPP helps ensure our alignment with the FDA’s zero tolerance policy for pathogens in pet food. 

Safety Credentials

Just as important as nutritional expertise, a commitment to safety is critical for pet food companies. At Instinct, our comprehensive food safety approach starts with raw ingredients and proceeds through manufacturing, storage, and distribution at our company-owned raw manufacturing facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska. Instinct facilities also follow strict FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules, certifying our food is manufactured with the same food safety standards as human foods. Instinct raw food is also tested by an external certified lab prior to it leaving our manufacturing plants.  

Safe Quality Foods Logo

 In addition, Instinct is the only raw pet food company in North America to achieve an “Excellent” Safe Quality Food (SQF) Food Safety rating and an SQF Quality certification. SQF is a rigorous and credible food safety and quality audit program that is recognized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers world-wide. SQF certification isn’t a requirement in the pet food industry but chose to go above and beyond to show our commitment to food safety and quality and we’re proud to have received the certification for the second year in a row. 


If you’re looking for an easy and safe way to feed raw pet food, you can trust Instinct. With our raw recipes, you can expect safe, quality nutrition enabling you to transform the life of your pets through better nutrition. Besides Raw Frozen and Freeze-Dried Meals, we have Raw+Kibble options, and more.  

Here are a few helpful links to get started:  

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