SAN DIEGO — The Honest Kitchen recently wrapped up in-home Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Feeding Trials, over which a span of 18 months the company collected data on how its dehydrated dog foods performed with active, adult dogs.

The human-grade pet nutrition brand partnered with a third-party veterinary group to conduct three six-month trials, each including eight dogs. The dogs were fed The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated grain-free chicken recipe, dehydrated whole-grain chicken recipe, or clusters grain-free chicken recipe exclusively during the trials.

The novelty of The Honest Kitchen’s AAFCO Feeding Trials stems from the fact that they were conducted in dogs’ own homes, rather than through a kennel.

"We've been committed to crafting the most nutritious, safe, high-quality recipes available for pets since The Honest Kitchen first began making human-grade pet food in 2002," said Lucy Postins, founder and chief integrity officer at The Honest Kitchen. "Being able to conduct a feeding trial that goes far above and beyond the basic AAFCO protocol, with dogs living in the comfort of their own familiar surroundings means we've not only been able to prove the health-sustaining benefits of our foods in a scientific manner, but also do it in a conscientious, humane way, which is of paramount importance to me personally, and to the brand."

The standard for AAFCO Feeding Trials requires at least eight healthy dogs at least 1 year of age fed a consistent diet for at least 26 weeks. Physical exanimations by a veterinarian are conducted at the beginning and end of each trial. Daily consumption is measured, along with periodic body weight. Four other factors are measured at the end of each trial: hemoglobin, packed cell volume (PCV), alkaline phosphate and albumin.

According to The Honest Kitchen, the company met and exceeded these standards in its three feeding trails by including additional blood work labs, testing, and measurements for overall health and wellbeing.

For example, echocardiograms were performed on each dog at the beginning of each trial and after six months, then assessed by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist, The Honest Kitchen stated. In addition to the four blood parameters listed in the AAFCO Feeding Trial guidelines, the company completed a total of 86 blood work analyses, including but not limited to complete blood counts, serum chemistry panels, plasma amino acid profiles, whole blood taurine levels and cardiac biomarker parameters. Blood samples were collected at the beginning, middle and end of each trial, instead of solely upon completion.

Additionally, veterinary examinations were conducted at the beginning, middle and end of each trial and included weigh-ins, body condition scoring and muscle condition evaluation. Weekly stool samples were also collected and analyzed for each participating dog, and dog owners participating in the study were tasked with providing feedback on their companion’s overall wellbeing, active performance and energy levels.

The Honest Kitchen also commissioned a variety of breeds to participate in the trial, all of which remained in their own homes during the trials. In traditional kennel-based feeding trials, dogs are of the same breed, the company shared.

“The Honest Kitchen is known for its high-quality standards, and the rigorous research completed during these feeding studies is no exception,” said Leilani Alvarez, DVM, veterinary advisor at The Honest Kitchen. “Whole blood and plasma taurine levels are important markers for cardiac health and echocardiograms further help to confirm that the heart is functioning normally. The results of these in-home feeding trials demonstrate that The Honest Kitchen’s diets are safe for cardiac health and overall wellbeing.”

Carmen Velasquez, media spokesperson for The Honest Kitchen, shared that throughout the duration of the trail, all dogs maintained “excellent health, bloodwork and vitality,” and noted the company is currently working with its veterinary partners to finalize data collected during the trials.

Palatability was not formally recorded as part of the study, Velasquez added, but all dogs showed anecdotal evidence of excitement at mealtime during the trials.

“Their owners were excited at the opportunity to use The Honest Kitchen and voiced interest in continuing to feed it after the trial,” she said.

The Honest Kitchen was founded in 2002 and has since expanded its human-grade pet nutrition portfolio to include 170 SKUs. The products range from wet, dry and dehydrated complete-and-balanced diets, treats, meal toppers and hydration boosters. The brand also offers a digestive supplement. All products by The Honest Kitchen are manufactured in a human food facility with 100% human-grade ingredients. Products are available online via Amazon and Chewy, and in store at more than 6,000 independent pet retail locations and health food grocery stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods.

Stay up to date on the latest pet food processing industry headlines on our News page.