It’s raw. Radically meaty. Rather controversial. Get the details on Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food in our unbiased review.
The Cats.com Standard—Rating Darwin’s Natural on What Matters
We’ve analyzed Darwin’s Natural and graded it according to the Cats.com standard, evaluating the brand on species-appropriateness, ingredient quality, product variety, price, customer experience, and recall history. Here’s how it rates in each of these six key areas.
- Species-Appropriateness – 10/10
- Ingredient Quality – 9/10
- Product Variety – 5/10
- Price – 7/10
- Customer Experience – 8/10
- Recall History – 3/10
Overall Score: 7/10
We give Darwin’s Natural cat food a 42 out of 60 rating or a B grade.
About Darwin’s Natural Pet Products
Darwin’s Natural Pet Products isn’t like most cat food brands. It’s one of the few companies that sells fresh, frozen raw cat food and ships it straight to its customers’ doors.
And Darwin’s Natural foods aren’t just uncooked—they aren’t pasteurized, freeze-dried, or dehydrated. By making and selling fully raw, minimally-processed food, Darwin’s Natural earns itself respect, concerns, and questions that don’t come up with other brands.
In this review, we’ll address the important questions about Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. You’ll learn about its recall history, safety standards, nutritional adequacy, and who’ll get the most out of it.
Sourcing and Manufacturing
Darwin’s Natural prepares its products in a company-owned facility located in the Seattle, Washington area.
The company doesn’t go into detail on where they obtain their ingredients but talks a bit about its quality standards. Darwin’s Natural meat ingredients are never treated with antibiotics or given hormones or steroids. The chicken and turkey are cage-free. The vegetables are organic.
In addition to these quality standards, Darwin’s Natural says that they visit all of their partnering farms to ensure that they employ good farming practices and “treat both their animals and employees with respect.”
Has Darwin’s Natural Cat Food Been Recalled?
While their cat food has never been recalled, Darwin’s Natural Pet Food has been recalled several times. In addition to these recalls, this company has had a few scrapes with the FDA.
Darwin’s Natural announced a recall in December of 2017 after finding salmonella and listeria in several samples of raw dog food.
The next year—in March of 2018—the company issued another recall of raw dog food due to potential salmonella and E.coli contamination.
In March of 2019, the FDA released a cautionary letter warning customers that three varieties Darwin’s Natural Pet dog food may be contaminated with salmonella.
So…Darwin’s has been recalled a few times and they’re on the FDA’s naughty list. Does this mean that Darwin’s Natural pet food is unsafe for cats?
During its recalls and brushes with the FDA, Darwin’s Natural remained in contact with its customers and was transparent about the potential for contamination. The company never wavered in its insistence that the agency’s behavior was unreasonable.
In an interview with Dogs Naturally Magazine, Darwin’s Natural Pet founder Gary Tashjian notes that, though the FDA has slammed numerous other raw pet food companies with recalls and warnings over the presence of pathogens, there hasn’t been any evidence of pets or even humans getting sick in the wake of said recalls.
He concludes that “…with the best of intentions, the FDA’s standards for raw pet food are inappropriate and unnecessary.”
Raw meat, whether it’s prepared by a great company or at home, is prone to bacterial contamination. Most of those pathogens are harmless for healthy pets. Until the regulatory environment changes, even the best raw pet food companies are going to encounter recall after recall.
Yet bacterial contamination isn’t Darwin’s Natural Pet Products’ only problem.
In late winter of 2018, the FDA released a scathing report after investigating the Darwin’s Natural Pet manufacturing plant. The report revealed that after investigation, the agency had found a “pattern of contamination” in the raw food manufacturing facility. According to the report, FDA investigators touring the Darwin’s Natural facilities noted multiple instances of cross-contamination and sloppiness. The report includes a long list of problems, including employees handling the products with dirty hands and frozen products being defrosted under poorly-controlled conditions.
In general, it appears that Darwin’s Natural Pet Products has failed to implement consistent, sanitary safety procedures.
An inconsistent, unreliable safety system causes more than bacterial contamination. It might lead to foreign objects showing up in the food, leaky packages, or other issues that may affect both you and your cat.
What Kinds of Cat Food Does Darwin’s Natural Offer?
The Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food lineup is broken into two lines.
- The Natural Selections™ line includes three varieties of cat food. One features chicken, the second is made with turkey, and the third features lamb as its primary protein source.
- The Intelligent Design™ line is Darwin’s raw answer to those seeking a prescription or veterinary diet for cats with health issues. Currently, the line includes just one recipe. Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support is formulated for cats with kidney disease. It’s only available with a veterinarian’s prescription.
All Darwin’s Natural cat food recipes are high-protein, moderate-fat, low-carbohydrate foods. They’re primarily made from meat, contain as few plant ingredients as possible, and emphasize a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids from species-appropriate animal sources.
All of their recipes are complete and balanced according to AAFCO’s nutritional profiles and the NRC’s guidelines for cat nutrition.
Darwin’s Natural Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Chicken Raw Cat Food
|$0.40 per oz
|Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Lamb Raw Cat Food
|$0.60 per oz
|Darwin’s Natural Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support Raw Cat Food
|$0.52 per oz
What Do Customers Think of Darwin’s Natural Cat Food?
Darwin’s Natural cat food has a community of loyal customers. Most praise the food’s species-appropriateness and quality. On the flip side, some customers say that they received leaky packages or that the food had defrosted before it arrived at their house. Others claim that the food was discolored or otherwise inconsistent.
“Great food for my cat! My cat suffered from chronic diarrhea for over 18 months while my vet tried every test possible they could not figure out how to treat him. We tried numerous different prescription diet foods, none that helped him. Finally we found that a daily steroid pill was the only thing that helped his diarrhea. I was not comfortable giving him a daily steroid pill (which causes negative side effects) and so I finally tried Darwin’s raw pet food. I stopped giving him the pill the same day I gave him the raw food. His diarrhea went away IMMEDIATELY! He is now healthy and has gained weight and no longer has to take the doctor prescribed pills. I could not be happier with this cat food.” – Amanda, reviewing Darwin’s Natural cat food on Trustpilot
“I was so pleased to have found another raw food company to replace Rad Cat when it was forcibly closed here in Portland. A raw food diet literally saved my 17 year old cat’s life.
Darwin’s raw cat food is high quality and packaged in packets that make it easy to store and use. It arrives when promised in reusable ice chests which I appreciate. Their customer service is great! They send out a reminder notice a week before your next delivery and work to make any changes you might require.” – Claudia, reviewing Darwin’s Natural cat food on Trustpilot
“I used to love Darwins and ordered every few months. I am now concerned and will never order from them again. My package came with over a third of the food blocks unfrozen and warm. No dry ice in the package and I saw a bit of blood in the package. Calling customer service the first person seemed unconcerned and ask me to measure the temp of the food and tried to blame it on the shipping company. Called back and was told they would escalate the issue and no one called back. Not sure what happened, I would have forgiven the mistake if the person would have said “hey” this is an issue, dump that food and we will ship another one out. We are sorry. But they didn’t. Poor customer service when things go wrong. Note to whoever responds to these reviews – I have called your customer service twice. The second time my issue was to be escalated with a call back…. no one called. Why would I call in a third time?” – Kare N, reviewing Darwin’s Natural pet food on Google
“My last 2 batches of kidney diet for my cat have had issues. The first one has been resolved… completely uneven coloring on batches. This latest order, the meat delivered is already 3 months old. They have never sent me old meat before. Id like a refund to be honest. I can make my own with the same 200$ I sent them and it would be fresh. When I called they said well its just for your Dog it doesnt have to be great. She literally said no one calls and complains but look at how many negative reviews are on here! Not to mention, she was looking directly at my account… I have a cat, not a dog! Their quality is dwindling, big time! They need to do better” – Ali Star, reviewing Darwin’s Natural cat food on Google
How Much Does Darwin’s Natural Cat Food Cost?
Darwin’s Natural cat food is more expensive than the average cat food, but it’s cheap compared to other raw food brands. If you order their lowest-priced variety and feed your 10-lb cat six ounces of it per day, Darwin’s Natural would add up to about $2.40 per day. Opt for lamb and your daily feeding cost will go up to $3.60.
To make it easier to get started, Darwin’s Natural Pet Products offers 50% off your first order. Shipping is always free.
Overall, Is Darwin’s Natural a Good Choice?
If you’re looking for an economical, species-appropriate frozen raw cat food that emphasizes meat over plants, Darwin’s Natural cat food may be the right choice for you.
The Darwin’s Natural site publishes full nutrient analyses, giving you rare insights into their foods’ micronutrient and macronutrient profiles. That’s an unprecedented level of transparency—some other companies lock this information away and guard it like a state secret.
Most reviewers agree that the company has outstanding customer service and appreciate the staff’s transparency and apparent interest in animal nutrition. With custom portion sizes and an adjustable delivery schedule, Darwin’s Natural Pet gives you a personalized experience that’s not equaled by many other companies in this business.
That said, Darwin’s Natural Pet misses the mark in a few areas. One is phosphorus content. Like some other raw foods—think Stella & Chewy’s—Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food has more phosphorus than most. While that’s not a problem for young, healthy cats, it might cause problems for senior cats and those with kidney disease.
The other problem is its recall history and reputation for quality control. While Darwin’s Natural maintains that the FDA’s warnings and recalls were unjustified, there’s no good reason to overlook them. Combined with the FDA’s report detailing the conditions in the Darwin’s facility, these events call the company’s safety standards into question.
Where To Buy Darwin’s Natural Cat Food?
Darwin’s Natural sells and ships directly to customers, so you’ll have to purchase the food through the company’s website. When you start your order of Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food, you’ll enter your cat’s name, his weight, and your protein preferences. You’ll receive individually-portioned packages tailored to your cat’s needs.
Darwin’s Natural ships to customers in the contiguous United States.