Flash Frozen Dog Food vs Freeze Dried - Which is the Healthier Choice?

Commercially sold raw and fresh dog food are usually free of preservatives. That is partly what appeals to conscientious dog-lovers apart from the fact that these foods are healthier.

As these raw and fresh foods can spoil very fast, an effective yet safe way of prolonging their shelf life is required. There are a few methods employed by suppliers of these dog foods – flash frozen, freeze dried and air dried.

In this article, we look into the subtle differences of flash frozen and freeze dried raw meat.

What is “flash frozen”?

Anything that has been put through flash freezing is considered flash frozen. Other terms similar to flash freezing are fast freezing, blast freezing and quick freezing.

How is meat flash frozen?

Flash freezing requires a special freezer. Your house refrigerator can’t exactly replicate what a commercial blast freezer can do.

Some quick freezer models can cool air down to as low as -40 degrees Celcius in a matter of minutes. This freezing air is then circulated around the meat or any food item that needs to be preserved.

The fast drop in temperature creates the perfect atmosphere inside the freezer to crystallize the cellular structure of meat at such a fast rate that taste, moisture and texture are kept intact.

In other words, the meat is frozen so quickly that the ice crystals don't form between the fibers of the meat. Through this method, ice crystals that form in the meat cells remain small, allowing moisture to remain in the food when it thaws.

Usually, the meat or food product is prepared in small portions for freezing so that these portions can be taken out individually when they need to be used. 

Benefits of flash freezing meat

1. No freezer burn

    Freezer burn is the result of moisture loss. It can happen to any food that has been frozen for a long time, especially those that are not tightly wrapped enough. 

    This problem is more common in house refrigerators. Due to the nature of the freezing unit in the fridge, ice particles in the meat will migrate to the coolest part – the walls of the freezer. You will see frost build-up on parts of the meat that have been affected.

    When the meat thaws, spots affected by freezer burn become discoloured. The spots also lose some flavour and become dry due to moisture loss. 

    Flash frozen raw dog food does not suffer this fate because of the way in which flash freezing works – via evenly circulated super chilled air.

    2. Intact nutrients

      You will notice that all of the nutrients and juices are still inside the meat instead of getting flushed down the sink after it is thawed.

      When meat is frozen slowly, which is what happens in our consumer refrigerators, the water in it turns to ice crystals that grow large and rupture the fibre or muscle cell structure.

      This damage results in moisture loss upon thawing. That is why your frozen meat “bleeds” after it is thawed. All the precious nutrients and juices break out of the meat.

      But when meat is frozen rapidly (using methods such as blast freezing and temperatures well below zero), much smaller ice crystals are created inside the meat cells.

      There is less breakage of meat cells. This results in less water loss when thawing and means the meat won’t have that mushy texture from slow freezing. On top of that, all of the nutrients and juices inside the meat remain intact.

      3. Intact moisture

        Muscle meat contains at least 60% of water. One chunk of meat consists of millions of individual cells which holds this moisture. When meat is frozen, the water inside these cells are frozen as well.

        In rapid freezing, a large number of small ice crystals are formed but they cause less cell wall ruptures than slow freezing which produces large ice crystals.

        When flash frozen raw meat is thawed, the tiny ice crystals stay inside the unbroken meat cells. This is why flash frozen meat does not “bleed”.

        Does flash freezing kill bacteria?

        Not exactly. If the temperature is far enough below freezing point for a long enough duration, it may kill some bacteria. Certain parasites may also be killed but freezing temperatures cannot eliminate most parasites.

        For the most part, flash freezing – as with any other way of freezing meat – only arrests bacterial activity. 

        Is flash frozen dog food healthy?

        Yes, because most of the nutrients in the raw meat and other accompanying ingredients of a B.A.R.F. diet remain intact. Flash frozen dog food does not contain any additives or preservatives as there is no need to. The cost and function of flash freezing take over the function of preservatives.

        How long does flash freezing last?

        Uncooked meat can be frozen and stored anywhere from three to six months. Some commercially flash frozen meats that are vacuum packed can last up to a year. 

        How do you thaw flash frozen meat?

        You can thaw it in warm water within 10 minutes or by dipping it in cold water. Alternatively, let it thaw in the refrigerator.

        You should not thaw raw meat at room temperature as this accelerates the growth of any bacteria that may be present in the meat.

        What is “freeze dried”?

        Freeze drying is another way of preserving meat using cold air. Also called lyophilization, the process involves removing water from frozen foods.

        Freeze dried raw meat is literally fresh meat that has almost no moisture left in it. These are packed in vacuum bags. 

        How is meat freeze dried?

        Meat is put in controlled vacuum and temperature conditions. The temperature is lowered until the moisture in the meat becomes solid ice.

        Then, the meat is subjected to a reduced pressure to evaporate the water inside. Finally, some heat is applied to fully release water molecules from the meat.

        Simply put, the process evaporates water in the frozen meat without the melting of any ice crystals. The end product is then packed in a moisture proof packaging to ensure no moisture is absorbed back into the meat.

        Is freeze dried meat healthy?

        The amount of nutrient loss depends on the drying technology. Regardless of the type of technique employed for drying food – solar, controlled air dehydration, or freeze-drying – each method involves heat and air.

        These processes will deplete the nutritive value of the food to a certain extent, some more than others. Water soluble vitamins, in particular, are sensitive to heat.

        Apart from this, freeze dried meat is healthy as no additives or preservatives are required.

        Flash frozen vs freeze dried

        Both methods of freezing have different advantages.

        Flash frozen

        1. No shape distortion as well as good retention of flavour and nutrition

          Because the meat is not dehydrated, it does not lose its shape. Any breakage of meat cells is at the barest minimum which in turn preserves the flavour and nutrients of the meat.

          2. High moisture content in the meat

            A balanced diet is not the only necessary part of keeping your dog healthy. A dog’s body comprises 70% water so it needs just as much from its food each day. When dehydrated, your dog’s body will not be able to function properly.

            In order for your dog to get enough water daily, you need to provide water along with a healthy, balanced diet which also provides some moisture. Feeding your dog fresh or raw flash frozen meat will ensure its meal is well hydrated, thereby hydrating your dog.

            Freeze dried

            1. Minimal shape distortion, and good retention of flavour and nutrition

              According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, freeze-dried foods retain the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals found in their original state. It is said that the process retains up to 97 percent of nutrition.

              Freeze drying doesn’t change the look or the taste of the food. This method preserves more of the nutritional content of the food than merely dehydrating. The nutritional value of dehydrated food is around only 60 percent of equivalent fresh food.

              2. Easily rehydrated

                Plumping up a freeze dried piece of meat is easy. You just need to dip it in water following instructions on the package. Different types and sizes of meat may require different amounts of water or time.

                If you are giving freeze dried meat to your dog as its daily meal, it is best to serve it rehydrated.

                3. Convenient for travelling

                  Dog owners who are constantly on the road with their four-legged buddies will find this type of food ideal. They don’t need to cart a refrigerator along to store Buddy’s meals. 

                  Conclusion

                  Flash freezing and freeze drying are also employed on meats destined for human consumption. Both methods are effective, health-friendly ways of preserving nutrients in most kinds of food, not just raw meat.

                  The key difference between flash frozen meat and freeze dried meat is that the former process never removes moisture from the meat.

                  With regards to DIY freezing versus commercial freezing, it might be safer to go for commercially frozen meats. Industry standards for hygiene are usually high when it comes to handling raw meat. All the equipment, tools and facility must be sterilised before and after processing meat.

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