Deep product selection
The relative convenience of shopping online is old news for us, but what about our four-legged companions? Plenty of brands have stepped in to fill the void, with Redbarn emerging as one of the direct-to-consumer front runners in the dog food industry. The company prioritizes quality in its products, and for the most part, that rings true in their offerings.
Quality comes at a cost, however, and Redbarn products certainly reflect that in comparison to their pet store adversaries. Is the expense ultimately worth it, though? We tested some Redbarn essentials to find out.
What is Redbarn?
In a nutshell, Redbarn is a pet food company that sells more than 200 foods, treats and chews for your furry friend. It was co-founded in 1996 by Jeff Baikie and Howie Bloxam with the goal of delivering high-quality dog food to the masses.
Today, Redbarn offers several different options for pets. Dog owners have the ability to choose between air-dried food (more on that later), dry food, and rolled food, as well as treats like bully sticks, bones, chews, collagens, dental products, and treats. Redbarn has also ventured into the world of cat treats, offering two different flavors of treats for your feline companion to feast on.
How does Redbarn pick and test its ingredients?
Redbarn seems entirely committed to quality assurance when it comes to its products – in fact, it has an entire page on its website saying as much. The company claims that its QA team performs more than 3,500 tests each month, running daily physical, chemical, and microbiological exams on raw and finished products.
Its facilities have food grade air sanitation machines that continuously circulate air to combat airborne bacteria, mold, fungi, viruses, and allergens among other particles. And it employs an outside ISO-accredited laboratory to vet the accuracy of the tests Redbarn conducts.
In 2021, Redbarn became SQF Food Safety Code for Manufacturing Certified by the Safe Quality Food Initiative. While SQF Certification is not a requirement for pet product manufacturers, it adds an extra vote of confidence to the notion that a company is committed to the safety and quality of its products.
What is air-dried dog food?
As one of its signature products, Redbarn’s air-dried dog food is made with a slow-cooking process that is designed to allow the protein in the food to keep more of its natural nutrition. Redbarn claims that each iteration of the air-dried dog food it offers (fish, beef, or chicken) is made with at least 85% protein. The recipe is rounded out with a blend of salmon oil, flaxseed, and vitamins and minerals.
What I like about Redbarn
It has a deep catalog of products to choose from
With 31 different types of dog food to choose from, combined with hundreds of different kinds of toys and treats, Redbarn’s website is bursting at the seams with options for your four-legged friend.
Aside from air-dried food, dried food, and rolled food, Redbarn offers both whole grain and grain-free variations. It also has a lineup of food aimed at improving gut health and digestion for puppers with particularly picky stomachs.
It’s the treats side of the Redbarn site, though, that really shines in terms of the sheer diversity of products available. In a practical sense, they all fall under one of several general categories ranging from bones and bully sticks to dental-health focused toys and rewards and treats. Within each category, though, is a dense roster of variations to choose from.
For instance, we picked out some standard bully sticks and peanut butter-filled bones for our three dogs. But we also could have selected braided bully sticks, bully barbels, bully rings, bully springs… you get the idea. On the bone front, we could have opted for a cheese and bacon flavor, beef flavor, chicken, lamb, and even peanut butter and jelly.
The same goes for the other categories under the “treats” tab, but the overall sentiment is this. Redbarn has plenty of variety to choose from to keep your dogs engaged and satisfied without having to resort to buying the same things time after time.
Our dogs enjoyed their stuff
Our household consists of a 10-year-old Jack Russell mix, an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever, and a 3-year-old Australian Cattle Dog. In other words, it’s a madhouse. Even with two of them being older, it’s a very active pack that, for the most part, needs to be occupied and stimulated most of the time. Runs, walks, hikes and swims certainly help, but a good toy goes a long way to keeping them at bay during down time.
The Redbarn treats we surprised them with did just the trick. The peanut-butter filled bones were an especially big hit, dulling the house into a low droning of chewing and licking. That’s about as close to peaceful silence as we get around here, so we’ll take what we can get. The bully sticks delivered a similar impact to the sanity of our household, with far more gnawing than barking to go around. And while our fur babies are known to chew their way through bones quickly, I was surprised at the longevity of both the filled bones and bully sticks alike.
We also got Protein Puff treats (great for our food-motivated dog, but given out sparingly) and some sample sizes of the air-dried chicken recipe dog food. I can’t necessarily vouch for how much they did or did not like the taste of the food. But I can confirm that they wolfed this new food down just as efficiently as they do their normal diet.
What I didn’t like about Redbarn
The food is quite an expensive meal ticket
The issue here doesn’t really lie with dog treats, which seem competitively priced to what you could find at a local pet store. However, the dog food that Redbarn sells sits at a premium price point compared to some of its alternatives in the market.
For instance, a 5-pound bag of the air-dried chicken recipe retails for $80 on Redbarn’s website. That’s a steep price to pay when our regular feed for our dogs is Hill’s Science Diet, a similarly higher-quality brand by most standards, at $80 for a 35-pound bag. When we have three mouths to feed twice a day, there’s no contest between which food we’d pick if the health impact was (arguably) negligible.
Even if you instead pick Redbarn’s standard dried food, you’re looking at $63 for a 22-pound bag. Despite the $80 price tag, Hills is still a more cost-effective solution for our needs, or the needs of most folks in a multi-dog household. Those circumstances could definitely change, of course, especially if you’re in a single-dog family and want to try one of Redbarn’s specialized types of food. But for most folks, the premium you pay for Redbarn’s premium food options may not be worth it.
What do vets think of Redbarn?
I spoke with a local veterinarian to capture honest thoughts from an expert about what Redbarn brings to the table. As a caveat, this particular veterinarian is not a trained animal dietitian, so they kept their feedback to general observations about these products.
First, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the dog food we tested, at least from this veterinarian’s perspective. From a quality standpoint, it checks out. That said, there is a flag here with a slight reddish hue to it. Redbarn food is outfitted for “all life stages.” According to the vet, one-size-fits-all food can be cause for concern simply because dogs have different nutritional needs at different points in their life. If dog food has appropriate ingredients for growing puppies, it’s conceivable that those same ingredients could contribute to unwanted weight gain in older dogs.
As for the dog treats, the veterinarian didn’t specifically critique Redbarn as much as offer a word of caution for the types of treats it offers in general. Bully sticks, they said, can become choking hazards or get stuck in a dog’s digestive tract if not monitored properly. And products like the fill-in bones can cause fractured or broken teeth. This isn’t to say you should stay far away from these products, but rather you should keep a watchful eye on your dog as they chew on treats like these in case they get too small or tough.
Should you try Redbarn pet food?
Maybe, if convenience and quality outweigh the cost
There’s no snake oil on Redbarn’s cupboards. The company clearly cares about delivering quality pet products, and its food is the result of a strategic approach to testing and quality assurance. Our dogs wholeheartedly enjoyed the toys and treats from Redbarn, and the treats’ approachable price point makes it easy to justify buying more.
They also enjoyed the samples of Redbarn food, though that’s a far less cost-effective road to travel down. You get the convenience of ordering online from a selection of more than 30 types of dog food, but it comes at a price that eclipses comparable industry names such Hill’s Science Diet.
Moving forward, we’ll likely stick to our dogs’ primary diet, with perhaps a sprinkling of Redbarn treats here and there. It may be different for others, but the price isn’t right to switch to Redbarn food for our family of three.