Better Choice Company Inc., a pet health and wellness company, announced the integration of the TruDog brand underneath the broader Halo® product portfolio in July of 2022. Legacy TruDog customers now receive Halo® branded freeze-dried raw meals. Halo products consist of dog foods and food toppers and a wide range of treats and chews. Their ‘beef meal bites’ have extensive claims to improve the health and well-being of pets and appear to get good reviews on the flavor front, but how do they measure up nutritionally?
Halo food is made from “premium cuts of beef” and uses only USDA-certified beef. It claims to use only organic ingredients but any official organic affiliation or endorsement, apart from being free of antibiotics and hormones, is unclear. The food is sourced and made in the U.S. and is raw and freeze-dried. The food is also free of wheat, gluten, soy, and grain and free from artificial flavors, coloring, added salt, and sugar.
As you would expect, the protein in this food product comes from beef. Beef is a high-quality protein source and organ meat, such as liver, will add essential nutrients including iron, Vitamin A, B6, and B12. This food is high in protein with the crude protein content listed as 41% (43% on a dry matter basis). The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requires adult dog food to contain a minimum of 18% crude protein on a dry matter basis. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that beef is the most common food allergy in dogs, so this diet may not be appropriate for some dogs.
Halo Beef Meal Bites contain herring oil. This is a good source of essential fatty acids and acts as a carrier of fat-soluble vitamins in the gut. It also enhances the palatability of the food and ensures adequate caloric density. The fat content of the food is relatively high with the crude fat listed as 29% on a dry matter basis. This may make it unsuitable for dogs with a low tolerance to fat, such as those suffering from pancreatitis. Raw foods often have a higher fat content to increase calorie density as they are lower in carbohydrates.
Halo Beef Meal Bites contain no refined carbohydrates. It is marketed as a pure, digestible, quality protein food and aims to mimic food that canines would eat in the wild. While wolves and dogs are the same genus (canis), domestic dogs can digest carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be a useful source of energy and be part of a balanced diet for pet dogs, however, they are not essential in every dog’s diet.
Fruit and Vegetables
There are no listed fruits or vegetables in Halo Beef Meal Bites dog food. The fiber content of the food is low with the crude fiber listed as 4.0%. There are various added vitamins and minerals in the diet including Vitamin C and Omega.
The ingredient list of Halo Beef Meal Bites is fairly short, and this goes along with their claims of being free from additives, artificial colors, and flavoring. The other ingredients listed are vitamin and mineral supplements such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper. These are all essential nutrients to help our canine companions maintain healthy muscles, support their immune system, and carry out essential jobs in the body such as producing and maintaining red blood cells. Two forms of Tocopherols are listed. These are compounds that are related to vitamin E and act as preservatives.
Health Benefits of Halo Beef Meal Bites
A good dog food must provide our pets with all the nutrients they need to ensure they are healthy and happy. This diet is formulated to the AAFCO nutritional guidelines and so appears to contain all the nutrients dogs need. The company has created a balanced diet that they model on the ‘Alpha prey BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) model.’ It is aimed at all sizes and breeds of dogs, but it is not tailored to a specific life stage. The feeding guidelines suggest feeding up to double for puppies or nursing dogs but make no specific claims that the food is suitable for these specific life stages. Similarly, senior dogs have different needs from adult dogs. The company makes no claims as to whether this food is appropriate for the nutritional needs of older dogs.
It is unclear how Halo formulated their recipes, but a veterinarian endorsement can be found here. Halo Beef Meal Bites claim to be a hypoallergenic food. This can be an ambiguous and confusing term that is seen commonly in pet food labeling, so let’s attempt to clarify. The term hypoallergenic refers to a product that contains few allergy-producing substances or allergens. However, there is no agreed-upon scientific or legal definition to the term. This particular diet contains a single animal protein source. This may be helpful for dogs that have food intolerances or allergies as animal proteins can be common allergens. However, this would not be a good choice for dogs that have a known beef allergy or if you are unsure what your dog reacts to in food, as beef can be a common protein allergen for dogs.
Like many raw food diets, this diet is relatively high in fat. This may be useful in dogs that are very active or prone to losing weight. However, care should be taken with dogs that are prone to obesity. High-fat diets may not be suitable for dogs that have suffered from previous digestive problems or health conditions such as pancreatitis. A diet high in fatty acids and omega, such as this one, may improve coat quality and help maintain healthy skin defenses. It is advised to seek veterinary advice before changing your dog’s diet, especially if they have had pre-existing illnesses or digestive problems.
Freeze-dried raw foods may contain lower levels of bacterial contamination than conventional raw foods, so they may be a safer choice for you and your dog if you are considering feeding a raw diet. The manufacturer draws attention to the health and safety precautions with raw feeding including stringent hand hygiene when handling the food and washing of dog bowls and equipment after each meal. There is still a higher risk of you or your dog catching an infection from freeze-dried foods compared to conventional, cooked dog foods.
A benefit of Halo’s freeze-dried formulation is that refrigeration is not required and the bag can be used for 30 days, once open. This makes it more convenient and easier to transport than traditional frozen raw foods.
Pros and Cons of Halo Beef Meal Bites
- A complete, balanced diet providing adequate protein and fat levels for adult dogs as set by AAFCO guidelines
- Single protein source, which may be suitable for certain protein exclusion diet trials and for dogs with allergies or sensitivities to other animal protein sources
- The freeze-dried formula makes storage and serving more convenient and may be safer than non-freeze dried raw meals
- Can be fed as a complete diet or as a ‘topper’ mixed with your dog’s existing diet
- High-quality fish oils mean the diet is high in essential fatty acids, which may improve the quality of a dog’s skin and coat
- Diet is not tailored to specific life stages such as young, growing puppies, or senior dogs
- High-fat content means it may not be suitable for certain dogs including those that are prone to weight gain or those that have had previous digestive illnesses such as pancreatitis
- Increased risk of bacterial contamination associated with raw feeding
- Low fiber content and lack of fruits and vegetables may not be suitable for dogs that suffer from digestive problems such as colitis or constipation
- The diet is relatively expensive and is only available in small bag sizes. The largest offered is a 14oz bag, which is less than the recommended daily feeding amount for a 40lb dog. On a practical level, this food is more suited to small breeds of dogs.
Information as of 7/20/22