If pets are indeed family members now, many owners reason, why should they be forced to eat kibbles when the rest of the family avoids processed food? And if the humans are cutting back on meat—as many millennials are—shouldn’t their animals do the same? Raw pet food, also known as the ancestral diet, allows humans the option to create nutritionally- and ethically-sound meals for animals.

In a poll of pet owners by the analytics firm IRI Worldwide, more than half stated that their most important factor in buying pet food is that it meets the health and nutrition standards they have for their pets. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) calculates that the global raw pet food market is expected to rise from $130.55 billion in 2021 to $195.84 billion by 2029, a 5.2% increase. 

Raw food usually consists of some combination of meat, fruits and vegetables, raw eggs, yogurt, and bone meal, and extra nutritional supplements. Several online companies, including Ollie and The Farmer’s Dog, offer customized meal kits with fresh ingredients for home delivery, but store brands tend to be dehydrated or freeze-dried. Owners who feed their pets raw food diets claim that the animals (mostly dogs) are healthier overall, with shinier coats and svelte figures.

According to the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN), though, all the benefits of a raw food diet are purely anecdotal. There’s yet to be a peer reviewed study that compares the effects of raw food and kibbles on animals’ overall health. Food poisoning and salmonella are also concerns. “Safe and proper handling of raw foods is crucial for reducing the risk,” the ACVN writes on its website, but safety cannot be guaranteed." They strongly recommend that humans consult with their vets before starting pets on a raw food diet.