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When it comes to top-quality dog food, both Orijen and Acana are perhaps at the front of the discussion when discussing brands. They both exist to give your dog some real food that has all the essential nutrients for their bodies. But when comparing the two, which one should you be feeding them?
Orijen is more expensive and uses more meat in its ingredients, while Acana is less expensive but uses less meat. You might be thinking that less meat means bad right away, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Both brands are equally good for their own reasons.
These two brands are often in the same discussion, and there are many people who see the lower price of Acana and wonder if they are sacrificing anything. Similarly, people look at Orijen and wonder if it justifies the high price-tag. In this article, we will be discussing the pros and cons and getting into details of each brand to find out which one is best for you and your pup, so read on if you’d like to learn more.
Table of Contents
When people want the best for their dogs, many people turn to Orijen. It is seen as the holy grail of dog food of sorts and is very popular despite the high price-tag. We will sum up the pros and cons quickly and take a deep dive into the brand as a whole.
- It uses top of the line ingredients. The brand takes their ingredients very seriously, and they earn their price with an abundance of meat and healthy plant-based foods. There is nothing in their products that is filler or questionable, making it a very “peace of mind” option.
- It has high protein content. Protein is the main focus of Orijen’s food. Pretty much all of their products will have a long stretch of meat and other animal products before getting to the plant-based stuff on the list of ingredients. With meat content as high as 90%, it’s clear that they aim to provide a very carnivorous-like diet while providing nutrients dogs need from plants.
- It is expensive. Of course, when you are using top-shelf ingredients and lots of it in your food without fillers to artificially add bulk, you end up with pricey dog food. You are certainly getting what you are paying for, but Orijen isn’t nearly as accessible financially as, let’s say, Hill’s Science Diet.
- It is hard to find in stores. Convenience is an important factor for dog food. If you run out, you can’t just immediately grab whatever at the grocery store as dogs need to slowly transition to new food to avoid gastrointestinal problems. Orijen is not a super mainstream brand and many stores don’t stock them because most dog owners simply aren’t buying high-end dog food.
Now that we got the main pros and cons out of the way, here is everything you need to know about Orijen.
First and foremost, the selling point of Orijen is its very high-quality ingredients. When you read the back of the bag to see what makes up the food, it becomes apparent that they aren’t holding back. You’ll often see multiple types of relatively pricey meats followed by various livers and even hearts. While many people aren’t thrilled by the idea of eating hearts and livers, they aren’t cheap and do pack essential nutrients for your dog.
Orijin has extremely high levels of meat content; at minimum, recipes contain 85% meat and can go as high as 90%, all of which are fresh.
You won’t find animal parts that are downright horrid or meat-by-products, nor will you find fillers that do not serve a purpose other than to bulk up the quantity.
Besides animal-based food, you’ll also find nutritious vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based products such as:
- Butternut squash
And to boot, the ingredients are organic and selected from quality sources.
Orijen sells different types of dog food depending on your puppy’s age, size, dietary needs, and dietary restrictions. The majority of dogs will be able to thrive off of this brand’s food with no problem.
We believe that availability is an important factor for dog food, and when it comes to Orijen, we have to say this is a con for them. Once a dog is put on a specific brand and product line, they have to stick with it. Suddenly changing your dog’s food can cause gastrointestinal problems you and your dog do not want. The only way to safely swap your dog’s food is to slowly switch them to the new food by mixing it with their old food a little at a time.
However, this method requires having old food be available, and sometimes things happen. You might run out of food unexpectedly or are getting low and need to run out and pick up their specific food.
While you can find Orijen in some retail stores, it isn’t super common like Hill’s, for example, making those emergency purchases quite difficult. Even if the store sells Orijen, there is no guarantee they will have the recipe you feed your dog.
This means you are probably going to have to rely on purchasing the food online. Many people buy their food this way, and most of the time, it works perfectly fine. We recommend keeping a spare bag of food just in case something happens that prevents you from purchasing or receiving the food in time.
There are owners who prefer a wet diet for their pups. Dogs also generally prefer wet food because it is much closer to the food they beg from their humans than dry kibble. Orijen doesn’t sell canned wet food; instead, it sells freeze-dried food that produces “wet food” when rehydrated.
We think your dog will go crazy for freeze-fried food. You rehydrate it with warm water, which creates an extremely appetizing aroma and taste for your pup. If you have a picky eater, freeze-dried food, in general, is likely to get a paw stamp of approval. Do keep in mind that it is a more expensive option than dry food, however.
You can rarely talk about Orijen without bringing up pricing. This is technically a con, but the pricing is simply the reality of using such high-quality and expensive ingredients. But what kind of numbers are we talking about here, and how much will this cost in the long-term?
It goes without saying that larger dogs are going to need more food, and this will play a huge factor in how much you are spending. A German Shepherd, for example, is going to need significantly more calories than a Maltese.
What’s great about Orijen is since the ingredients are incredibly nutritious, you won’t have to feed as much food as you would with dog food that contains unnecessary bulk fillers.
For the sake of calculating numbers, let’s say you have America’s most popular dog breed, a 60 lb (27 kg) Labrador Retriever, which needs at least 9.5 oz (270 g) of food a day. Calculate this over a whole month, and the pup has gone through 18.4 lbs (8.3 kg) of food.
For this reason, we recommend not buying a 25 lb (11.3 kg) bag of dog food for this size of dog to ensure your puppy’s food stays fresh. A 13 lb bag of Orijen dog food on Amazon is approximately $56 in total, which you’ll have to buy twice a month for a total of $112 per month.
Knowing what it costs daily to feed your dog also puts things into perspective. The 65 lb lab will eat approximately $3.60 worth of food each day. This is definitely not the most expensive way you can feed a dog, not by a long shot.
While Orijen is higher in price than other good dog foods out there, it is still much cheaper than some raw diets you can find. In short, if you want some of the best ingredients for your dog, Orijen isn’t too bad of a price.
This brand is directly compared to Orijen very often and is highly regarded as one of the best. They are similar in a lot of ways, but there are differences that make one a deciding factor over the other.
- It is less expensive than Orijen. Both brands are higher than average in price, but Acana is more obtainable due to the lower price tag. If you have a larger dog, the savings are going to add up pretty quickly.
- It has more variety. Acana is likely to be a fit for more dogs due to the variety of its products. For example, they have a limited-ingredient line that is helpful for dogs with allergies.
- It has less protein. This isn’t a con for all dogs, but Acana doesn’t have a product that can match Orijen’s highest protein product meaning you would have to buy the more expensive brand if your dog thrives off of a high protein diet.
- It uses less fresh ingredients. The brand is very high quality and an easy recommendation all-around, but Acana isn’t as top shelf as Orijen. Acana uses a mix of fresh and frozen ingredients, while Orijen is completely fresh. How much this matters to you will be only up to you, but it is worth pointing out.
Now that we got the main pros and cons out of the way, here is everything you need to know about Orijen.
For the price, you’d expect Acana to use ingredients that go above and beyond less expensive quality dog food, and the good news is that like Orijen, they provide just that.
The main difference between Orijen and Acana when it comes to the ingredient side of things is meat. While Orijin recipes have a meat content of 85 to 90%, all of which are fresh, Acana’s recipes contain 50-75% of meat, which is significantly less. While Acana does use fresh meat, that only applies to half of the meats used.
This begs the question, what plant-based ingredients is Acana using? Many of the same ones as Orijin, in fact.
- Whole pumpkin
- Whole Carrots
- Butternut Squash
- Whole Greens
- Bartlett Pears
Is Acana worse in terms of ingredients compared to Orijen? Technically we have to answer yes but only by a hair, but both are extremely high-quality dry dog food brands that, in terms of the difference in quality, it doesn’t matter too much.
The elephant in the room is the drastic difference in meat content; there is a debate on how much meat dogs really need in general. The answer is that it depends on the individual dog.
You might be obligated to think that the high meat and protein content in Orijin makes it a better food in general. You’d be right, but the catch is that not every dog thrives off of a high protein diet.
The thing to remember is that dogs are not wolves; they need a balanced diet containing:
It is true that a dog’s digestive tract is designed for meat, but they have evolved to live alongside humans. Thus, they have eaten stuff that isn’t meat for thousands of years.
The truth is that Acana is still a well-balanced food even if it doesn’t contain as much protein as Orijen. Furthermore, a high protein diet doesn’t work well for all dogs, as previously mentioned. Orijen is considered a rich food, and it can make a dog with a sensitive stomach sick if given. This is why dog food companies generally offer gentler options.
On the flip side, there are many dogs who thrive off of low carb, high protein diets, and Orijen’s foods are perfect for that.
What you might not know is that both Acana and Orijen are the same company, just different brands. Orijen is essentially the high protein side of the company, while Acana aims to provide a balanced diet for almost any dog. And so the question becomes which brand is better for your dog rather than which brand is better.
Feeding dogs is trial and error, and you won’t know what they can and can’t handle until it is too late. This is why we recommend buying new food in the smallest quantity available as a test drive.
Perhaps Acana’s biggest advantage over Orijin is the variety of recipes they provide. We previously talked about how different dogs have different needs, and Acana really does account for this. And to give you an idea of just how inclusive the brand is, we will be going over their special diet varieties that Orijin doesn’t provide:
- Singles. More ingredients mean the more likely a dog might have something not agree with them. This is why the limited ingredient product line exists. It is great for dogs who get sick off of a lot of other commercial dog foods.
- Wholesome grains. While many dog lovers prefer the grain-free label, the truth is that healthy grains are an excellent part of a dog’s diet. What makes these recipes different from the normal ones are the fact that they don’t contain gluten, legumes, or potatoes. In their place are oats, which are full of good nutrients.
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, Orijen is probably a write-off, and you are best trying Acana’s singles recipes. And if you want to save some money, Acana’s wholesome grain recipes are more affordable than their other product lines.
If you and/or your dog prefer wet food for meals, unfortunately, Acana only provides freeze-dried treats. This is in contrast with Orijen, who have freeze-dried meals but no treats.
When looking at the ingredients list of these treats, you might be surprised at just how little ingredients they contain. For example, on the beef and pumpkin recipe, the ingredients list reads: “Beef (40%), beef liver (32%), pumpkin (19.9%), beef kidney (6%), beef tripe (2%), mixed tocopherols (0.1%).”
These are definitely some of the healthiest treats you can give to your dog, and they will love it for sure!
This brand is more mainstream than Orijen, and so it is easier to find at retail stores, but this doesn’t mean that they’ll have every recipe. Before introducing your dog to Acana, that’s being delivered to your door, check to see if there are stores around you carrying that specific recipe. As we previously stated, having your dog’s main food available in stores can be a huge help if you need it fast.
Acana’s pricing is more doable for a lot of dog owners than Orijen; a 13 lb bag of the free-run poultry formula can be had for around $38 on Amazon. Suppose we were to use the same example as the Orijen section, where we see how much it would cost to feed a 60-pound labrador retriever. Acana comes out to $76 a month or $2.45 dollars a day.
For comparison, our Orijen calculation came to $112 a month and $3.60 a day. That is a 47 percent increase with a $36 difference per month.
That’s quite the difference when you consider what you can get for those $36. You could subscribe to Bark Box, buy your dog a new bed, or other things to treat him. You could also put that money towards emergency savings if you need to pay a vet bill.
Worth can be both subjective and objective. Large ribeye steak cooked to perfection at a nice restaurant is priced higher than a burger because steak alone is more expensive as an ingredient than your average burger.
This also applies to dog food; the higher quality/expensive the ingredients are, the more it will cost. In reality, you don’t have to go for the highest end dry dog food for your dog to have a healthy diet. Acana and Orijen are excellent brands that care a lot about a dog’s well-being, but there are less expensive brands that also use quality ingredients. They just won’t be as good in concept.
The general rule of thumb for quality dog food is:
- No meat by-products
- No corn, especially if it is the first ingredient
- The first ingredient should be straight up meat (Beef, chicken, lamb, etc.)
- No wheat-gluten
- No rendered fat
This video is helpful in explaining what to look for on dog food labels:
It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t be automatically tricked by companies who claim their food is “human grade.” Technically, “human grade” is a marketing term and doesn’t mean that the food is of high quality by default, but it is a good start. The term means that it is legally safe for human consumption by just passing safety regulations. Cheap hot dogs that are using god-knows-what are also fit for human consumption, but it doesn’t make it particularly great.
This is why it is super important to look at the ingredients in your dog’s food and not just take marketing’s word.
Brands that are more affordable than either Orijen or Acana and ones that we would recommend you also consider would be Diamond Naturals, Hill’s Science Diet, Purina Pro Plan.
It’s true that both Acana and Orijen use better ingredients overall than these examples, but they do pass the “what you should be feeding” check, and provided that your dog doesn’t have special dietary needs that would say otherwise, he can thrive quite well off of all of these.
Many vets recommend Purina Pro Plan or Hill’s science diet because they are great for most dogs and won’t break the bank. There have been people who have switched from much more expensive brands to those and have found their dogs doing just as well as before.
So, where do Acana and Orijen place? Are they just a waste of money? Not really. Dog food is marketed to humans because, well, dogs can’t buy their own food. All of these brands are trying to convince you to buy their products for their own reasons, and it is up to humans to decide if those reasons matter.
If it makes you happy to know that you are feeding your dog the best, then that money is worth it at the end of the day. There are always going to be premium brands for everything, and while the mid-range option is usually the one that makes the most sense from a quality-for-the-dollar standpoint, there is value to be had for the best of the best.
Both Acana and Orijen are excellent dog foods. Orijen is significantly higher in protein and meat content, and they use meats and other animal products that aren’t cheap. Acana has less meat and protein but still uses top-quality ingredients and has more varieties available, making it more likely to suit a dog’s dietary needs.
- k9DEB: Orijen Dog Food
- Orijen: FAQ
- Hill’s: Tips & Methods For Switching Dog Foods
- PetCareRx: Wet or Dry Dog Food: Which is Better?
- TheLabradorSite: Labrador Food and How to Feed a Labrador – A Complete Guide
- Mom.com: How Much Protein Do Dogs Need?
- Businesswire: Champion Petfoods expands its biologically appropriate lineup
- The Penny Hoarder: Is Fancy Dog Food Worth the Cost?
- Petco: What is Human Grade Dog Food & What Does it Mean?
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