Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 28, 2023 by Crystal Uys
A raw diet is one of the best ways to fulfill cats’ nutritional requirements. There are numerous benefits from feeding a raw diet to your cat, including improved digestion, reduced stool odor and volume, increased energy, ability to maintain ideal weight, better dental health, and better urinary tract health. Embraced for decades by holistically oriented pet parents and holistic veterinarians, more pet parents are looking to raw feeding as an alternative to feeding highly processed food.
While I consider a raw diet the ultimate diet for cats, I also understand that not every cat parent will be comfortable with feeding raw. Ziwi, a New Zealand based company that has long been represented on my list of recommended brands, offers an alternative to freeze-dried dehydrated raw diets with its air dried formulas.
In 2004, a New Zealand couple with a passion for pets and 20+ years of experience in the meat industry believed there could be a simpler way to feed a whole-prey diet and set out to develop a new product in as an alternative-to-raw (ATR) diets. The goal was to create a species-appropriate, whole-prey, meat-rich pet food that would provide superior nutrition and meet the following objectives:
• Nutritionally complete and balanced, to eliminate the need for supplementation
• Highly palatable and extremely digestible, to maximize nutrient absorption
• Higher moisture content than kibble or freeze-dried, to eliminate need for rehydration
• Shelf stable at room temperature, for convenience and simplicity
• Pathogen- and parasite-free, making it safe, and hygienic to handle
• More affordable to feed than other alternative-to-raw options
After almost three years of research and development, Ziwi Peak Air-Dried was created, utilizing a modernized and refined approach to air-drying meats, an age-old process that requires no chemical preservatives, added sugars or glycerins.
Unless it has undergone some type of preservation process, raw meat has a very short shelf life and must be refrigerated or frozen to prevent spoilage. The basic goal of air-drying is to gently reduce the moisture content of raw meat to a point low enough to prevent pathogenic growth and spoilage, minimizing the loss of beneficial nutrients.
Ziwi’s small-batch approach combines grass-fed raw meat, organs and bone with New Zealand Green Mussel, small amounts of kelp and parsley, and carefully-selected vitamins and minerals. The mixture is poured into shallow trays and placed in customized drying chambers. In these chambers, air is circulated continually to evaporate the moisture until target levels are reached.
Ziwi’s low-temperature method of air-drying protects the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients, while eliminating potential pathogens. The result is an extremely nutrient-dense and palatable food that closely mirrors the whole-prey, ancestral diet of dogs and cats. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried meets AAFCO guidelines as a complete and balanced diet for all life stages and breeds of dogs and cats.
Ziwi’s air-dried food is shelf-stable at room temperature, and has a moisture content of 13-14%, so it can be fed directly from the package without rehydrating. Its high digestibility means pets absorb more nutrients, so serving sizes are smaller than freeze-dried and raw foods. This translates to a lower daily cost to feed, with the added benefit of lower stool volume.
The Ziwi Difference
Ziwi is a family owned company. They don’t outsource their air-drying and they don’t co-pack for other brands. Since only Ziwi Peak Air-Dried is made in their facility, there’s no chance for other brands’ ingredients to accidentally end up in their food. With concerns about contaminants, questionable sourcing and other issues in the world of pet food, this is an important distinction.
Another important factor to consider when choosing any food is the sourcing of its ingredients. Ziwi uses only grass-fed and finished meats from free-range New Zealand farms and sustainably-sourced seafood wild-caught from New Zealand’s pristine oceans. Grass -fed meats have higher omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) levels, as well as other nutritional benefits, and New Zealand is world-renowned for the purity and quality of its meat and seafood.
My take on Ziwi’s Air-Dried Formulas
While I still consider a fresh or frozen raw the optimal nutrition for cats, closely followed by a gently cooked whole food diet, I would rank Ziwi Peak Air-Dried as the next best choice. Unlike canned food, Ziwi’s low temperature method preserves more nutrients. Even though the food has a higher moisture content than dry kibble, since it is fed as is and not rehydrated, it will be important to ensure that your cats get plenty of moisture from other sources.
For more information about Ziwi’s entire line of products, please visit https://www.ziwipets.com/
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.