The Honest Kitchen Embark is a powdered dog food made from dehydrated meat and veggies. You mix it with water to form a moist dog food. Experts love this close-to-raw food -- and most owners say it's great for their dogs.
Human-quality, with no iffy ingredients. Though it's not totally raw (ingredients are steamed for safety) The Honest Kitchen uses only human food -- whole meats, fish, fruits and veggies -- with vitamins and minerals (chelated for easy absorption) to form a complete, balanced diet. Even the toughest critics find no questionable ingredients in this food.
Some flavors (including Embark) are grain-free. Others include grains, and some contain less meat than Embark, DogFoodAdvisor.com's Mike Sagman notes. Embark's first ingredient is dehydrated turkey, and Sagman says it's higher-protein than the average dog food.
Some flavors recalled in 2013. In February 2013, The Honest Kitchen recalled five lots of its dog food (Thrive, Verve and Zeal flavors) after its parsley supplier recalled a shipment due to possible salmonella contamination. The Honest Kitchen regularly tests its ingredients and finished foods for salmonella and other pathogens, and found none -- but it recalled the food anyway, to be safe. The Honest Kitchen also dropped that supplier and started steaming all greens to kill germs (it was already steaming its meats and fish).
Experts and pet owners praised The Honest Kitchen's handling of the situation and its safety record in general. The Honest Kitchen foods are made in a California factory that also makes organic baking mixes for humans. It's one of 18 companies that have signed the Pledge to Quality and Origin at TruthAboutPetFood.com (the blog run by PetsumerReport.com's Susan Thixton).
Costs about the same to feed as premium canned. The Honest Kitchen says a 4-pound box of its dehydrated food will make 16 pounds of dog food once water is added. That's enough to feed the average small-breed dog (like a beagle or cocker spaniel) for 16 to 32 days -- averaging out to between $1.40 and $2.80 per day for the Embark flavor. That's in the same ballpark as premium canned food like Fromm Family Gold Salmon and Chicken Pate (Est. $2.50 for a 13-oz. can) . The Honest Kitchen also sells more economical 10-pound boxes and packs of four 10-pounders.
You can try before you buy (and owners say you should -- some dogs don't like the consistency). The Honest Kitchen sells sample sizes: 1 ounce (Est. $1) and 4 ounces (Est. $3.50).
Susan Thixton, author of the blog TruthAboutPetFood.com, extensively researches dozens of brands of dog food, including The Honest Kitchen. She rates the companies, and their individual varieties of food, based on ingredient quality and safety.
Review: The Honest Kitchen Pet Foods, Susan Thixton, As of January 2014
After thoroughly evaluating the Embark flavor, Mike Sagman awards it -- and The Honest Kitchen brand as a whole -- his highest 5-star rating. Embark and several other flavors contain "a notable amount of meat," but some flavors contain less meat and rate lower.
Review: Honest Kitchen Dog Food (Dehydrated), Mike Sagman, Updated Oct. 24, 2013
After analyzing the Zeal recipe, editors here award The Honest Kitchen a perfect 5 stars. Editors find no faults with this top-quality food, and the other flavors "appear to be just as high of quality."
Review: Honest Kitchen (Zeal Recipe), Editors of PetFoodRatings.org, Not Dated
Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Dog Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Dog Talk," feeds The Honest Kitchen as the foundation of her own dogs' diet. She likes that it's all-natural, human-grade and donates a large portion of its profits to charity.
Review: The Honest Kitchen, Tracie Hotchner, Not Dated
Mary Straus names The Honest Kitchen to her list of the best dehydrated dog foods. She likes that the foods are made in a human-food plant and tested for melamine. She notes that certain varieties are grain-free.
Review: Dry Dog Foods (Kibble and Dehydrated), Mary Straus, Updated Oct. 23, 2013
The Honest Kitchen recalled some flavors of dog food after its parsley supplier recalled a batch of parsley due to possible salmonella contamination. The Honest Kitchen found no salmonella in its food, but recalled it as a precaution. The company also cut ties with the parsley supplier and began steaming greens to kill pathogens.
Review: The Honest Kitchen Voluntarily Recalls Limited Lots of Verve, Zeal and Thrive Products Due to Possible Health Risk, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Feb. 21, 2013
More than 50 reviewers give The Honest Kitchen Embark an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars (other flavors earn similar ratings). Several say it turned their dogs' poor health around. However, a few say their dogs didn't like it or it was too much roughage, especially for dogs used to eating actual raw meat.
Review: The Honest Kitchen Embark Grain-Free Dehydrated Dog Food, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2014