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The first thing they should tell you about getting a dog is that every person in your life comes out of the woodwork to share their opinion on it. People you didn't even know were pet owners start hitting you with tips on potty training, crate time, and yes -- dog food. And it doesn't stop there. There's a ton of conflicting advice even from vets and trainers: Is grain-free kibble a good or bad thing? Are raw diets the way to go? It's overwhelming to say the least.
Lucky for me, my pals here at The Quality Edit heartily endorsed Sundays for Dogs, a human-grade dog food brand we've reviewed glowingly before. But like any millennial air sign, I like to keep my options open. So enter… the throwdown.
In categories like convenience, cost, and quality of ingredients, I wanted to see how Sundays measured up to two other competing brands – brands that represented some of the myriad other types of food options out there. What better way to see what suits me and my pup than to sample the field?
In This Corner…
The first of our three contenders, it goes without saying, was Sundays. Sundays' gently air-dried food lends it an appearance closer to a jerky treat than to traditional kibble, which meant that the most logical competitor to stack it up against was, you guessed it… a traditional kibble.
For that, I turned to Taste of the Wild, a brand I'd seen occupy the higher end of many pet stores, a protein-rich kibble based around dogs' ancestral diets. But since both of these options were dried, and therefore shelf-stable, the third option had to be an alternative: "fridge food."
That's where Ollie comes in. Ollie is a DTC brand specializing in fresh dog food -- aka food whose meats and veggies need to be kept in the fridge or freezer. Adherents to this approach argue it makes the meal more nutritious, while others argue that the right dried food can deliver just as many health benefits.
Only one way to find out.
Test #1: Nutrition
Let's be real, "taste" isn't really a feasible category here. My dog will eat just about anything you put in a bowl -- but that doesn't mean it's all equally healthy for him. My responsibility, on top of keeping him away from the 500 coyotes that roam my corner of Los Angeles, is to provide him with meals that are as nutritious as they are delicious.
Sundays: Sundays is all about transparency. For starters, the brand’s ingredients list is comprised solely of foods you've actually… you know, heard of. A mix of beef, pumpkin, millet, turmeric, carrots, beets and berries (and more!), Sundays delivers proteins, fruits and veggies all in one formula. The brand also strictly avoids "anti-nutrients," certain legumes and starches that can interfere with nutrient absorption. In my entire deep dive, I couldn't find a knock against these guys when it came to healthfulness. 10/10.
The brand also strictly avoids "anti-nutrients," certain legumes and starches that can interfere with nutrient absorption. In my entire deep dive, I couldn't find a knock against these guys when it came to healthfulness.
Taste of the Wild: Like Sundays, Taste of the Wild is made of fruits and veggies in addition to the meats each flavor centers around. Still, the ingredients list stretches on and on -- the formula I sampled clocked in at over 50 ingredients. With many of these being oils and vitamins, as well as niacin, biotin, and ascorbic acid, the relative proportion of whole foods feels a little lacking. 7.5/10.
Ollie: There's no denying that as a refrigerated food, Ollie's ingredients are very, very fresh. Ollie’s food is gently cooked, human grade, and free of zero-nutrient "fillers" too. Unfortunately, it contains several of the anti-nutrient legumes mentioned above, meaning there's a possibility that all of its nutritional aspects aren't being fully absorbed by our furry friends. 8/10.
Winner: Sundays for Dogs
Test #2: Convenience
Let's face it, kibble is always going to reign supreme here. Pouring your dog's meal from a box is just inherently a lot easier than remembering to defrost it the night before. But for the sake of the scientific method:
Sundays: With a lightweight box that sends food tumbling out like morning Cheerios, a box of Sundays takes up precious little counter space. The brand also formulates a plan tailored to your dog on its website and gives discounts on subscription plans so that the food arrives before you ever have to scramble for backup. It's a breeze. 9/10.
Taste of the Wild: Unlike the other two, this is not a DTC brand, meaning Taste of the Wild is only found through authorized retailers. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- you can visit your local pet store or purchase through sites like Chewy -- but it adds another step to the process. The bags come in several sizes, so you can pick which one works best for your desired shopping frequency (or for how much space you have to store it). Just don't forget to keep an eye on your inventory. 8/10.
Ollie: I'm not trying to be hyperbolic here. Defrosting dog food is not the world's tallest order, and once it's thawed, a package of Ollie lasts for four full days in the fridge. But the reality is that I never remember to defrost my own food. My freezer is a veritable crypt of chicken breasts I was saving for a rainy day only to end up ordering Postmates instead. With enough new changes to adjust to in my pet-owning life, this new rhythm is one I'm not keen to add to the pile. 5/10.
Winner: Sundays for Dogs
Test #3: Cost
Since these brands come in different sizes and subscriptions, I decided to use a standard metric across the board: how much feeding my dog only this food would cost me per week. Not much editorializing to do here; it comes down to the numbers.
Sundays: According to the Sundays site, my dogs' diet would cost $3.49 a day, so around $24.50 a week. It's a premium dog food, so the number makes sense, but there are certainly more affordable options. 7/10.
Taste of the Wild: The package recommends I feed my pup 4 cups of Taste a day, or 28 cups a week. Calculating that percentage of the 134 cups in the largest available bag (the 28-pounder) brought me to a weekly cost of around $10. Objectively, that's pretty solid. 9/10.
Ollie: Ollie's subscription plan, on the other hand, comes in at $50 a week. While there was an initial half-off discount on my first order (of two weeks' worth), this one adds up fast at $200 a month. More than my car payment! 4/10.
Winner: Taste of the Wild
Test #4: Aesthetics
Call me vain, but appearances matter -- especially in a product you're going to be staring at every day. You wouldn't be on a website devoted to DTC brands if you didn't agree! While the above categories certainly weighed more heavily into my decision, here are my honest thoughts. Straight from the eye of the beholder.
Sundays: From the moment it arrives at your doorstep, Sundays' bright yellow packaging makes you smile. The fact that it's stored in a nostalgically-shaped cereal box doesn't hurt either. The food itself looks like jerky (thanks to the slow air-drying), which feels more exciting than a mass of pellet-shaped kibble, and the little stickers that come along with it are an adorable touch. 9/10.
Taste of the Wild: While I'm a fan of the John Muir-esque wildlife drawings that adorn each package, I can't get past the fact that the bags aren't resealable. It's honestly just a bummer having to roll the tops down and fasten them with chip clips when a clasp or zip top would have been an easier solution. 6.5/10.
Ollie: I've been hard on Ollie in this throwdown, but props where props are due: the brand makes a gorgeous product. The packages are colorful and come with their very own personalized lunchbox and food scooper, with a streamlined efficiency that's right out of the Ikea playbook. Ollie makes dog food feel chic again (if the price tag didn't already.) 9/10.
Winner: Sundays for Dogs and Ollie
FINAL VERDICT: Sundays It Is!
Oh me of little faith. Everything my peers said about Sundays was true, and the difference came through in spades. My adorable pup lights up whenever that box comes out -- no surprise, since it won a blind taste test 40-to-0 against other premium kibbles. But the nutrition, convenience and cost suit my lifestyle just as well as the flavor bomb suits his. That's what I call a win-win.