Butternut Box is a UK-based fresh dog food company that prides itself on delivering gently-cooked meals perfectly portioned for your dog's size. Since 2016 they've delivered over 34 million meals to addresses in the UK, Ireland, and Benelux. Butternut Box is a subscription service, so they'll deliver the food weekly, monthly, or every 6 weeks – whatever suits you and your freezer space!
In this article, we'll look closely at this fresh dog food company and see if they're worth the hype.
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Butternut Box was originally founded by two friends, Kev and Dave, in 2016. Since then, they've expanded the team to over 300 people, including an in-house vet and team of veterinary nurses.
The diets are formulated by a team including a diplomat of the European College of Veterinary Clinic Nutrition (ECVCN), which is the highest qualification for veterinary nutritionists in the UK. He's also on the Scientific Advisory Board for FEDIAF. Other team members include their in-house vet, and several people with degrees in food science and animal science.
Butternut Box are passionate about their ingredients, and only source meat from trusted suppliers who pass their due diligence process. This sounds substantial, with suppliers having to meet a strict ingredient specification and undergo a deep review of all supporting evidence around safety, ethics, credentials, and their facilities.
Once the ingredients reach their kitchens (based in Doncaster, UK), each batch is quality checked before being refrigerated. The kitchens are temperature-controlled and their ovens are regularly inspected and tested to make sure that every shelf is reaching the desired temperature.
Lastly, samples from every batch are sent to an independent laboratory for testing. They do a nutritional analysis (to ensure the food contains everything it's meant to and remains complete and balanced) and a microbiological analysis (to make sure there are no nasty bacteria in the sample. Butternut Box state they've never had to issue a recall due to a food safety issue.
Butternut Box has a choice of six flavour options for your dog. All of the options are grain free and have meat as the first listed ingredient. Remember, ingredients are listed in order of weight and fresh meat is often heavier than some other protein sources; this isn't necessarily a sign of a high-quality diet. Butternut Box says that their diets are complete, although we haven't been able to find out how they determine this.
Butternut Box is great for pups with allergies. Most of their recipes are made with a single protein source, so for dogs with a known allergy to certain proteins, they can easily be avoided. However, they are still made in the same kitchens, which means that some cross-contamination might occur, and these diets are therefore not likely to be suitable for dogs with severe food allergies. They also only use 'human grade' ingredients – which doesn't necessarily mean that they're more nutritious, but does indicate that the company takes pride in the ingredients they use.
All of Butternut Box's diets are grain-free, and they replace these grains with high amounts of lentils, sweet potatoes, and peas. There has been some concern that this may increase the risk of heart disease in dogs, but Butternut Box has decided not to change their recipes for now, instead opting to 'watch developments closely'. For more information, read our science-based article about grain-free food for dogs.at www.butternutbox.com
Ingredients: Fresh Beef 60% (Minced Beef, Ox Heart, Ox Liver), Carrots, Sweet Potato, Green Lentils, Red Split Lentils, Peas, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brewer’s Yeast, Minerals, Sunflower Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Dried Rosemary.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 12%, Crude Oils and Fats 10%, Crude Fibre 0.7%, Crude Ash 1.7%, Moisture Content 70%.
Dry Matter Basis:
Beef It Up is made with 60% fresh beef, including heart and liver. It's also got carrots, lentils, sweet potatoes, peas, and various other vegetables. As with all Butternut Box recipes, no grains are included. They also add extra vitamins and minerals to ensure that your dog is getting everything they need in each bite.
Looking at the guaranteed analysis, we can see that this beef dinner has 40% protein on a dry matter basis, which is fairly high for a canine diet. This isn't a surprise (given Butternut's promise of meat as the first ingredient) but it does mean that the diet may be less suitable for older dogs or those with certain health conditions. It's also a fairly high-fat diet, potentially making it unsuitable for dogs with dietary-associated pancreatitis and other stomach problems. The diet is slightly low in fiber at 2.3% on a dry matter basis. Again, this isn't surprising given the lack of grains and isn't likely to be a problem for most dogs, but for those with anal gland problems and other digestive issues, this low fibre content may make Butternut Box's 'Beef it Up' a less-suitable option.
Ingredients: Fresh Chicken 60% (Chicken, Chicken Liver), Carrots, Sweet Potato, Green Lentils, Red Split Lentils, Peas, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brewer’s Yeast, Minerals, Ground Flaxseed Powder, Dried Sage.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 13%, Crude Oils and Fats 5%, Crude Fibre 0.7%, Crude Ash 2%, Moisture Content 69%.
Dry Matter Basis:
Chow Down Chicken is made from 60% chicken (liver and mince) with lentils, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, and a number of other vegetables. It has no grains or 'nasties', and they add vitamins and minerals to help to balance the diet.
Butternut Box offer this diet as a 'low in fat' option. At 16.13% on a dry matter basis, this is much lower than the beef option, but is still higher than a prescription low-fat diet for dogs with fat intolerances. Again, Chow Down Chicken is slightly low in fibre at 2.3%, probably due to the lack of grains in the food. This can cause gastrointestinal problems for some dogs - something to bear in mind.
Ingredients: Fresh Turkey (60%), Carrots, Sweet Potato, Green Lentils, Red Split Lentils, Peas, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brewers Yeast, Minerals, Spinach, Organic Ground Flaxseed, Dried Rosemary.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 13%, Crude Oils and Fats 5.5%, Crude Fibre 0.7%, Crude Ash 2%, Moisture Content 70%.
Dry Matter Basis:
Gobble Gobble Turkey is another low-fat offering from Butternut Box. It's made from – you guessed it! – 60% fresh turkey, along with the usual mix of peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. Added vitamins and minerals are still included for completeness.
So, is it low in fat? Well, not really: 18.3% fat on a dry matter basis may be less than their beef option, but it's still higher than many dog foods on the market and is too high to be of use in cases of pancreatitis. Once again, the fibre content is a little low for these foods, meaning they may be unsuitable for some dogs with digestive upsets, but the quality and variety of the ingredients is high.
Ingredients: Fresh Lamb 60% (Minced Lamb, Lamb Heart), Sweet Potato, Carrots, Green Lentils, Red Split Lentils, Green Beans, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brewer’s Yeast, Minerals, Sunflower Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Turmeric Powder, Dried Rosemary, Dried Thyme.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 11%, Crude Oils and Fats 10%, Crude Fibre 0.7%, Crude Ash 1.7%, Moisture Content 69%.
Dry Matter Basis:
Butternut Box's Wham Bam Lamb recipe contains 60% lamb and mutton (with a minimum of 26% being from lamb). Again, vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, and lentils make up the majority of the remaining diet. Added vitamins and minerals help to ensure the diet is complete and balanced.
When we look at the analytical constituents for Wham Bam Lamb, we can see similarities with the other diets from Butternut Box. It has a lower protein content than some of the other options (35% dry matter basis), making it more suitable for some older pets – although it's still high as far as dog foods go, and not suitable for dogs with kidney or liver disease. Interestingly, there's almost as much fat in this food as there is protein (32% dry matter basis), making this a high-fat option.
Ingredients: Sustainably Sourced White Fish (60%), Carrots, Butternut Squash, Green Beans, Red Split Lentils, Green Lentils, Minerals, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Milled Potatoes, Milled Chickpeas, Sunflower Oil, Kale, Brewers Yeast, Dried Dill, Dried Rosemary.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 11%, Crude Oils and Fats 2.5%, Crude Fibre 0.5%, Crude Ash 2%, Moisture Content 76%.
Dry Matter Basis:
The Swish Fish Dish recipe contains 60% sustainably sourced white fish. Unlike most of the other Butternut Box meals, this recipe contains butternut squash and green beans as two of the major vegetables.
According to the nutritional analysis, this diet is very high protein, at 45% on a dry matter basis. It's also the lowest in fat of any of the foods from Butternut Box – at 10%, it's probably not suitable for those with known recurrent pancreatitis, but it's much less likely to cause problems than most of their other diets. However, it's also the lowest fibre of the diets we've seen so far. Unlike the other diets, Swish Fish Dish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for skin and coat health.
Ingredients: Freshly Prepared Pork 60% (Minced Pork, Pork Heart, Pork Liver), Carrots, Butternut Squash, Red Split Lentils, Green Beans, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brewers Yeast, Minerals, Ground Flaxseed, Dried Sage.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 12%, Crude Oils and Fats 8%, Crude Fibre 0.4%, Crude Ash 1.8%, Moisture Content 69%.
Dry Matter Basis:
Like the other Butternut Box diets, Pork This Way contains 60% pork (mince, heart, and liver) alongside plenty of vegetables and added vitamins and minerals.
Nutritionally, Pork This Way is similar to the other Butternut Box diets. It's high in protein (38%) and fat (25%), but low in fibre (1.29%) which is well below the recommended minimum of 2.5%. Again, this is likely because the included vegetables are high in carbohydrates rather than fibre, as the diet is grain-free.
Ingredients: Freshly Prepared Duck and Chicken 60% (Minced Duck 26%, Chicken Liver and Minced Chicken 34%), Carrots, Red Split Lentils, Butternut Squash, Green Beans, Cranberries, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brewers Yeast, Ground Flaxseed, Dried Rosemary, Dried Sage.
Gauranteed Analysis: Crude Protein 13%, Crude oils and fats 9%, Crude fibres 1.3%, Crude ash 2%, Moisture content 69%
Dry Matter Basis:
Rounding out the Butternut range is their new Duo of Duck & Chicken recipe. This contains 60% fresh meat and is another high protein option. As well as duck mince, chicken mince, and chicken liver, it contains a variety of nutritious vegetables including cranberries.
Duo of Duck & Chicken is not only high in protein and fat but also fibre (4.2% on a dry matter basis). It's also a lower carbohydrate option compared to many of their other recipes, which could make this a particularly attractive option for some owners.at www.butternutbox.com
When you first sign up on the website, you are asked lots of questions about your dog – like how much they weigh, how active they are, whether they're spayed, and whether they're fussy or allergic to anything. These enable Butternut Box to decide which meals your pooch should have, and how big their portions should be.
There's also additional customisation after the initial questionnaire. You can decide whether to remove any of the suggested recipes, and whether you're going to feed your dog entirely on Butternut Box or whether you'll combine it with another food. Butternut Box gives each customer an account so they can sign in and edit these preferences at any time.
All in all, it's an easy ordering system that allows you lots of customisation options, but it does rely on owners being honest about their dog's activity level, weight, and body condition score.
In terms of price, Butternut Box is one of the more expensive options, averaging £2.30 per meal – although this will depend a lot on your dog's size and calorie needs.
The link below will get you a 75% discount on your first Butternut Box delivery and a 25% discount on your second.at www.butternutbox.com
Butternut Box is a subscription service, meaning that they calculate how much you need and deliver them regularly. The initial box should last 7-14 days, but after this you can choose how often you want delivery, from every 7 days to every 56 days. You can also pause deliveries if you are going away. You'll need to log into your customer account to do this.
Delivery to most of the UK is on any day of the week, although they do specify certain days if you live in very remote areas. Delivery is usually free, but remote areas may incur a delivery fee.
Butternut Box uses couriers that provide you with a delivery window, but advise that you don't need to wait in for your delivery. The packaging is designed to keep the food safe for 50 hours, and they state that even if it's defrosted, you can refreeze as long as it's still cool to the touch.
All of the ingredients Butternut Box uses are considered for their food miles, although they do still have to ship lamb's hearts from New Zealand on occasion. Butternut Box does provide recycling information for their plastic pouches and wool insulation. However, whilst recycling is better than nothing, single-use plastic pouches are not environmentally friendly and are difficult to recycle. Because Butternut Box packages all their portions separately, this is a lot of plastic to contend with.
In terms of ingredients, Butternut Box uses red meats such as beef and lamb, which have a large carbon footprint. In addition, using 'human grade' meats (i.e, those destined for the human food chain) means that these diets are competing with human diets. It's much more environmentally friendly for a dog to be fed on by-products, as these are the bits that humans don't enjoy, rather than on mince that could have been sent to human food production.
Butternut Box delivers pre-portioned meals so that you don't need to worry about working out how much to feed your dog. During the sign-up process, you indicate whether your dog is underweight, overweight, or ideal. One problem with this is that pet parents don't always recognise when their pet is carrying a little extra, so they may still end up feeding too many calories!
The meals are delivered frozen, and Butternut Box recommends that you store them frozen, then defrost overnight in the fridge before feeding. Once defrosted, they last 7 days in the fridge, so if you're short on freezer space you can defrost several meals at once. Once a pack has been opened, though, it should be used within two days.
As with all foods, it's best to switch to Butternut Box gradually rather than risk stomach upset from too fast a transition.
Butternut Box is still a relatively new player on the UK dog food market though they appear to already be very popular. They're clearly passionate about dogs and feeding delicious fresh food, even claiming that they try their food as part of the quality control process!
While their recipes are high in fat and low in fibre, making them unsuitable for some dogs, the quality of the ingredients is high and the customer experience is very good.Get 75% off at www.butternutbox.com
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