Raw diets are becoming more and more popular with dog owners, and for good reason. Many of the common diseases of humans and animals alike are directly linked to diet. The problem with dry kibble is that no matter how premium the product is, all kibble is processed under extremely high temperatures that destroy vitamins, enzymes, essential amino acids and beneficial bacteria. Kibble is also high in carbohydrates which are not biologically appropriate for dogs (including “grain free” kibble).
Usually the decision not to feed a fresh or raw diet comes down to price. Packaged raw or fresh dog foods are considerably more expensive than kibble because the ingredients are much higher quality. Unfortunately, when faced with this choice, most people choose the dog food that fits their price point because they do not know there are alternatives. Dog owners generally look for packaged dog food because we have been trained to think that only dog food companies are capable of providing our beloved pets with a balanced diet. Kibble is well marketed, effortless and affordable, so it’s easy to look no further. But the truth is you can prepare your dog’s food for the same reasons you prepare your own.
Preparing food not only saves a lot of money, but also leads to a cleaner diet without all the preservatives used in prepared options. The same principle applies to feeding your pets! Imagine how much more your grocery bill would be if you only purchased prepared meals with high profit margins?
We figured out how to minimize our costs because we have 500 pounds of dog to feed — and that’s a lot of protein! It would cost us about $700 per month to feed EACH of our dogs if we purchased packaged options like Stella and Chewy’s freeze dried raw dog food, but we can bring that cost down to just $70 for a giant breed dog.
It is possible to feed your dog a healthy diet composed of high-quality whole foods for the same cost as a bag of kibble. Here’s how.
Step 1: Choose the right protein
Since your dog’s diet should be composed almost entirely of protein, it is essential to choose meat that is within your budget. In our case, that meat is almost exclusively chicken because it is so economical, but we also include pork from time to time when there is a great sale. Below are the average sale prices we find in our local markets:
- Quarters (legs/thighs): $0.39/lb but as low as $0.29/lb
- Breast: $0.98/lb but as low as $0.68/lb
- Shoulder (bone-in): $0.68/lb
- Loin: $1.50/lb but as low as $0.98/lb
- Beef (round): $1.98/lb
- Goat/Lamb: $2.98
- Tilapia: $2.28/lb
- Salmon: $3.99/lb
You might be saying, whoa, I have never even heard of meat for such cheap prices! We didn’t either — until we looked.
Step 2: Shop smart
We do not go to a butcher and ask for meat that doesn’t make the cut or anything like that (although there is absolutely no problem with that). We just go to specific supermarkets when there is a good sale. Here is a page from a recent weekly ad:
As you can see, these markets have great prices on meat. There are a few options in our area in Miami. The most convenient are the hispanic supermarkets (Presidente, Sedanos, Fresco y Mas) because they are the closest to us, but there are also other options like Penn Dutch, Western Beef, and various asian markets. Most areas have their own versions — you just need to look.
We feed each of our dogs roughly 2 pounds of chicken quarters ($0.39/lb) and 1 pound of chicken breast ($0.98/lb) daily. This adds up to about 360 pounds of chicken per month for our pack and costs about $55/month per dog. But in order to get the cost down this low you need to buy when there is a sale. This leads me to step three.
Step 3: Get a freezer
Although this is not required, an extra freezer is worth every penny and every inch it takes up in your home because it will make your life that much easier when you can stock up during a great sale. You do not need to get a full-size freezer; any dedicated space for your dog’s stash will quickly pay for itself.
We use this full-size freezer. It was $500 on sale at Sears.
It has about 21 cubic feet of space, which is enough to fit over a month worth of food for our pack, and we even use it for some of our Costco overflow.
The next best bang for your buck would be a medium size chest freezer like this one from Best Buy. It’s only $220 and it has 7 cubic feet of space, which would fit about a month’s worth of food for a large dog.
If you are really tight on space you can get a small freezer chest like this one with 3.5 cubic feet of space for $150. This would fit about two week’s worth of food for a large dog, so depending on your needs and the size of your dog, this size could work just fine.
Step 4: Organs
A fresh or raw diet also includes 5-10% organ meat, which comes out to a few ounces a day for most dogs. This shouldn’t cost more than $10/month for any dog. You can source it from the above-mentioned supermarkets for the lowest prices, or use a raw food distributor like rawfeedingmiami.com for higher quality and more variety. Read our raw feeding blog to learn more about this dietary requirement.
Step 5: Don't forget the veggies!
Dogs also require roughly 10% veggies, seeds/nuts, and fruit in their diets. This is an insignificant monthly expense because you can just give your dog a few tablespoons (or teaspoons for smaller dogs) of the same fruits and veggies you eat daily.
You can also try this super healthy, convenient, and economical recipe that only costs about $20 to put together and is enough to satisfy the fruit/veggie needs of a large dog for about 6 months. And there is so much more good stuff in this mix than any of the prepackaged dog foods you’ll find.
Step 6: Do the math
The average dog needs to consume about 2-3% of its body weight in whole foods.
Daily feeding = 0.025 x your dog’s weight
To illustrate how low the total cost to feed a dog a super healthy fresh or raw diet can be, here is how the math breaks down for one 120 pound dog. It will be proportionately less for smaller dogs.
Muscle meat / bone: $55/month. More detail on our raw diet here.
Organ: $10/month. More detail on the organ in our pack’s diet.
Fruit & Veggies: $3/month using our veggie supertreat recipe.
Fish Oil: $3/month. We give our dogs a high quality capsule of fish oil daily.
Totaling everything up for a 120 pound dog: $55 (meat) + $10 (organs) + $3 (fruits / veggies / supergreens / immunity mushrooms) + $3 (fish oils) comes to about $70/month for a giant breed dog! That is about $35/month for a 60 pound dog, which is an average price point for a bag of kibble, and half the price of a typical “premium” kibble.
It all comes down to when and where you shop for your meat. With a little effort and planning any dog can eat like a king!