The Price of Feeding a Dog

I am so tired of hearing owners say they would feed their dog a fresh food or home prepared diet if they could afford it. Cost, or should I say the idea that it is too costly, is the number one reason owners immediately reject the idea of feeding their dogs real food.  So, I’m going to dispel this commonly held fallacy now! It does NOT cost more to feed a raw or home prepared cooked diet than a “quality” kibble. Quite the opposite, in fact. And I am going to prove this to you with some basic calculations, comparing a commercial product to a basic fresh food meal, using foods that can be purchased at any supermarket.

For my example commercial kibble, I chose a popular brand and type that many dog owners would consider to be a “premium” product, Blue Freedom Grain Free Beef Recipe. This product is available in 4, 11, and 24 pound bags. The average online retail price for the 24 pound bag is $49.99. According to the feeding guidelines, a 50 pound dog would require approximately 3 cups per day. By calculation, there are approximately 100 cups in the 24 pound bag, making the daily cost of feeding the 50 pound dog $49.99 divided by 30 days or $1.67 per day. Note I am not considering taxes or delivery charges in these calculations, so your costs may vary slightly, (All information I used about this product came from the Blue website.)

When feeding a raw diet, the amount to feed is determined by weight. Most normal adult dogs will eat 2-3% of their body weight per day — so the 50 pound dog in our example would start with 1 pound of food per day. The proportions of raw meal ingredients commonly used are:
70% meat
10% bone
10% organ meat
10% vegetable*
*Many raw feeders do not give vegetables, and will feed 80% meat instead.

To fairly compare the cost of feeding a fresh raw meal to using Blue Freedom Beef product, we need to have similar ingredients in the fresh meal. However, it will not be completely possible (or desirable!) to completely mimic Blue’s recipe. So, again from Blue’s website, here are the ingredients in the Blue Freedom Beef product:

Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Potatoes, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Potato Starch, Turkey Meal, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Pea Protein, Natural Flavor, Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), DL-Methionine, Dried Chicory Root, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Caramel, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, Vitamin E Supplement, Parsley, Kelp, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Turmeric, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Oil of Rosemary, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Copper Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Taurine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite.

Note that deboned beef is the first ingredient. However, unlike the second ingredient chicken meal, deboned beef is 56-73% water. Chicken meal is 10% water. So, there is a whole lot more chicken in this product than beef once the water is accounted for! In fact, pet food regulations allow products labelled as “dinner”, “formula” “platter” and “recipe” to only contain 25% of the named ingredient, so it is very likely the Blue Freedom Beef Recipe product is only 25% beef. How’s that for deceptive marketing? Also note the presence of starches (3rd, 4th, and 5th ingredients!), which will not be included in the raw meal, as dogs have no dietary requirement for starches. And of course, the ingredients of the fresh food meal will be human quality, while that of the kibble is considered inedible by human standards.

Fresh, raw meal
25% (4 ounces) beef at $2.50 a pound
45% (7 ounces) chicken at $0.79 a pound
10% (1.5 ounces) bone, typically fed as a bone-in poultry meat
10% (1.5 ounces) organ meat at $1.99 a pound
10% (1.5 ounces) vegetable at $1.99 a pound.

Beef – any cut, ground or cut up with a knife
Chicken – thigh, which contains 10-15% bone
Organ meat – chicken, beef, or pork liver
Vegetable — any green vegetable, fresh or frozen if off season

Beef                             0.62
Chicken thigh              0.36
Bone from the thigh    0.08
Organ meat                 0.19
Vegetable                    0.19

Total per day                $1.44

As noted above, the cost of feeding the Blue Freedom Beef Recipe product per day is $1.67. It is it cheaper to feed real, fresh food! And depending on your shopping options, you may find ways to make your fresh food cost even lower.

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