Cost of Feeding Your Dog: Cooked vs. Raw vs. Kibble

The Cost of Feeding A Dog Lightly Cooked, Kibble or Raw Dog Food

The cost of feeding your dog is probably one of the first things most pet parents have to think about when they are choosing between different diets. But how do the different diets compare? And if you are considering investing in a fresh food diet for your dog – how much will it cost in comparison to kibble?

Most fresh pet food companies have slogans like “as little as $2 per day” or “the price of a coffee” – but is this true? And how does the price of feeding a gently cooked diet compare kibble, or raw dog food?

Well put on your math-pants because we are going to talk numbers. And don’t worry – I’ve done the math for you. 😉

How much will it cost to feed my dog?

Before we get into the numbers – it’s important to understand that the cost of feeding a dog is highly dependent on your dog. There are many factors that influence how much your dog will eat – weight, age (puppy, adult, senior), activity level (couch potato, sled dog), individual metabolism, and some breeds are just more prone to weight gain than others.

If you are unsure of exactly how much you should feed your dog – check out my detailed blog post where I discuss all these factors and how to calculate your dog’s estimated caloric needs.

Given that there are so many factors that influence the price of feeding a dog, I figured the best way to compare different dog food brands and recipes was by looking at a medium-sized dog (50 lbs), with average activity, fed 1000 calories per day. This way if you know your dog’s own caloric needs you could estimate the cost of feeding your own dog.

With this equation: Cost of Food (from this post) x Calories your dog eats / 1000 = cost of feeding your dog

What Influences the Cost of Dog Food?

There are many factors that you may need to take into account when considering and comparing different dog food brands beyond cost.

Formulation Expertise:

Fresh dog food brands may or may not have invested in a specialist – be that a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, or phD animal nutritionist to formulate their recipes. They also may or may not employ someone with a nutritional background to handle their day to day operations. Taking on the salary of highly qualified individuals costs money, and will increase the price of dog food.

Quality Control:

One lightly cooked dog food brand may have better quality control than another brand – these quality control checks cost money, thus it would influence the overall cost of the diet. Quality control checks can be done on incoming ingredients, along the production process, and prior to shipping to pet parents for their dogs to eat.

Ingredient Sourcing:

The quality of those ingredients can also influence the cost of the recipe – remember in our grocery stores there are less expensive and more expensive cuts of meat based on USDA grading systems. How those animals are raised – pasture vs. caged will also influence price.

Research:

Some gently cooked dog food brands may have taken it upon themselves to do additional research on their dogs. Research such as digestibility studies, AAFCO feeding trials, palatability testing (aka taste testing), etc all cost significant money to perform.

When you are selecting and paying for a premade fresh food diet in comparison to doing a homemade diet for your dog you are also paying for these additional factors, along with work labor of putting the diet together.

The Price of Lightly Cooked Dog Food Chicken Recipes

Cost Comparison of Lightly Cooked Dog Food Brands:

The average cost of feeding a premade lightly cooked dog food is about $335 per month or $11 per day for a 50 lb dog who eats about 1000 calories per day. However it’s important to note that the cost of feeding a premade fresh food diet to your dog is highly dependent on brand. The least expensive was Cesar Fresh Chef Dog Food at $117 per month, and the most expensive on our list was EverMore at $659 per month. 

Below is a list of twenty different fresh dog food brands sold in the USA listed from least to most expensive. In order to fairly compare the recipes, chicken meals were chosen to calculate monthly costs. Different proteins may or may not cost more than the number listed below as exotic meats like Venison or even Beef tend to cost more per pound than Poultry (generally speaking).

For a full breakdown of each of these brands including WASVA questions, ingredients, sourcing, quality control, formulation and nutritional breakdown make sure to check out my Lightly Cooked Dog Food List.

Dog Food BrandCost per DayCost per Month
Cesar Fresh Chef$3.90$117
FreshPet$6.40$192
Ollie$7.73$232
A Pup Above$8.87$266
All Provide$9.13$274
Tylee’s$9.40$282
Pet Plate$9.63$289
My Perfect Pet$9.77$293
Chi Dog$9.90$297
The Farmer’s Dog$9.90$297
Just Food For Dogs$10.27$308
Bramble$10.67$320
Small Batch$11.63$349
Spot & Tango$12.63$379
Nature’s Logic$13.00$390
Open Farm$13.37$401
Raised Right$13.97$419
Nom Nom$15.07$452
PURE Dog Food$16.20$486
EverMore$21.97$659
Price of Homemade Dog Food vs. Premade Dog Food

The Cost of Feeding a Homemade Dog Food

The price of feeding a homemade diet depends a lot on not just the ingredients you use, but also the overall composition, the sourcing of those ingredients and how large your dog is. Price of meats used for homemade dog food recipes can vary a lot – with more exotic meats being very expensive (some upwards of $20/lb), and more common meats like chicken being much more cost effective (at $2/lb)

Leaner cuts of meats, like chicken breast, tend to be more expensive than fattier cuts or grinds of meats. If we consider something like ground beef, a 70% lean grind you may be able to find it for closer to $3 per pound. However for very lean grinds of meat like a 95% lean grind it may be closer to $6 per pound.

Creating a Low Cost Homemade Dog Food Recipe

The composition of the overall diet will also influence how expensive it is. Usually meats and proteins are the most expensive part of a recipe for dog food. Which means that if you use less meat, usually recipes will be more cost-effective.

In order to give a good comparison to the premade options (above) I’ve created two different recipes using BalanceIT, which is a supplement and formulation software designed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Both using the same ingredients, however the overall composition of the diet is different.

One is a higher carbohydrate recipe, which is lower cost, and the second is a carbohydrate restricted recipe, which is higher cost. Both are still significantly less than all of the premade diets listed above. The main difference for this comes down to costs of labor, manufacturing, testing, and additional quality control measures.

But you can feed a 50 lb dog for as little as $2.48 per day on a homemade diet for dogs.

Low Cost – Chicken Thigh and Rice Recipe

  • 114g (4oz) cooked chicken thighs – $0.58
  • 86g (3oz) cooked chicken thighs with skin – $0.43
  • 29g (1oz) canned pink salmon $0.24
  • 2 1/2 cups (488g) cooked brown rice – $0.23
  • ¼ cup (28g) raw apple – $0.06
  • ¼ cup (28g) raw carrots – $0.03
  • 3 ⅜ tsp BalanceIT Canine – $0.91

Omega 6 to 3 Ratio: 6:1
Total calories fed: 1005.5
Composition: 27.5% protein, 24.3% fat, 48.2% carbs
Total Cost: $2.48 per day, $69.44 per month
Full BalanceIT Recipe Here

Higher Cost – Chicken Thigh and Rice Recipe

  • 341g (12oz) cooked chicken thighs – $1.73
  • 86g (3oz) cooked chicken thighs with skin – $0.43
  • 57g (2oz) canned pink salmon $0.48
  • ½ cups (98g) cooked brown rice – $0.05
  • ¼ cup (28g) raw apple – $0.06
  • ¼ cup (28g) raw carrots – $0.03
  • 3 7/8 tsp BalanceIT Canine – $1.59

Omega 6 to 3 Ratio: – 7:1
Total calories fed: 1018.1
Composition: 50% protein, 38.6% fat, 11.4% carbs
Total Cost: $6.10 per day. $170.80 per month
Full BalanceIT Recipe Here

Notes:
Chicken Thigh - $2.30 / lb at Walmart
Canned Pink Salmon - $0.24 / ounce at Walmart
Brown Rice - $0.64 per pound dry at Walmart (each gram of dry rice will make 3 grams cooked)
Apple - $1 per pound
Carrot - $0.50 per pound
Price of Raw Dog Food vs. Lightly Cooked and Kibble

The Cost of Feeding Raw vs. Lightly Cooked

When we compare the cost of feeding a raw dog food to that of feeding a lightly cooked dog food we see that on average raw frozen dog foods tend to be slightly less expensive than lightly cooked diets with the average cost per day to feed a raw frozen premade diet being around $9 per day ($2 less per day than premade lightly cooked).

However it should be noted that a majority of raw frozen dog food brands seem to not do extensive quality control testing for pathogens on final products – when further investigating the raw frozen dog food company’s website only Instinct Frozen Raw Food mentioned additional processing like HPP, and testing procedures for pathogens. Almost all other raw-frozen brands listed mentioned that they were not concerned about pathogens within their diets. Others advised cooking their diets to remove pathogens for very young, immunocompromised and older dogs.

The Cost of Feeding Freeze-Dried Raw vs. Lightly Cooked

When we compare the cost of lightly cooked dog foods to Freeze-Dried Raw dog foods we find that they are typically less expensive. On average freeze-dried dog foods costs about $14.73 per day to feed a 50 lb dog (about $3.50 more than the typical premade lightly cooked recipe)

Unlike in the raw frozen category, freeze-dried products tended to have more robust quality control and processing methods (some utilizing HPP) to control pathogen contamination, and some doing testing for pathogens prior to release of products to the public. Some freeze-dried raw brands had also invested in AAFCO feeding trials and digestibility trials to prove overall benefits and balance of their diets.

But if we compare all of these categories to our home cooked dog food recipes – our low-cost homemade dog food recipe is significantly less expensive. Clocking in at $6 less per day than our premade raw, and almost $10 less than our raw freeze-dried categories.

Dog Food BrandCost per DayCost per Month
Answers Detailed Raw$6.89$207
Darwin’s Organic$8.75$262
Darwin’s Value$7.55$226
Smallbatch Raw$12.26$343.28
Nature’s Logic Raw$12.05$337.52
Instinct Raw$7.64$213
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Raw$6.97$195
Primal Freeze-Dried Raw$17.12$513.51
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw$15.62$468.64
Open Farm Freeze Dried Raw$19.22$538.16
Price of Kibble vs. Lightly Cooked Dog Food

The Cost of Feeding Kibble vs. Lightly Cooked Dog Food

When we compare kibble vs. raw or lightly cooked dog foods that are premade we can see pretty quickly that kibbled foods are significantly less expensive. Likely this has to do with ingredient sourcing and cost of ingredients.

Ingredient Sourcing in Kibbled Diets

All of the below brands of kibbled are considered “feed grade” kibbles – basically what this means is that ingredients do not have to be stored in the same way as human food from the time of harvest to when they are included within these diets. It is important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean these ingredients are not nutritious – they are just not the same quality of products that we eat as humans.

Cuts of meats may be left-overs from the human food industry – such as chicken carcass, mealed products for easy storage, or even non-specific or “open label” products where many different cuts or species of animals fall within one category. This allows pet food brands to shop “sales” and keep costs low while still providing a nutritious and balanced final product. AAFCO has allowed public access to ingredient definitions so that the public can understand that words like “chicken” are actually fairly generalized – allowing for many different cuts and grinds of meat.

Manufacturing Procedures that Affect Cost of Kibbled Diets

Labor costs with kibbled diets can also be kept lower as manufacturing equipment does a majority of the work – where with our lightly cooked and raw diets, much of the work may still be done by hand.

All of these brands require certificates of analysis from suppliers to make sure ingredients are nutritionally consistent coming into their facility, and follow good manufacturing practices to make sure they have good quality control procedures. Though the most researched product of the three is Purina Pro Plan (with AAFCO feeding trials, digestibility trials and an extensive research department), the other two brands have invested in digestibility trials on some of their diets.

The total average cost of these more “high-end” kibbled products is around $1.30 per day, which is about one tenth of the cost of the average pre-made lightly or frozen raw dog food, and about one fifteenth of the average freeze-dried.

Dog Food BrandCost per DayCost per Month
Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials Chicken & Rice$0.73$20.50
Farmina N&D Ancient Grain Chicken & Pomegranate$1.30$36.40
Orijen Original$2.02$56.59

However when we compare kibbled brands to our low-cost home cooked dog food recipe – the gap becomes much closer. With our low cost diy dog food recipe at $2.50 per day, this is not much more than the average cost-per-day of feeding our highest cost kibble at $2.02 per day. However in comparison to our average – it is about twice the cost of feeding kibble.

If we compare the cost of a homemade dog food recipe with the lowest cost kibble it is significantly more expensive on a percentage basis. But for some individuals an extra $15 per month to feed their 50 lb dog a homemade diet may be well within their budget.

About the Author: Nikki is a Registered Veterinary Technician (Veterinary Nurse) and Dog Mom with over a decade of experience with dogs and cats. Since graduation from college (BS Biology, AS Animal Health -2013) she has adopted two mixed breed dogs – Ranger and Ash, and has focused her time learning about pet food and nutrition.

Nikki shares information on a range of dog nutrition topics: from how to create a homemade complete and balanced dog food recipes, to how to choose a dog food. Nikki strives to give dog parents the information they need in order to make the best nutrition decisions for their pup!

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9 thoughts on “Cost of Feeding Your Dog: Cooked vs. Raw vs. Kibble

  1. Wow! This is really informative and a very detailed look at the cost of dog food. I’ve often wondered if there was a way to break the down components and do a realistic comparison between cooked, raw, and kibble. I’ve never seen a great comparison. Excellent work! I’m saving this for my future reference and I’m also sharing it with my dog friends. Thanks! 👍😊🐶

  2. It is so interesting to see the breakdown of the cost of the different food options. If you have the time and energy, a homemade diet seems ideal!

  3. Great info, I have been feeding home cooked food from day one, a mix of chicken, chicken livers and gizzards and sometimes will mix beef or turkey into it. I mix it with Dr Harvey’s Hollistic food which is mainly vegetables so she gets a very balanced diet. She has never been over weight phew and althoug expensive to do I would not give her anything else. For treats she gets raw dehydrated kibbles.

  4. I can’t believe how expensive some of the diets can be, especially the premade fresh ones. I tend to avoid dog foods that have rice in them, I feel they’re to expensive for food w/ so much rice, which is such a cheap ingredient with little nutritional value compared w/ other ingredients. I sometimes buy frozen salmon on sale to add to my dogs’ food. I would love to try the canned pink salmon, but I worry about a high salt content?

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