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If you're interested in feeding a raw food diet then you may be weighing the difference between homemade and store-bought raw dog food. Homemade raw dog food is less expensive, but it comes with a learning curve. Store-bought raw dog food is expensive – period.

Understanding the difference between DIY raw dog food and commercial/premade raw dog food

Choosing Between DIY and Commercial Raw Dog Food

This year, I've decided to work on reducing my raw feeding budget. And now that we have five dogs, it's very important that I keep our budget under control and my goal is to get to under $200/month. I'm not sure if this is possible with five dogs, but I'm going to try.

The first step was to stop feeding commercial (store-bought) raw dog food. Even when I buy it through the co-op, it's more expensive than homemade (DIY) raw dog food. There are some exceptions, which I discuss below, but let's start with the difference between store-bought and homemade raw dog food.

Commercial Raw Dog Food

Store-bought, or commercial, raw dog food is where a lot of people start (it's where I started). Commercial raw is expensive, but there is a good reason for the higher price. We're paying for someone to take care of the sourcing, balancing (more about this below), and packaging. And, in some cases, the brand will deliver it to your door.

Another benefit of store-bought raw dog food is that you may have to use fewer supplements because the manufacturer took care of things like zinc, iodine, and other nutrients when balancing the diet.

I've noticed that the price point for store-bought raw dog food can reach more than $7/lb and my goal is to keep budget at $3/lb or less.

If you have the budget, then store-bought is really the easy way to go. You open the package, put it in the bowl (based on feeding recommendations they give you), and go. There may be some cleanup, but it's not much.

There are some things I buy from commercial brands because I can't make it on my own, but by mostly doing DIY, I'm able to afford a few things like fermented fish stock, fermented chicken feet, and kefir (which I purchase from Answers Pet Food).

I really need to learn how to make my own kefir, though.

DIY Raw Dog Food

DIY raw dog food is less expensive than commercial raw because we do everything ourselves. The more you do, the more you'll save. I have friends who hunt (or get meat from hunters) and they spend way less than I spend. I'm not ready to hunt for my dogs' dinner or raise our own animals for slaughter, so I buy in bulk (we have two freezers in the garage) and mix everything together once or twice a month.

Balancing the Diet

The downside to DIY raw dog food is that we have to make sure that our dogs are getting all of the nutrients they need. Too often someone sends me a recipe of what they're feeding their dogs and they aren't even close to covering the nutritional needs of a dog. This isn't a judgment – it's just the truth. I wasn't hitting all the nutritional marks in the beginning either. It's a learning process.

I have more to say about balancing, so please keep reading.

Keeping the Kitchen Clean

DIY raw feeding is also messier than store-bought raw dog food. I'm thawing, grinding, mixing raw a couple of times a month and when I'm finished, I have to clean the sinks and counters, mop the kitchen floor, and throw my clothes in the laundry. Not everyone has the time to make raw or the desire to deal with a messy kitchen. It's not THAT bad, but it's part of the job.

Additional Supplies/Equipment

And, finally, I have purchased many things to facilitate DIY raw feeding. Please note that these aren't required purchases. They are what has made DIY raw feeding easier for me:

  • Two freezers (purchased used/refurbished locally)
  • Stainless steel bowls
  • Mixing spoons
  • Measuring spoons
  • Meat grinder
  • Freezer-safe storage containers (from the Dollar store)

My budget, on average, is $3/lb, with some food that is less than $2/lb and some that is $5/lb.

Which is Better? Commercial or DIY?

When it comes to deciding which is better, it really depends on your lifestyle and budget. I want to save money and I love learning how to feed a balanced diet, so DIY raw feeding is perfect for me. But that doesn't mean that it works for everyone.

  • Homemade raw dog food is less expensive.
  • With homemade raw dog food, I can control ingredients.

But, when it comes to DIY raw feeding…

  • I have extra freezers because I save more when I order in bulk.
  • I personally think that it's a good idea to learn which nutrients our dogs need to better balance their diet.
  • Since I'm making the food, I need the tools, like a meat grinder if you want to feed ground raw.

Feeding DIY Raw Dog Food on a Budget

In order to feed a homemade raw diet to my dogs, I've found that I have had to reduce the number of proteins I order and this is okay because I still have a great list of affordable proteins:

  • duck (wings, necks, frames)
  • pork (meat, brains, uterus, heart)
  • rabbit (this is my most expensive protein)
  • whole quail
  • beef organ/offal blend
  • green beef tripe

In the past, I also ordered venison, elk, and emu, however, these proteins are becoming more challenging to source affordably, so this may be the last year that I feed these to my dogs.

As I'm writing this, I realized that all of my proteins come from a brand (a farm, a meat supplier, etc.), but since I'm not ordering a balanced raw meal (most is meant for human consumption), I don't consider it store-bought.

Supplements and Base Mixes for Dogs

Another thing that can make raw feeding expensive are the supplements that we add to the bowl. In the beginning, my kitchen counter looked insane when I fed a raw food diet. Today, I still have a ton of supplements, but most are purchased in anticipation for reviews (I'm working on two reviews right now). My dogs only get a few supplements daily and the rest is covered through fresh food.

Read my Supplement Recommendations page.

I do use a base mix in my dogs' meals as an alternative to fermented vegetables. I alternate between Dr. Harvey's Paradigm and Raw Vibrance because it allows me to add more nutrients to the diet without the added (and unnecessary, in my opinion) starches and grains.

Long story short, I think homemade raw dog food is better than store-bought for me; however, store-bought is great for people who are:

  • new to raw feeding
  • have the budget to afford premade raw
  • have limited access to proteins for DIY raw diets
  • have limited time to prepare DIY raw diets

Let's Talk About Balance

This is a tough topic because whenever someone asks me what supplement they need to add to balance their dog's diet, I sign dramatically because this isn't an easy question. I do believe that I'm feeding a “balanced” diet, but I have to use quotes because who determines balance? We have a lot of resources that claim to provide the guidelines to help us balance our dogs' diet, but I can't help but wonder how many dogs fall outside of those guidelines.

So, I wanted to add that brands are doing the best they can to meet nutritional guidelines, but when it comes to raw feeding, we haven't determined what is and isn't balance – yet.

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