Raw Feeding

The Cost of Raw Homemade Dog Food: 50-lb. Chicken Recipe

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$1.19 / lb. Total Cost

The total cost per pound of this 50 pound chicken recipe includes the following breakdown:

  • Meat and Organ Mix: $0.46 / lb. – chicken quarters, chicken liver, chicken hearts, chicken gizzards
  • Vegetable Mix: $0.34 / lb. – cucumbers, peppers, spinach
  • Fruit Mix: $0.02 / lb. – cantaloupe, watermelon
  • Vitamin Mix: $0.07 / lb. – this is a mix of essential vitamins that are needed for a nutritionally balanced meal, making up for the shortcomings of the meat / vegetable / fruit mix
  • Supplements: $0.30 / lb – these are additions like eggs, sardines, and krill oil that help balance the fatty acid profiles and other essential nutrients

Your total cost per pound may vary based on local availability of ingredients, but the cost should almost always be less than buying a commercially made raw dog food.

$3.50 / lb. Savings over Store-Bought Raw Dog Food

The cheapest similar commercial alternative that I could find was Darwin’s Natural Pet Products: BioLogics Raw Dog Food. This is Darwin’s most economical line of raw dog food, and for chicken, it costs $4.69 / lb.

That means that making our own homemade raw dog food has saved us $3.50 per pound! Each of our boys eats roughly 1.5 lb. per day, and with two dogs that is a total of 3 lb. per day. Our 30-day savings for a chicken-based meal is a whopping $315. Yes, that’s right, three-hundred fifteen dollars worth of savings over the span of just one month!

Keep in mind that we rotate the protein we feed our dogs on a regular basis. Every two days, we switch between chicken and beef. We intend to work turkey into our meal rotation within the next few months. Even rotating between three proteins, we will realize $315 x 4 months = $1,260 worth of annual savings from our chicken recipe alone.

50 lb. Chicken Recipe: Itemized Ingredient Cost (Meat / Fruit / Vegetables)

Ingredientlbs.*Cost / lb.Total Cost
Chicken Quarters
Chicken Hearts2$1.69$3.38
Chicken Gizzards2$0.99$1.98
Chicken Liver2$0.99$1.98
Bell Peppers4.38$2.34$10.25
Subtotal (before tax)$0.80$40.03

The cost per pound is based on the yield per ingredient. See the “Ingredient Yield Table” at the bottom of this article for more information.

For example, we purchased 40 pounds of chicken quarters at $3.84 per 10-pound bag. After removing the skin and fat, we were left with only 30.7 pounds of chicken quarters. Our total cost for the original 40 pounds was $15.36, divided by our actual yield of 30.7 pounds equals $0.50 per pound.

Weighing the chicken organs: 2# liver, 2# gizzards, 2# hearts.
Weighing the chicken organs: 2# liver, 2# gizzards, 2# hearts

Shopping Tips

Meat and Organs

How did we get such a great deal on chicken quarters? Aldi was running a special: a 10-pound bag of chicken quarters for only $3.84! And I thought I was getting a great deal from Walmart at $5.98 per 10-pound bag. It looks like Aldi will be my new source for chicken quarters, since their regular price is only $5.49 / 10-pounds.

To get the best deal on chicken organs such as liver, hearts, and gizzards, your best bet is finding a local ethnic grocery store in your area. Yes, Walmart carries chicken liver, and they even have packs of “hearts and gizzards”, but there are so few hearts in those packs it’s not really worth it.

About 30 minutes from our house there is a Chinese grocery store, the Hong Kong Supermarket. They have bulk packages of each individual organ, at reasonable prices:

Chicken gizzards, hearts, and liver.
Chicken gizzards, hearts, and livers

Fruits and Vegetables

It turns out, Aldi usually has the best prices on fruits and vegetables. Sprouts can also be a good alternative for cheap produce. If you don’t have an Aldi or Sprouts near you, just aim to purchase vegetables and fruits that are in season and on sale to help drive down your costs.

For the recipe in this article, our highest vegetable costs were spinach at $2.76 / pound, and bell peppers at $2.34 / pound. We could have lowered our recipe cost by substituting cheaper veggies in place of the more expensive ones we used, but even then, the overall cost would have dropped by less than $10.

Meeko the Golden Retriever being the vegetable inspector and approving the produce.
The vegetable inspector approving the produce.

Be mindful of what you are paying for different ingredients, and you too can save a lot of money when you make your own raw dog food.

How to Formulate a 50# Raw Chicken Recipe for your Dog?

We used a book by Dr. Karen Becker to help create our 50 pound chicken recipe: Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats: Simple Homemade Food (Fourth Edition). This book is a great resource and can help you on your journey towards a nutritionally balanced raw diet for your dog. The book is based on the “ancestral diet”, and our meals contain a ratio of roughly 3-parts meat mix to 1-part fruit and vegetable mix.

Raw Diet Additions: Vitamins and Supplements

When creating a recipe from raw meats, fruits, and vegetables, it will not always have 100% of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your dog needs. To make up the difference, we add a small portion of vitamin mix to every meal, along with a constant rotation of supplements that include eggs, sardines, and more.

Mixing all the raw ingredients, and then portioning out the dog food.
Mixing all the raw ingredients, and then portioning out the dog food.

Overhead Costs

The cost of making homemade raw dog food is not limited to only the ingredients that you will be feeding your dog. There are other costs to keep in mind such as food storage, freezer space, and tools to make preparation easier. Do you plan on including raw bones in your meat grind? Do you want to cut down the time it takes to puree 25 pounds of fruits and vegetables?

My upcoming article on Raw Feeding Overhead Cost Analysis will provide a detailed break-down and payoff analysis of what you need to succeed at making your own raw homemade dog food recipes.

Ingredient Yield Table

What I mean by “yield” is the edible portion of a given ingredient after it has been processed. This could be removing the skin and fat from chicken quarters, or cutting off the rind of a watermelon. The yields for this meal are shown in the table below. I did forget to weigh a few of the ingredients, so those are not shown.

Bell Pepper85%The stem, core, and seeds made up about 15% of the overall weight of a whole bell pepper.
Chicken Quarters77%After removing most of the skin and fat from the chicken quarters, we lost about 23% of the overall weight.
Cantaloupe57%The rind of the cantaloupe along with the seeds accounted for about 43% of the overall weight.
Watermelon56%The watermelon yield was very similar to that of the cantaloupe, losing about 44% due to the rind.

Things to Consider

Our savings are specific to the amount of raw dog food we are making and how much we feed our two large dogs every day. Given your own situation, you might see less savings, or you could end up saving even more!

Perhaps you only have one small dog, and don’t need as much food. Maybe there are no good ethnic / discount stores in your area to buy cheap meats, organs, veggies, and fruits. In these cases, it might be worth spending the money to buy commercial raw dog food instead of making your own. Keep an eye out for my next article: “Go, No-Go. Should I make my own raw dog food?” I will go through a detailed time and cost analysis of the viability of making your own raw dog food given the specific situation you might find yourself in.

Feel free to leave questions or comments in the section below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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