Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pet Food: Why is dog food and cat food so expensive? Would it be cheaper to feed my pet meat?

Why is Pet Food so Expensive?

Why does pet food cost so much?  Would it be less expensive to just feed pets meat and vegetables?  Is dog food and cat food a good deal, or could you make your own pet food for less?  We'll check the cost of popular pet food brands per pound vs. the cost of meat and other pet food ingredients per pound.

Pet Food Catastrophe

There was a minor catastrophe last night.  The cats ran out of food.  Cats get annoying when they are really hungry, so a late night trip to the grocery store was in order.  I brought home a bag of Purina One Beyond for the cats and filled their bowls.  However, they seemed unimpressed with my efforts.

The next day, I went to Walmart to see if I could find a larger bag of cat food for a better price.  (Target did not have this brand.)  The bag from the grocery store was $8.48 for 3.5 pounds  I even brought the bag with me so I could match the correct chicken flavor.  The picture below shows the bag from the late night run to the grocery store on the left, and the larger bag on the right.  Can you spot the problem?

2 bags of pet food
Two bags of cat food- can you spot the problem?
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Both bags are Purina One Beyond.  Both are chicken flavor.  Look closely at the picture of the animal in the circle.  The one on the left is DOG food!  No wonder my cats wouldn't eat it...  My dogs seem to like it, even though it's not their usual brand, so no harm done.

At least the larger bag was cheaper- "only" $14.88 for 6 pounds.

Why is Pet Food so Expensive?

Did I really pay $14.88 for 6 pounds of cat food?  Good grief, couldn't I just feed the cats real fish and chicken for this price?

Of course there is a range of pet food quality and price, and Purina One Beyond must be near the top.  The higher quality pet foods use meat and meat products as the main ingredients, the lower quality ones use corn and other grains as the main ingredients.  I decided to see how much more the higher quality foods cost than the cheap stuff.  Since I have both cats and dogs, I checked out cat food and dog food.  I selected various sized bags of pet food of various quality.  The tables below show the price per pound for popular dog food and cat food brands.  The column with Weight indicates the size of the bag.

Table of Cat Food Prices
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Table of Dog Food Prices
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Generic is the price winner for both dog food and cat food.  The more expensive brands are about 3x more expensive than generic per pound in the same size bag.  The size of the bag makes a big difference, the same food costs quite a bit less if you simply buy it in larger bags.    Many of the lower cost "Name Brands" are not much more expensive than generic.  I would bet that the ingredient list is similar as well.

Why Don't I Just Feed My Pets Fish, Chicken, and Beef?

Animal nutrition is a complex topic, I'll look at this from the cost angle here.  I walked around the grocery store looking for food that I could conceivably use in pet food, especially cheaper meats.  Dogs like peanut butter, so I thought peanuts would be a good ingredient.  I hear rice mentioned as a pet food ingredient, so I'll use that as well.  I wanted meat without bones- I wouldn't be willing to put too much work into making pet food.  I wanted ingredients that don't require a lot of work.  My question is: is it cheaper to buy pet food or would it be cheaper to feed them groceries.

My grocery selections for pet food are in the table below, along with cost per pound.  The bottom line of the table is the average for all of the items above.

Table of Pet Food Ingredient Prices
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

If you think pet food is expensive, buying groceries for your pets is much more expensive.  Even the most inexpensive meat, like generic bologna, is more expensive than dog food or cat food if you buy larger bags.  The average cost for my pet food formula: $3.85 per pound.  High quality pet food sells for about $1.50 per pound.

Pet Food is a Good Value

High quality pet food is a good deal for the money.  You couldn't make something comparable without spending more than even the most expensive pet food.  Pet food includes vitamins and minerals as well as the basic ingredients.  Seeing that pet food is actually less than buying groceries for the pets makes me feel a little better.

I think of dry pet food as "meat cereal".  Pet food contains most of the things that cereal contains- grains, vitamins  minerals, etc.  If you consider the price of cereal, and then think of adding expensive ingredients like meat, it makes sense to me why pet food costs so much.

You might ask why a penny pincher like me buys the most expensive brand of cat food at the store.  Because my wife makes me.  She thinks it's good for the cats, and she's probably right.  I don't let my kids eat a lot of junk food, so I don't want to feed my pets junk food.  They will be healthier and happier with a quality diet.

Penny Pinching Tips:

  • Buy pet food in large bags to save money.  The same food costs much more in smaller bags.
  • Rather than buying cheap pet food to save money, feed your pet the right amount of higher quality food.  Many pets are overweight, so save money and improve their health by feeding them less until they reach ideal weight.
  • Pet Food is a good deal compared with grocery prices

Recommended Reading:
Dog Sunglasses Buying Guide
Cat Claw Caps: Are Cat Nail Caps a Good Alternative to Declawing?
Malshi: Cross of Maltese and Shih-Tzu Dog Breeds

Amazon offer: Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog

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  1. This is a very nice post. Keep on sharing such information.
    Buy Dog Food

  2. I have two dogs. I love dogs very much and keen of buying dog accessories so they look cute and try to provide them healthy food. Thanks for providing this information.


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