Feeding Raw on a Budget: The Real Cost of Feeding Your Pet
By Sarah Griffiths, DCH & Inna Shekhtman
May 25, 2018
We totally get it. The logistics of feeding raw can be overwhelming, especially when you’re first starting out - the switch to the new food, the diet planning, and the BUDGET. The increase in the daily cost of feeding your dog or cat can feel like a difficult hurdle to overcome. So let’s talk about how to get your mind around feeding raw and what it means over the long term for your pet’s health and your bank account.
A lot of us switch to raw when the conventional route just isn’t working for our pet. For example, a lot of pets are afflicted with some form of allergy symptoms, and this is a common reason that pet parents decide to try raw. The conventional treatment for allergies such as hypoallergenic prescription diets, topical creams, antihistamines and even steroids are expensive and often only offer temporary relief. In contrast, feeding fresh food and other holistic treatments address the underlying cause for pets developing allergies, thereby preventing an escalation of symptoms. In the long term, the cost will be the same or lower and your pet will be healthier.
Let’s take a further detailed look at the cost of raw and options for different budgets.
Making the Switch
The process of switching to raw takes extra time, money and observation. It’s awkward, involves strange new foods, and can seem inconvenient at first. You may feel the need to measure and weigh everything down to the gram, or you may be worried that you’re not doing it right. We promise, it gets easier! Change is always uncomfortable until you get your bearings. Relax and enjoy learning and watching the transformations in your pet. Once you make the switch and get into a routine that works for your pet, there are many ways to make the process simple and less expensive. Your pet will be thanking you for their delicious new food too.
The First Month – The Most Expensive
The first month is usually the most expensive. This is because it’s safer and easier for you to make the switch from commercial foods to a ground, pre-mixed raw diet (which cost more).
There are two reasons for this:
1. It takes the pressure off of you to have to learn how to balance all of the components of a raw diet while you’re making the switch.
2. It’s easier for your pet’s digestive system to switch onto ground foods rather than whole food items, and gives their body a chance to adjust and utilize the new diet effectively.
You may need to buy smaller single packages to make the switch, which will be a little more costly until you figure out which proteins your pet does best on and he/she is totally eating raw in larger quantities. Once the switch is complete, you can buy in larger bulk sizes, bringing your costs down. After the first month, you can start to add more whole food items, including a variety of bones that will aid in dental health, provide hours of entertainment for your pet, and can bring your food bill down by up to 40%.
Food Budget and Long-Term Investment
Making a sensible feeding schedule is important for staying within your budget. There are endless ways to structure the raw diet to make it work for you and your pet. We are always here to help you. Your feeding schedule should coincide with your budget. Here are some tips to help you do that:
1. Food Selections
Food selections will affect your wallet, especially when it comes to protein choices. Proteins vary greatly in price per pound, so having a rotation that works is important. The most cost-effective proteins are chicken, tripe, turkey, beef and lamb - AND our brand new ECO Recipe Line can help you out as well, with nutritious insect protein added to reduce cost and our carbon footprint. (See our article on Sustainability of Pet Food.) If your pet has protein allergies, you can try a novel protein from our ECO Recipe Line, which is more affordable than feeding our regular formulas. Your Red Dog Blue Kat retailer can help you stay within your budget, so don’t be afraid to ask them to help you price things out so you can make a plan.
2. Freezer Space
Freezer space will play a factor in how much you can buy at one time. The more space you have, the larger sizes you can buy, which brings your cost down. If you have a large dog or a multi-dog/cat household, it’s a great idea to invest in a deep freezer.
3. Bulk Packages
Bulk packages are cheaper than single meal packs, so if you can use up a large package (2 lb) in 48 hours, it’ll cut the cost of food. You can also buy a bulk pack of 6 x 2 lb packages to cut the cost even more. Some of our bones come in bulk packs including buffalo bones and chicken necks.
A variety of whole bones will also reduce the cost of your pet’s diet. Once you find the bones that work for your pet, you can use them as meal alternatives to reduce the amount of pre-mixed food you need to use. It can help you cut costs anywhere from 10-40%! See our Bone BlogsPart 1 andPart 2 to learn how to choose the best bones for your pet.
5. Pre-packaged Vs. DIY
If you don’t mind doing a bit of meal prep, this can really help you out with staying on budget. Red Dog Blue Kat has plain meats available without the ground veggies, which you can add your own homemade veggie mixes to. Check our Veggie Blog to learn how to select the best veggies for your pet.
If you’re doing some meal prepping, keep a close eye on food items at your local grocer or butcher to add into your pet’s food rotation. When you see a sale, you can take advantage and stock up. The season and supply of foods will affect price greatly. Keep your eyes peeled for deals on fresh food! For more information on balancing the raw diet and food options, check out our blog on Balancing the Raw Diet.
Food Cost Vs. Vet Bills
Whether you have a pet with health problems or want to prevent them in the future, feeding raw is really an investment. The raw diet can reduce chances of serious illness such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. It can also help animals recover from illness or at least greatly reduce the severity because it supports cellular function on a higher level than processed foods can. As your pet’s health improves, your trips to the vet will too. A great holistic vet wants to see you and your pet as little as possible - with no offense intended. They want to see your pet healthy and happy as much as you do. An investment in whole foods is an investment in health and longevity and will reduce the risk of unplanned hospital bills. Let’s face it, pets aren’t free, but you do have some say in how the money is spent over your pet’s lifetime.
Find a Balance
You need to do what works best for you and your pet. We firmly believe in balance! The more fresh food as you can add to the diet, the better. These tips will help you to find a groove that works for you. If you need help with diet planning, please visit our Feeding Guide form to get detailed feeding instructions for your pet.
We’re always here to help! Happy feeding.