Cost of Making Homemade Dog Food

We’re still in the early stages of being 100% kibble free and making our own dog food, so I’ll continue to update this post as the details become clearer.

Prior to making the switch, we were spending $4.55 per day for dog food, which gives us quite a bit of cost to work with.  If we pay the same amount but feed them homemade food instead, I’d count it a win for the health benefits.

How Much To Feed Per Day?

Juliette de Bairacli Levy says a healthy collie adult should eat 2 pounds per day with this method.  Collies average 60 pounds full grown.  Our four dogs average 66 pounds, but LGDs eat less for their weight than other dogs their size.  We’ve been averaging about 6 pounds of kibble per day (fed free choice) before switching so I’m basing our current rations on that and will adjust both the ration and this article if things change considerably.  Levy also mentions dogs eat less on this diet than on an “unnatural diet.”

This breaks down to 3 pounds of cereal, 2 pounds of meat and 1 pound of vegetables per meat day and 7 pounds of cereal with 1 pound of vegetables on meatless days (see below).

There is also a liquids only fast day every week.  This, according to Levy, is one of the most critical aspects of dog health, allowing the body to detox and cleanse itself regularly.

The Midday Meal

The midday meal consists primarily of milk, vegetables and cereal grains, either rolled oats or rolled barley.  Into this we put foraged greens and herbs, so there will be no cost for those.

At my last calculation, milk cost me $1.72 per gallon to produce.  Costs have come down some since then, but I haven’t refigured it so we’ll go with that.  We’re putting one quart of milk into the midday meal to feed four dogs: 2 adult LGDs, 1 adult German Shepherd and 1 juvenile heeler.

For grains, we’re putting about two pounds for the first meal.  We’ll buy bulk as soon as we put together a trip.  To buy retail in 50-pound bags at the feed store, it costs $.26 per pound.  Last time we bought bulk, the price was $.07 per pound, but it’s 150 miles round trip and costs us $35 in gas at current prices.  We’ll probably buy 2,500 pounds, so if we divide the gas price by the total pounds, it increases our cost to $.09 per pound.  I’ll use that figure for calculating costs since retail price will be a temporary thing.

We’re buying frozen bags of vegetables for $1 per pound right now at Grocery Outlet.  I’m using up some dried zucchini, but other than that, we have no vegetables put up from last year and it’s winter.  I plan to grow more for the dogs that can be frozen or dried.  We’re also going to forage as much dandelion and nettle as we can to dry for daily inclusion in this meal.

In this meal we also include the daily egg, one for each dog,  from our hens.  Like the milk, costs have gone down since last calculation, but we used to pay $.10 per egg.

Milk: $.43
Cereal: $.18
Vegetables: $1
Egg: $.40
Total midday meal: $2.01

The Meat Evening Meal

Levy suggests meat 4 days or less per week, so we’ll plan on 4 days per week.

This is where I’m having some trouble deciding how to calculate cost.  Meat is raised by us or gathered as roadkill.  There is little or no cost; animals born to us are raised on pasture and butchered before we feed in the fall.  We don’t buy meat at the store much, but I suppose you could figure a running average of $4 per pound, although old meat on sale or bulk buys could drop this down.  Dogs don’t mind eating chicken every night either and I know we’ve found that on sale for $2 per pound quite often.   If I were buying all the meat, I wouldn’t do it for more than $2 per pound (even Zaycon chicken is $1.79 per pound in 40# boxes).  For the purposes of this calculation, I’ll use $2 per pound for meat.

Meat: $4
Total meat evening meal: $4

The Meatless Evening Meal

This is just more of the cereal.  For us, all we can spare is one quart of milk per day so the evening cereal is soaked in water instead.  These are the nights I try to add almonds, about a dozen, at a cost of $.28.

Levy states that it takes twice the cereal to substitute for the same amount of meat, so we use 4 pounds of cereal at night, for $.36.

Cereal: $.36
Almonds: $.28
Total meatless evening meal: $.64

With 4 meat nights and 2 meatless nights, a week of feeding homemade dog food in a modified Juliette de Bairacli Levy model works out like this:

Weekly midday meal cost: $12.06
Weekly meat evening meal cost: $16
Weekly meatless evening meal cost; $1.28
Total weekly homemade dog food cost: $29.34

If you average this cost over 7 days, the cost per day of homemade dog food comes to $4.19, which is less than we have been paying for kibble.  We are actually saving a couple of dollars per week while feeding our dogs a wholesome, natural diet that is free from chemicals and questionable ingredients.

Calculating Your Own Costs with This Method

$29.34 feeds 4 dogs who weigh a total of about 265 pounds, so the cost can be calculated as $.11 per 1 pound of dog’s body weight.  Here, then, would be the weekly costs for different weights of dogs:

20 pounds – $2.20
30 pounds – $3.30
40 pounds – $4.40
50 pounds – $5.50

It would be easy to tweak this method to make it more affordable based on what you have more readily available.  From Paul Gautschi’s all vegetarian dogs to the 100% animal product diet of raw feeders, dogs truly can thrive under as wide of conditions as humans.  There’s really no need to rely on dog food companies to provide “nutrition” for our canine friends.

2 thoughts on “Cost of Making Homemade Dog Food

  1. Tokies says:

    Do you leave free choice food out? Something they can always get and eat to there heart’s content. Something that’s free? Maybe doesn’t taste too good but they can survive on and are allowed to each anytime they want. I don’t like the idea of a hungry working dog. I’ve been trying to come with a DIY dry food that keeps that they can snack on when they want to.

    I’ve also started planting a bunch of seed balls in the pastures outside my fence line. normally the deer don’t get all of it. Something come up squashes and other things. We boil it out there for 10 dogs. cut watermelon something normally survives and comes up just got to check the line for it. we also throw all our fruit pits and anything else. we got random fruit trees outside of the reach of the sheep. Deer can get it but honestly, we got enough food on our property to keep a crapload of deer busy. I think half the time you got all this deer pressure is your not planting enough food-bearing trees. if you plant too much deer will have options. you got fat deer though but that’s a whole other issue. We keep the seeds from our own stuff. just plant them around the pastures. Most folks don’t plant from seed but something always comes up if you plant enough.
    Then the stuff I bring them meat, milk or whatever is tasty.

    The big problem is that dry food gap. Also, I’d like to feed more milk, and whey. I swear if 40 farmers near me got together we could just put together a pet food company for livestock dogs and our CSA members lol. I swear good working dog food and recipes so hard to come across. All of its gear for show dog market

  2. Megan says:

    Seed balls are a great idea! We’ve got some volunteer squash poking up all over the place but not intentionally. I’m filing that one away for later, thanks!

    We have no deer pressure because the dogs keep them away. I am of two minds about that, but since they can carry and spread meningeal worm, I tend to agree with the dogs that they should stay out of the pasture, which is also where our garden and fruit trees are.

    We’re still using kibble as the backup in 25# auto feeders.

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