How to Find Inexpensive Ingredients to Make a Cheap, Homemade, Raw Dog Food Diet

Updated on January 8, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Dogs that eat raw food are healthy. The food is NOT expensive.
Dogs that eat raw food are healthy. The food is NOT expensive. | Source

Do You Feed Your Dog a Cheap Commercial Diet?

I know a lot of us are forced to buy what is cheapest.

Ol Roy, the dry dog food brand sold in Walmart, is the best selling dog food in the US. It is not the best for your dog, so why is it so popular? It is cheap. Really, really, cheap. A 50 pound bag is about $20.

But do you want to force a food like this upon your dog? It is made up mostly of ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, animal fat preserved with BHA (suspected of causing cancer), and corn gluten meal. Many of the people who buy this food know it is not good for their dogs, but blame the high costs of better foods for their continued purchases. Some web sites claim that feeding a raw diet will cost several hundred US dollars a month. Ol Roy customers agree and use those numbers to justify buying another bag.

They also know that the cheap dog foods include a lot of fillers that pass through your dog without even being digested. (Anyone who has cleaned up after a dog knows what I am talking about.) So if you could feed your dog something just as good and just as cheaply, but not as convenient, would you make the extra effort? Is your dog worth an extra few minutes each day?

Chicken feet are an inexpensive and easily consumable source of calcium.
Chicken feet are an inexpensive and easily consumable source of calcium. | Source

Why Is Raw Food so Expensive?

The main problem I see with raw food is that, since it is so much better, the companies that are selling it are charging a huge premium, and those dogs that really need it are still fed Ol Roy and other supermarket brands. Bravo!, a meat packing company that also sells raw dog food, charges anywhere from $2 to $4 for packaged meat that is supposed to be nutritionally complete.

A big dog will end up eating several hundred dollars per month with a prepackaged raw food.

Are they worth all the extra money? Not in my opinion. Commercial raw foods are not as good as the cheap raw diet you can make up at home. The meat has the bones ground into it, but since they are fine pieces they do not have the same physical or mental effect that chewing on a bone has.

You can do things yourself cheaper and better, and all it takes is a few minutes of your time.

Dogs love fresh coconut; in fact, they will even fight over the husk.
Dogs love fresh coconut; in fact, they will even fight over the husk. | Source

Can I Make up a Cheap, Raw Diet for My Dog?

Raw Ingredients You Can Purchase Cheaply

  • Chicken feet, chicken necks, chicken backs, chicken carcasses that have had the breasts removed for human food, and chicken “giblets”. If you do not have any poultry slaughterhouses in your area, some grocery stores also sell inexpensive human-grade chicken quarters in large quantities; I prefer to purchase the other alternatives.
  • Beef face meat, beef tracheas, and esophagus, beef lungs, beef heart, beef kidneys, beef pancreas.
  • Pork intestines, pork neck, pig heads (sawn in half).
  • Eggs, plain raw yogurt, beef trimmings (beef fat).
  • Anything that you might have available locally: lamb necks, lamb tails, whole fish, deer, rabbit farms, etc. I have seen some recommendations to use road kill, but here in the tropics, this is not an option I would ever want to use. Frugal can only go so far.
  • You can also use vegetable peelings (blended to a consistency similar to rumen contents), extra vegetables from your garden, free bruised fruit and vegetables from your supermarket, and table scraps (you do need to be familiar with things your dog should not eat).

I cannot state exact prices since they will vary according to where you live. No matter where you are, however, a raw diet can be purchased for a lot less than the commercial diets will cost you.

Going Beyond AAFCO Standards

Will the “budget” raw food you make up to feed your dog at home be certified by the guys in white coats? No, it won´t, but your dogs won´t mind. AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials) have standards that have nothing to do with the quality of food that goes into your dog. Feathers and leather are fine ingredients and will meet AAFCO standards as long as a few vitamins and minerals are thrown in.

That list of your dog´s AAFCO-approved bag of food is also what went into it, not necessarily what is present at the moment. Any pet food that is cooked to a temperature exceeding 290 degrees Fahrenheit will have some important vitamins destroyed.

Do you really think dogs have been sitting around waiting for an AAFCO-approved diet for the last several thousand years? Does that sound like something that meets “all your dog´s needs”?

You can easily put together a diet that will satisfy all the needs of your dog. The only ingredient I would always recommend adding (if you can purchase it in your area) is fish oil. My dogs also get plenty of antioxidants through eating locally grown tropical fruit (like coconut). If you are not adding fresh fruit to your mixture, think about this too.

Best Raw Dog Food Ingredient

The best ingredient when you make up raw dog food is:

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Why Preparing Raw Dog Food Is Worth the Effort

There are a lot of advantages to feeding a dog a natural diet, but when I first looked into it, one of the first things I had to focus on was cost. I live frugally, and always try to live “green”, and I decided early on that a raw dog food sold in plastic packs or medallions was neither affordable nor appropriate to my lifestyle.

I do not have a huge freezer, like some of the forums claim you will need to make raw feeding affordable. It just requires some effort. If most of the options I listed are not available to you, try calling your local zoo and ask the keeper there for other ideas in your area. There are good cheap food ingredients available everywhere.

Your dog does not need to eat human quality ingredients, and you do not need to depend on some company to make up his feed for you. In most places, a raw diet can be put together for a lot less than about $1 a day. Don´t you think your dog is worth $1 a day?

No company is going to do this for you; natural raw dog food is not commercial.

Switch your dog to what is right, but do it yourself.

It is worth the effort.


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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 6 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Norma, nothing is missing. Puppies that are fed a controlled diet with less calories are actually healthier and less likely to develop joint problems as they age. They also live about 2 years longer. Let the other owners have rolly-polly puppies that eat commercial food full of cheap fillers and grains. Keep doing exactly what you are.

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      Norma Jeanne 6 weeks ago

      Hi, we have an almost 4 month old malamute puppy and have been feeding raw. We are new to this. We buy from a small company in our mountain community. They grind up entire hormone free, antibiotic free chicken. We know other dog owners who use their food only, and dogs are all healthy. The elderly dogs started in this food have become more energetic, per their owners. Even though I was told it is not necessarily, I still add fish oil and a ground up fruit and veggie mix. My concern is our pup was the second weightiest of his litter and now has fallen to third place. He has grown vertically like crazy, but sides are slim. Can’t see ribs, but not much of a pad. He is constantly on the prowl for food. What is missing? I'm feeding 2 lbs of this meat a day plus the veggie mix. Thanks in advance.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 8 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Ellie, your raw diet sounds great. The only suggestion I would have is to vary it some. When you do have access to one of those carcasses from the hunters, allow your Golden to chomp on the intestine so that he will get the vitamins from there. Not the meat and sausage--your dog does not need them but will benefit from eating some of the intestines, internal organs, etc.

      You do not need to give the rice (dogs do not need carbs) but the fiber in brown rice may be helpful. It is not hurting your dog at all so if you want to continue with this diet it is fine.

      My puppies go in and pull out the chicken wings and feet, other things like that which taste good. As long as you are not giving so much per meal that Ivan can pick and choose there is no problem.

      My main concern is that you might get burned out because of the cost of your diet. Remember that it is cheaper than a premium diet, so keep going with it!

    • IvansMom profile image

      Ellie 8 weeks ago from Montana, USA

      Dr Mark my head is spinning! I have a 5 month golden retriever... I have been experimenting with raw foods for about two weeks. After reading one of your articles on raw foods, I have purchased chicken livers, hearts, wings, gizzards and necks when the store has them. Basically I have been mixing it up for each feeding:

      approx. 3 tblsp yogurt

      1 raw egg with shell

      3-4 chicken hearts

      2 inch piece of liver

      4 pieces whole chicken wings

      1 capsule fish oil

      a little brussel sprouts, carrots, sweet potato,

      zucchini and avocado mushed in food processor

      1/2 cup soft cooked brown rice

      1/2 cup bone broth

      twice a week I give 3 or 4 smelt (like sardines)

      In between I give him a little banana or apple or


      In my research on raw food diet, I read that some nutritional elements are often missing and the dog is in danger of developing disease if raw diet is not balanced.

      I'm not sure if I should be adding anything else?

      Also, I live in Northwest Montana USA, we have resources but I don't think I can get chicken feet anywhere. I intend to try to find some sources at a small local meat processor that primarily raising pigs and they are also a processing service for hunters that bring their kill in to be made into sausage. Other than that, I know I need to gear up to find affordable meats for the raw diet.

      I intend to ethically stud "Ivan" and I am hoping to ethically breed Goldens in the future. Therefore, I am trying to learn everything I can to put forth the healthiest dogs possible for the sake of the animals and the potential new owners. Any thoughts you may have on my concoction of raw food would be appreciated.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Both of those dog breeds have excellent teeth so unless your puppy has an underbite or overbite you should have no problems. Be sure to take a look at my article on a DIY home phyiscal exam and get him used to having his mouth opened so that you can check on things. Glad to hear he liked the chicken neck!

    • profile image

      Julesrn777 2 months ago

      He is 3/4 Aussie and 1/4 Poodle, so I am hopeful his teeth will be well-spaced, but we will have to see. His mama has normal-looking anatomy and very nice teeth (she's full Aussie), so I am hopeful. His papa is half Aussie and half Standard Poodle, but I didn't get a good look at his teeth.

      I can't believe no one read your article! Any way to re-post it? BTW - the pup had his first chicken neck today (took your advice) and did very well with it - loved it! Thanks for the info!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      It depends on the type of dog. With a large or medium sized dog with normal anatomy the bones are enough to keep the teeth clean. (My oldest Pitbull is a senior and has perfect teeth because of her diet.) With a small dog, or one with bad dental anatomy (like an English Bulldog) the teeth do need to be brushed because the teeth are so close together that they build up pockets of pus and the dog has secondary health problems. (My Schnauzer though had wide spaced and normal canine teeth, so it is not always the size. My Maltese had terrible dentition and the diet was not enough to do him much good.)

      A good diet based on bones is a great thing, and as you can tell I feel pretty strongly about it. I had published an article on this but deleted it because no one read it!

    • profile image

      Julesrn777 2 months ago

      One other question I keep forgetting to ask - do you really think it is necessary to brush a dog's teeth if they are eating a good, raw diet that includes bones? Quite frankly, I think the idea of tooth brushing seems rather ridiculous (not to mention, good luck doing that with an active puppy!!), but I could be completely wrong. One way or the other, please educate me on your thoughts about this. Thanks!!

    • profile image

      Julesrn777 2 months ago

      Thanks Dr. Mark. I completely agree about everything in moderation. The rancher that supplies our pork, beef and lamb actually sells the pig's feet fresh/frozen right after they are processed, so no added salt, etc. thankfully - I completely agree with you about the added salt and wouldn't purchase otherwise. I truly appreciate your suggestions and feedback!! Thank you so much!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That is great news Jules. He sounds like a very lucky puppy. My pups tear into chicken like that too so that sounds like a healthy normal little guy.

      Since you are an RN, you know all things in moderation. The chicken feet do not have much fat but are a great source of calcium for growing dogs and glucosamine for those of us with some age to us. Be careful of the pigs feet because a lot of them are sold heavily salted, way too much for your pup.

      Let me know if I can be of any help during your journey.

    • profile image

      Julesrn777 2 months ago

      Hi Dr. Mark. Thanks so much for your response! Yes, it was only the one episode and he has had normal stools since. His appetite is fantastic and he's been drinking water all along and never any vomiting and he's very playful and happy-go-lucky puppy. He's 15 weeks now, BTW. I did give him another egg after his next stool was ok (washed it this time). I gave him the chicken leg and was almost alarmed at how he ate it (more like tore at it, then crunched the bones and swallowed it in a few bites), but keep in mind this is all quite foreign to me, so perhaps that was completely normal. He's been eating with gusto since and again, his stools have been fine (and he's urinating fine, too) and he's been incredibly playful today. I keep reading contrasting opinions about chicken necks - some say they are great, others they are too small and are a choking hazard. If you feed them to your puppies, then that confirms for me they are ok. I have some and I did buy a couple of pounds of chicken feet, so I think I will try those next. The homemade sauerkraut only has 2 ingredients - organic cabbage and the recommended amount of pink Himalayan salt. No vinegar or anything and it is raw and naturally fermented, not cooked. My understanding is that slightly acidic foods in small amounts can be good, as it is the acid that helps in the digestion/assimilation of bones (and the minerals they contain), as well as the protein in the meat, etc. I have only given him 3 tiny pieces of it - all less than an inch in size. It was recommended only to give in very small amounts (start with about a tsp and work up to a Tbsp). I am soon going to introduce small amounts of organ meats, as I am getting a mixture of organ meats, beef tongue and beef heart from our food co-op. I also have access to things like pig's feet, oxtail, etc. that I've read all are good meaty bones for feeding. I'm an RN and specialize I nutrition, so this is sort of all in my "wheelhouse" so to speak and I love learning about it and want to make sure I'm doing the right thing. I truly appreciate your feedback! Thanks again!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Jules is the diarrhea cleared up? I doubt that it had anything to do with the egg, and you need to monitor your puppy and make sure he is drinking and not vomiting.

      I start my Pitbull puppies on chicken feet and necks (very tiny bones in necks) as soon as they start eating solids, at about 3 weeks. As long as things are given in moderation there is no problem.

      It sounds like you are doing a great job. Let me know if you have any questions along the way. Sauerkraut can be very acidic, not sure how much so if it is homemade. Make sure you only give in moderation.

      Good luck with your pup.

    • profile image

      Julesrn777 2 months ago

      We have a new puppy and transitioned him from kibble to raw, but all of this is new and somewhat intimidating. I have him on some immune and digestive support, too. He is loving everything I'm giving him but last night had his first runny stool after feeding him a raw egg (with the shell crushed) and bone marrow. It was a pastured egg from a local farm and I realized this morning I hadn't washed the shell before feeding it to him, so am hoping that had something to do with it? I am also going to give him his first bone-in meal with a chicken leg and am very hopeful that is a good thing to get him started with eating bones, as I know they are so important in the diet. I have been giving him different things to see how he will respond and so far he loves homemade sauerkraut (only gave him a couple of small pieces), blueberries, apple, spinach, avocado, raw milk and bone broth. Any suggestions/corrections or words of wisdom are welcomed and appreciated!! Thanks!

    • profile image

      L.A. Simeoli 2 months ago

      Oh you are so right. Raw food is not expensive at all. I can pick up a package of chicken hearts or chicken gizzards in the meat dept. for 1.48 for over a pound of raw meat. A can of Pedigree meat is 1.20 for 10 ounces. And the raw food is of much higher quality. My dogs are part of my family. I want to feed them the best I can, I just want to encourage all dog owners to look into this for yourself. read up, educate yourself. Would you feed your child Old Roy Dog Food, that guarantees your going to have future illnesses in your dogs, due to lack of nutrients needed to keep your dog healthy. Your dog is like your child, he depends on you to make decisions in his best interest, just like a human child would.

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      Eric 3 months ago

      Great info thanks

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      They are probably beef bones and just too hard for a dog that size. My smaller dogs just chew off the cartilage, or eat the marrow if the bone is sawed in half.

      It is vital that the dog eat the bones, which is why chicken necks are so good. If you cannot get them in your area, look for chickens that have the meat removed (like they sell for making chicken soup). If nothing else, you can purchase large bags of chicken wings on sell at Walmart.

      It is not easy for us to switch, and I realize this is not for everyone, but the dogs really do benefit if you are willing to take the time.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I give my Min Pin marrow bones once or twice a week. Being a small dog, he eats the marrow and just chews ON the bone for a while. Like others raised on the dog food mentality it is hard to switch to total raw.

      What would you recommend for my Min Pin?

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Sorry mary615 but even if your dog needs to be on a limited protein source diet (like only lamb, only chicken, etc) that does not mean she needs to be on a commercial dog food that you purchase through a vet. Read the ingredients--they are not what Baby needs to stay healthy. Look up all of those ingredients, and see what harm they are doing her. If she is allergic to some food sources, all it means is that those ingredients do not need to go into her food.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I is so hard to know what to feed our dogs! my Schnauzer is allergic to "people food". I can only give her a prescription diet from the Vet to keep her from scratching herself. Good informative Hub!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I'd rather wrestle Ajej for the coconut husk! On second thought, though, just maybe, with enough salt, maybe some fish oil, and if you microwave them for 2 minutes...............

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Oh, come on Bob, you mean your mom never made up a nice chicken foot soup when you were a kid? That picture does not make your mouth water????

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Eeeeewwww :)