- This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
Even if your dog looks nothing like a wolf, his body still works like one (to a certain degree, anyway). Raw dog food is designed to mimic the natural, ancestral diet wild wolves have evolved to follow and many canine experts agree that it’s a very healthy diet for dogs. Raw diets have their strong proponents and their dissenters, so be sure to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before deciding whether raw food is right for your dog.
Before we dive into the details about the most affordable raw dog food options, let’s take a minute to explore the pros and cons of raw food for dogs.
Why Raw Food for Dogs?
Raw food diets for dogs are nothing new, but the popularity of the movement has skyrocketed in recent years. Dr. Ian Billinghurst is credited with sparking the modern raw diet movement after creating the first biologically appropriate raw food (BARF) diet for dogs. Raw dog food is made from fresh, whole-food ingredients including muscle meat, organ meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs, and dog-safe fruits and vegetables.
Some of the oft-stated benefits of raw dog food include the following:
- Better coat condition
- Improved skin health
- Increased energy levels
- Smaller, firmer stools
- Improved dental health
- Stronger immune system
- Lower risk for allergies
Though there are many supporters of raw food for dogs, there is a great deal of controversy as well. In fact, many of the most outspoken opponents to the raw diet movement are veterinarians themselves. Some veterinarians like Dr. Patty Khuly suggest that dogs are omnivores and are perfectly capable of subsisting on a grain-based diet.
There are also some practical factors to consider for raw dog food.
Generally speaking, a raw food diet for dogs is more expensive than canned food or kibble. When you purchase premade raw dog food, you’re paying for the sourcing and balancing of ingredients as well as packaging and delivery. You also lose a certain degree of convenience because commercial kibble is shelf-stable while raw food needs to be refrigerated or frozen.
Proper Handling of Raw Food
Another concern with feeding raw is the risk of food-borne illness. In general, this seems to be a greater concern for dog owners than for dogs themselves.
Bacterial contamination from germs like Salmonella and E. coli is always a concern with raw foods, but it is important to note that the risk, in this case, is much higher for humans than for dogs. Carnivores have short, highly acidic digestive tracts designed to process raw meat which makes their risk for developing foodborne illness fairly low. The risk for humans is higher but following USDA safe food handling guidelines will help keep you and your family safe.
With proper handling, many pet parents agree that the benefits of raw food for dogs outweigh the risks.
Frozen Raw Food vs. Freeze-Dried Raw Food
If you’ve decided that raw food is the way to go, you still have one more decision to make – frozen or freeze-dried?
Raw frozen dog food is minimally processed and free from artificial preservatives. The downside is, of course, that you have to store it in the freezer, and you’ll need to thaw it before feeding. Freeze-dried dog food and meal toppers are a shelf-stable, convenient way to include raw food in your dog’s diet without paying the price of raw frozen food.
Feeding your dog raw food is bound to be more expensive than kibble, but we’ve compiled a list of options organized by price so you can make the best decision for your dog.
Most Affordable Raw Dog Food: Frozen
At an average price under $10 per pound, these are some of the most affordable options on the market for raw frozen food.
Available in several forms, Instinct Frozen Raw dog food comes in a variety of proteins including real beef, cage-free chicken, and grass-fed lamb. Prices range from $3.99 to $5.55 per pound.
These bite-sized nuggets of raw dog food are made with superior ingredients and formulated to deliver complete and balanced nutrition in five protein-rich flavors. Average price $4.85 per pound.
Sold in 2-pound chubs, BARF is made with muscle meat, organ meat, and raw bones to mimic the diet eaten by your dog’s wild ancestors. Prices range from $5.21 to $6.66 per pound.
With 5 protein choices, these raw frozen patties are made with whole-food ingredients including single-source animal proteins and grain-free carbohydrates. Prices range from $6.49 to $8.77 per pound.
High-quality raw food delivered right to your door, Darwin’s Raw Dog Food features 75% meat and 25% vegetables in nutritionally complete recipes for all dogs. Prices range from $5.39 to $8.19 per pound.
Made with sustainably sourced ingredients, Primal raw food mixes come in 6 protein choices with additional options like raw frozen grinds and raw meaty bones. Average price under $10 per pound.
Most Affordable Freeze-Dried Raw Options
Not ready to commit to a frozen raw food diet? Here are a few of our favorite options for freeze-dried dog food and meal toppers.
Available in 5 protein options and enriched with organic fruits and veggies, these meal mixers are a great way to boost your dog’s nutrition without breaking your budget. $35.99 per 18-ounce package.
Give your dog the nutritional benefits of raw food and the convenience of dry food with this nutrient-rich blend of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw bites. $19.99 per 4-pound bag.
These freeze-dried raw nuggets are packed with protein and supplemented with organic fruits and vegetables for a complete and balanced diet. $30.99 per 14-ounce bag.
TruDog comes in two flavors, beef and turkey, and is AAFCO-certified as a complete and balanced diet for your dog. That means you can feed TruDog as your dog’s food exclusively—or use it as a mix-in or meal topper. No chemicals, grains, or filler, no rendered or meal products, and all USA-made and sourced. A truly high-quality option for your dog.
The Bottom Line
Every pet parent wants what’s best for their dog. If raw dog food is within your budget, we heartily recommend the brands reviewed above.
If you love the idea of raw food but the costs simply don’t add up, try freeze-dried raw food or consider making homemade dog food using fresh ingredients. Just make sure you follow a vet-approved recipe to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.