Most people think that feeding their cat a raw food diet is expensive. They find it hard to believe when we tell them it’s cheaper to feed cats raw food. When we first switched our cats to raw food, our veterinarian commented: “That must cost a small fortune!“
The perception that it costs more to feed cats a raw meat diet, is one of the things that stops potential raw feeders before they’ve even started. To set the record straight, we decided to do the maths and reveal how much it really costs to feed a homemade raw cat food recipe.
Is it cheaper to feed cats raw food?
In our experience, it is cheaper to feed cats raw food diets, particularly a homemade raw food diet. It costs less to feed a raw diet than a premium quality, grain-free canned cat food or commercial raw food. Of course, raw food is not going to be cheaper than a budget kibble (cat biscuit) or low-cost canned pet food that you can buy in your local supermarket or pet store.
When comparing different types of cat food, you need to look at and compare the cost versus the quality of the food you are feeding. It’s important to remember that budget cat foods (especially kibble based diets) often contain fillers, carbohydrates and grains that don’t cater to a cat’s specific nutritional requirements as obligate carnivores.
Cats need a meat based diet for optimal nutrition and to live their best life. Poor quality diets are linked to many common feline health conditions including:
- feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD)
- chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Buying and feeding your cat the cheapest food may be a ‘false economy’ if it leads to health problems for your cat later in life and results in expensive future veterinary bills.
Standard prices we pay for raw meat and organs
Prices will vary depending on where you live, and the quality and type of meat you purchase. These are the standard prices* for raw meat (per kg) at the two major supermarkets in Australia in 2023.
- $10.50 for chicken breast
- $13 for chicken thighs
- $18 for beef
- $18.33 for pork
- $22 for kangaroo
- $28.89 for lamb
- $40.26 for duck.
For raw organs (lamb), the price per kilogram is:
- $8.50 for liver
- $9 for heart
- $13 for kidneys.
We always look for cheaper ways to feed our cats raw food and often buy our raw meat supplies in bulk or when the price is heavily reduced. Buying meat for raw feeding can be expensive, but there are always ways to save money. For example, duck breast is often on sale and heavily reduced. When it’s cheap, we stock up the freezer.
Cost to feed chicken raw recipe
We use quality human-grade meats sourced from our local supermarket or butcher and follow a balanced raw cat food recipe that also includes a vitamin supplement mix. One batch of raw food makes 18 individual 55 gram meals.
A batch of the balanced raw recipe using chicken breast costs A$10.99 for 18 meals, which equals 0.61 cents per meal or $1.22 per day per cat.
If we use chicken thighs instead, the raw recipe is slightly more expensive and costs A$12.83 for 18 meals, which equals 0.71 cents per meal or $1.43 per day per cat.
The cost breakdown of feeding our cats raw chicken is:
- $7.74 (chicken breast) or $9.58 (chicken thighs)
- $1.73 (lamb heart, liver and kidney)
- $0.52 for the vitamin supplement powder (1/2 teaspoon)
- $0.38 cents for the free range egg yolk
- $0.62 cents for the salmon oil (4 capsules).
Feeding our cats a commercial canned food would cost A$2.82 to A$4.10 per cat per day. There is a significant cost saving (between 49% and 57%) when feeding our cats a raw chicken diet.
We have calculated the cost of raw feeding chicken in Australian dollars. If you want to know what it costs in your local currency, you can use an online currency converter which will calculate into your currency based on the latest exchange rates.
Is raw cat food expensive using other meats?
Obviously, when we use other cuts of meat the cost increases and raw feeding can start to become expensive.
- Beef costs A$16.52 for 18 meals, $0.92 per meal or $1.84 for each cat based on two meals per day.
- Pork costs A$16.78 for 18 meals, $0.93 per meal or $1.86 for each cat based on two meals per day.
- Kangaroo costs A$19.47 for 18 meals, $1.08 per meal or $2.16 for each cat based on two meals per day.
- Lamb costs A$24.59 for 18 meals, $1.36 per meal, which is $2.73 a day.
- Duck is expensive if you buy it at the full price (we always wait for it to to go on sale) at A$32.92 per batch, $1.83 per meal and $3.66 per day.
How raw food compares with the cost of canned cat food
Prior to switching our cats to a raw food diet, they were eating premium quality, grain-free canned foods. We bought in bulk (20+ cans at a time), taking advantage of pet store discounts when they were available.
Today, a quality grain-free canned food with chicken costs between A$1.41 and A$2.05 per 55 gram meal. Based on two meals per day, that’s a daily cost of between A$2.82 and A$4.10 per cat. That’s expensive, when compared with the cost of raw feeding.
Extra costs when making raw cat food
You may also want to consider other expenses you may incur as part of the cost of making and feeding raw cat food.
You’ll need to buy any supplements required for your raw recipe. We have included the cost of the vitamin supplement mix, egg and salmon oil in our calculations for transparency.
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Your biggest investment will be a meat grinder to prepare homemade raw food for your cat. We suggest buying the best one you can afford. If you are grinding raw meaty bones you will need a more powerful grinder to cut through these than if you are only grinding meat pieces (without bones).
When you look at the savings you can make from preparing your own homemade raw food instead of feeding a high quality grain free commercial canned food every day – it is easier to justify the cost of purchasing a meat grinder.
You may also need to purchase some additional kitchen equipment to prepare homemade raw food for your cat, if you don’t already have these items in your kitchen. This cost should be minimal. We have chopping boards, stainless steel mixing bowls, sharp knives and utensils that we use exclusively for preparing raw cat food.
Items that we purchased when starting to make homemade raw food included: poultry shears, small digital kitchen scales for measuring portions. You’ll need kitchen scales that are easy to use, easy to clean and most importantly, accurate. We also bought a set of stainless steel mixing bowls and a box of disposable food safe gloves to maximise safety and the risk of cross contamination when preparing raw meat.
How to save when buying raw meat
We recommend you only buy from reputable suppliers – supermarkets, butchers (retail and wholesale), online meat retailers, local farmer’s markets.
Know your prices
Make sure you are familiar with the approximate price per kilo/ounce of different types of meat from your local supermarket or butcher. Use your phone (e.g. Notes app) to keep a record of dates and prices so you have a quick reference guide handy when you need it. Then it’s easy to double check prices and grab a bargain.
Buy raw meat in bulk
When reading food labels, always check the price per kg rather than the price per packet. It is usually much cheaper to buy a larger packet of meat than it is to buy the equivalent amount packaged in smaller trays. Keep in mind, that some supermarkets also include the weight of the packaging in the overall weight and cost.
Take advantage of markdowns and discounts
Most supermarkets will mark down their meat prices when they are approaching their expiry or best before date. Look for the quick sale or reduced labels, as this is the best time to buy raw meat in bulk.
Talk to the staff in your local supermarket and find out what times they discount prices each day. We’ve noticed that our supermarket usually discounts up to 20% the morning of the expiry day, makes a further 50% price reduction late afternoon and a final 80-90% price reduction a few hours before they close at night.
As long as you prepare the raw recipe and freeze when you get home or the next day, it is completely safe for your cat to eat.
Opt for less expensive cuts of meat
There are plenty of cheaper varieties of meat proteins to choose from. Chicken is usually much cheaper than other cuts of meat and a great option for your cat’s raw diet. Beef is inexpensive relative to other cuts of red meat such as lamb, or the more expensive raw feeding meats such as kangaroo or duck. You can also buy cheaper cuts of beef – often referred to as chuck, blade or oyster steak or casserole beef.
An investment in your cat’s health
For us, preparing a raw food diet from scratch is a long-term investment in the health and wellbeing of our cats. Our decision about what they eat isn’t based only on how much it costs to feed raw cat food. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of feeding raw and it’s important to us that we keep our pets happy and healthy by feeding a balanced and biologically appropriate raw cat food diet.
There is an investment of time in making raw cat food, but it takes us less than 2 hours each month to feed 4 cats. We believe that’s time well spent! Once you make your raw cat food recipe a few times, it gets easier and you’ll get quicker. If you are feeding 1 or 2 cats, it’ll probably take you just over 1 hour.
How do these costs compare with how much you currently spend on your cat’s food bill? Is raw feeding as expensive as you first thought?