How Much Should You Spend on Dog Food - and Why Does it Matter?
Us humans sometimes reach for a packet-meal or head to the drive-through for something cheap and convenient. Whilst it’s fine as a quick-fix, we wouldn’t eat this way everyday! We know that, in order to feel good, we need to invest in nutritious food that fuels us.
It’s exactly the same for our canine pals. Yet, with creeping costs, it can be tempting to opt for cheap options and special offers. Perhaps you find yourself asking: is it really worth paying more? So, let’s break down why prices vary so dramatically and investigate the true cost of opting for the cheapest kibbles.
Why Do Dog Foods Vary in Price?
The truth is, dog foods vary dramatically in price because the ingredients in them - and the processes behind making them - can also differ hugely in terms of cost.
Yet, it’s important to keep in mind that some mass-produced brands will slap the word ‘premium’ on a bag of kibbles and triple the price. So, the only way to know if you’re actually getting a premium quality product? By flipping the bag over and investigating the label.
As a starting point, we’d expect a genuinely premium product to have their first listed ingredient as meat or fish. This is because cheap dog foods tend to pack their kibbles out with cereals. Why? Because cereals - especially low-grade ones - are seriously cheap.
Producers also keep costs low by using inferior - and sometimes downright dodgy - protein sources. In cheaper dog foods, you’re likely to see meat meals, derivatives and byproducts making up the protein content.
These highly-processed sources are essentially the leftover scraps of animals and fish that no other producers want. Then, to kill off bacteria, this frankenstein concoction of bits and pieces is blasted at high temperatures - scorching a lot of the usable protein and amino acids in the process.
Another telltale sign of a cheap food is vague ingredient names. Seeing ingredients listed simply as ‘cereals’ or ‘meat’ implies that producers are working with an anything goes attitude. In fact, by not defining specific protein or grain sources, cheaper brands can actually adapt their recipe depending on what ingredients are cheapest at the time.
A more expensive food often reflects the higher cost of including lean protein from known sources in their recipes. There are also often extra expenses involved in the production process too, such as using refrigerated vans to transport meat and fish and investing in natural antioxidants to keep kibbles fresh.
Investigating Price Differences: McDug vs. Tesco
To break down how kibble cost and ingredient quality go hand-in-hand, let’s compare a popular supermarket dry food to one of McDug’s best-selling recipes.
At just £1.37 per kilogram, Tesco’s Beef and Country Vegetable Dry Dog Food is definitely a wallet-friendly option that claims to include ‘wholesome nutritious ingredients’.
Cereals, Meat and Animal Derivatives (22%, including 4% Beef in the Clover-shaped Kibble*), Oils and Fats, Vegetables (4% Peas in the Brown Barrel-shaped kibble**), Minerals, Derivatives of Vegetable Origin (0.5% Beet Pulp in the Clover-shaped Kibble*), Yeasts.
Yet, when we look more closely, it’s difficult to find any named ingredients at all - let alone ones that are wholesome or nutritious. By leading with unspecified cereals, we know that these kibbles are mainly made up of nutrient-void filler.
At 22%, the meat content of these kibbles isn’t terrible. But the word ‘derivatives’ tells us that most of that content is coming from the lowest form of animal byproduct. This theme of non-specified ingredients continues with ‘oils and fats’ and ‘derivatives of vegetable origin’. Do we really know what’s in this food?
Now, let’s compare McDug's Angus Beef with Sweet Potato and Carrot. Starting at £5.62 per kilogram (£130 for a 24 kg bag) our kibbles are clearly more expensive:
Beef 50% (including Freshly Prepared Angus Beef 28%, Dried Beef 19% & Beef Fat 3%), Sweet Potato (26%), Potato, Peas (5%), Linseed, Beet Pulp, Minerals, Vitamins, Omega 3 Supplement, Vegetable Stock, Carrot (<0.1%), FOS (96 mg/kg), MOS (24 mg/kg)
So, what’s the difference? First up, the main ingredient is a named lean protein, with 28% being freshly prepared Angus beef. This premium ingredient isn’t cheap, but it is an exceptionally nutrient dense treat. All vegetables are carefully selected for balance and we add prebiotics and omega-3 for a healthy gut and coat.
Not only do we know exactly what goes into McDug, but we also know where it comes from. We only partner with farms and fisheries that we trust can provide consistently high-quality products. We then use refrigerated vans to transport these ingredients - meaning we can cook them at lower temperatures and respect the naturally abundant proteins and minerals.
The truth is, the cost of all this extra care adds up. But we do it because we believe that dogs - like their human big brothers and sisters - deserve high-quality nutrition to feel their best.
The Bottomline: Why Spend More?
It’s clear that, when it comes to dog food, you often get what you pay for. Whilst we know a premium kibble isn’t realistic for every dog owner, buying the best your budget can afford will have huge benefits for your canine pals.
Many dogs are sensitive or intolerant to certain ingredients. A high-quality dog food where all ingredients are listed - not just lumped together in vague categories - will make it easier for you to eliminate problem foods and avoid upset tummies.
Ultimately, spending more on high-quality food is a health investment that also pays off as financial investment. After all, we all know that vet bills can be eye-watering - and feeding a nutrient-dense, natural diet is one of the best things you can do to keep your furry friend in tiptop shape.
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