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Pet Food Facts

You Cannot Have It All – Best Nutrition or Convenience & Economy – Part 3 of 4
By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Jul 01, 2021
Photo by: Debra Bell

I have reviewed what constitutes the most natural and best nutrition for our dogs and discussed the various factors that contribute to a pet food's cost. This month I will address convenience and begin to tie everything together.

Unless you have hours of free time, the convenience of what you feed your pet matters, I have a friend who feeds two dogs, two cats, and her family every morning before going to work. She wants pet food she can prepare quickly. I get that.

Below I have listed various pet feeding options in the order that I believe provides the best nutrition. I will discuss the cost and convenience of each.

Homemade Diets

When you choose to make your pet's food, you have total control over the ingredients and method of preparation. If you select species-appropriate, fresh, high-quality ingredients and prepare them properly, this can be your most nutritious option. Diets can be raw or cooked. However, you need to know what you are doing. I recommend that you work with a qualified animal nutritionist to develop your recipes or do lots of research and reading on your own. If you do the latter, look to using several resources, not just one.

My wife made food for our Cairn Terrier, Gus, using recipes from a recognized veterinarian who focused on natural healing for several months. We discussed them with Gus's regular veterinarian. Every Sunday, Paula spent 4 to 5 hours preparing a week's worth of food, which took up one entire shelf in our refrigerator. That was for one small dog. In our experience, making food was more time-consuming than other options. Along with sourcing the ingredients, it also made it more costly. I might do this more when I retire, but for now, it's not practical.

Commercial Frozen Raw

We started learning about the benefits of feeding a raw diet in 1998 but were not comfortable making our own raw food, nor did we want to invest in the necessary equipment. When commercial frozen raw diets became available in Maine in late 2001, we started feeding all five dogs raw in the morning and kibble in the evening. Feeding a commercial frozen raw diet is not inexpensive. Even though we were paying wholesale prices, it was not affordable for our five dogs. Very pleased with the results of feeding raw, and with only two dogs, in 2004 we started feeding commercial raw almost exclusively.

Just as with kibble, the quality of the ingredients used by raw food companies varies. Some are 100% meat, while others include a mixture of fruit and vegetables because of the natural micronutrients found in those items. It is essential to understand the company and its products when selecting a commercial raw food, just like any other type of pet food. All these factors affect the cost.

Commercial raw diets come in a variety of form factors, chubs, patties, and chunks. In our experience, the chubs are the most economical and the least convenient. The chunks are as convenient as kibble, except for requiring freezer space, but are more expensive.

Commercial raw pet food companies are subject to the same regulations as companies that make kibble, including product safety. While there have been many allegations and concerns about salmonella and other pathogens in raw diets, it is rare compared to the incidence of salmonella being found in kibble.

For the past 18 months, I have been feeding Muppy a wide variety of brands and types of food [ FMI - ]. She is primarily fed a commercial raw diet.

A week before I started writing this column, I began reading a new book on pet nutrition, Feeding Dogs. Dry or Raw? The Science Behind the Debate. It's based on ten years of research and reviewing the scientific literature on various types of dog food, especially raw and kibble. I'll be writing about the book in a future column and based on what I'm learning, may move Muppy back to a diet that is entirely frozen raw or lightly cooked.

Lightly Cooked

Lightly cooked frozen diets are one of the newest options available to pet owners. Like frozen raw, the quality of the product will vary with the quality of ingredients. I like and use one product made from human-grade ingredients; Beef Heart, Liver, Round, Chicken Breast, Thigh, Egg, Lamb Shoulder, Turkey Heart, Thigh, Wild Salmon Filet, fruits, and vegetables. It is lightly cooked to destroy any pathogens. It's as convenient to feed as any frozen product, but due to the quality of the ingredients is one of the most expensive options.

Next month I'll finish this series looking at the following commercial food types; Freeze-Dried, Dehydrated, "Fresh," Wet/Canned/Pouched, and Dry/Kibble.


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG's Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©21-Jun-21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved

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