While most dog owners are content feeding their pups with standard kibble, some are on the hunt for something more.
Premium and Ultra-Premium dog food is a constantly growing market fueled by demand for the best and highest-quality recipes available.
Long gone are the days when most dog owners paid little attention to what they were feeding their dogs.
Whether it’s fresh dog food, raw dog food, freeze-dried dog food, or dehydrated dog food, they still come in at an eye-watering price that can sum to thousands of dollars per year.
What Makes Dog Food Expensive?
The number one factor in the price of dog food is the ingredients used within the recipe. As logic would dictate, the more expensive the ingredients are, the more expensive the dog food recipe will be as a consequence.
In particular, high-quality meat and fish ingredients can inflate the cost of a dog food recipe significantly and often make up the bulk of the cost.
Many lower-cost dog food recipes choose to use cheap cuts of meat that wouldn’t be consumed by Humans.
A prime example of this would be Meat By-Products. While this ingredient can provide nutrition, a huge number of dog owners turn their noses up at it.
But there are some dog food brands out there using the same meat cuts we enjoy on a regular basis, if not better. These brands often label these ingredients as Human-Grade, which is a questionable term that is widely popular.
Moreover, there are some brands out there using Organic ingredients. These can often cost two or three times as much as their non-organic equivalent and are something that most dog owners do not even indulge in regularly.
If Organic dog food interests you, then you can read our recently released Best Organic Dog Food article for an in-depth discussion.
The Type of Dog Food
The type of dog food is a significant contributing factor in the price. Traditional dry dog food, also known as kibble, tends to come in quite cheap, but other types of dog food, such as fresh dog food, can be drastically more expensive.
Air-Dried or Freeze-Dried is one of the best examples of this and is often many times more costly than kibble due to how its produced. Be sure to focus on our discussion of Ziwi Peak if this interests you.
However, freeze-dried food isn’t the only notable example, and this huge cost difference is especially true for brands taking advantage of the latest trend – fresh home-delivered dog food.
This variety of dog food is freshly prepared, frozen, and then shipped directly to consumers’ doors which many find extremely convenient.
The choice of which recipes are delivered, and the portion size is tailor-made to each dog, gives it a “custom” feel that traditional dog food can not compete with.
Unique Meat Ingredients
Lastly, it is not just the quality of meat ingredients used but also precisely what meat is essential. The most prominent example of this is Venison.
There is currently a worldwide shortage of Venison meat, which has caused the price of Venison to skyrocket, and this increased cost is passed on to consumers who want to purchase Venison dog food. As a consequence, a large bag of Venison kibble can easily cost more than 100 USD.
Read more about Venison in our article Best Dog Foods With Venison.
Other examples of costly ingredients include Rabbit, Goat, Kangaroo, and more. These unique meat ingredients are often used in Hypoallergenic Dog Food as Novel Meat ingredients.
You can learn more about why these ingredients are used and what makes them novel in our article Best Hypoallergenic Dog Foods Guide.
Is Expensive Dog Food Worth It?
For the average dog owner, many of the recipes we are going to discuss are simply out of reach and would put significant strain on their budget. This budget constraint is especially true for dog owners with large dogs or multiple dogs.
The reason behind this is that dog owners with large or multiple dogs need to purchase vast quantities of dog food on a regular basis to keep their canine friends well-fed.
When you combine the high cost of these recipes with such quantities, it simply becomes beyond reason.
However, for those with cash to burn and who want to spare no expense for their dogs, these recipes are sure to keep dogs in fantastic health, not to mention the happy thanks to these recipes’ delicious tastes.
Lastly, most dog food brands tend to use lower-quality cuts of meats than is used in food for human consumption or meat from questionable or unethical sources, and many individuals aren’t willing to tolerate this.
These ultra-premium brands can often offer more sustainable and ethical sources, which, for some, are worth every penny regardless of their nutritional qualities.
That being said, there are plenty of high-quality dog food brands and recipes that are only slightly inferior to these ultra-premium brands and come at a fraction of the cost.
If you are interested in reading our recommendations of the best dry dog food recipes (all of which are more reasonably priced), be sure to read our Best Dry Dog Food Guide.
The Most Expensive Dog Foods
Ziwi Peak is a New-Zealand-based company and world header in the freeze-dried/air-dried dog food market. The quality of their ingredients and the nutrition they provide is second to none.
If that wasn’t enough, Ziwi Peak sources all of its ingredients from local and ethical suppliers, which is in huge contrast to most dog food brands. This could make Ziwi Peak extremely appealing to those who put ethical and environmental traits first.
You can learn more about Ziwi Peak, including its origins and ethical practices, in our Ziwi Peak Brand Review.
But which of Ziwi’s recipes is the most expensive? As we mentioned earlier, there is a worldwide shortage of Venison, which makes Ziwi Peak’s Venison formula the most expensive offering by far.
Most online pet food websites sell Ziwi’s Venison formula at over $150 for a 5.5lb bag or close to $70 for a 2.2lb bag which is astronomical.
Even if you go with one of Ziwi’s non Venison recipes, such as Lamb or Beef, they are extremely expensive and typically cost around $100 for a 5.5lb bag.
So what are you getting for your money? The primary advantage of air-dried dog food is that it is almost entirely made up of meat and has no significant vegetable, grain, or fruit ingredients.
This trait ensures that Ziwi’s food is extremely nutritionally dense and contains high proportions of animal-based protein and fat.
As you may have noticed when we mentioned it earlier, the weight of the packaging that these recipes are sold in is very low, which may confuse some consumers.
But it is important to remember that air-dried dog food has had its moisture removed. If you re-add this moisture, then the total weight is more reasonable and in line with wet/canned dog food.
Despite the enormous cost of Ziwi Peak Air-Dried dog food, if you considered feeding your dog a mixture of Air Dried Dog Food and fresh ingredients, the cost can be a lot more realistic.
Ingredients such as fresh fruit and vegetables are ideal to combine with a diet of air-dried dog food. This would also enable you to feed your dog specially selected vegetables that do not cause allergies or contribute to other health concerns.
Nom Nom Turkey Fare Recipe
As we mentioned briefly earlier, “Fresh Home Delivered” dog food has seen a surge in popularity in the United States. This style of dog food is drastically different from traditional kibble or canned food. It is prepared fresh, pre-portioned, frozen, and then delivered straight to a customer’s door.
This model is extremely similar to many of the meal plan services that people have been utilizing in recent years to cook for their own consumption.
Nom Nom, formerly known as NomNomNow, is one of the most popular providers of this service and is available in all 48 of the contiguous states. We’d recommend checking out their FAQ page for the full rundown on how the service works.
But what you are no doubt wondering is how much a custom service like this costs? According to Nom Nom, the typical cost for their food varies ranges from $3 to $10 per day depending on the size of the dog.
This cost would mean that for a medium-sized dog, you would be spending around $50 per week or $2600 dollars per year.
You can find Nom Nom’s breakdown of cost here if you want to understand more.
NomNom currently has four fresh dog food recipes available and allows dog owners to subscribe to a specific recipe or a mix depending on their needs or tastes. The above-mentioned Turkey recipe is one of our favorites, thanks to its excellent nutritional profile.
Turkey takes center stage as the recipe’s primary meat ingredient, and while Turkey is known as a premium choice, it can still provide an abundant supply of animal-based protein.
It is joined by a generous proportion of Eggs, which are one of the most bioavailable sources of protein.
The recipe makes use of Brown Rice and some unusual vegetable ingredients such as Carrots and Spinach.
This combination of ingredients could be an ideal mix for dogs who do not enjoy legumes or for those dog owners who are concerned about the link between legumes and canine heart disease (which you can read about here).
If you want more information about NomNom, we’d recommend checking out our full review, which you can find here.
Orijen – Regional Red
While many of the brands featured in this article are relatively unknown, Orijen is certainly not unknown, and its inclusion in this article will come as no surprise.
Orijen is the best-known premium dog food brand and produces some of the highest quality and most nutritious dry dog food available.
The brand is based in Canada and has seen explosive growth along with their sister brand Acana, which is aimed at a lower price point.
Despite many of their competitors being the opposite, Orijen has a wide range of dog food formulas containing a wide variety of meat and fish ingredients.
Each recipe is guaranteed to contain at least ten meat or fish ingredients, which is unprecedented in the commercial dog food world.
We’ve chosen to highlight Regional Red, which, as the name would suggest, has a focus on red meat ingredients such as Beef, Pork, and Lamb. This recipe is one of Orijen’s most expensive and is often sold for approximately $115 for a 25lb bag.
While many dog owners try to limit their intake of red meat, it is perfect for an energetic and hungry dog and can provide them with a plentiful supply of protein and fat. Examples of red meat ingredients found in this recipe include Beef, Wild Boar, Goat, Lamb, and more.
The high-quality red meat ingredients are combined with an extensive range of fruits and vegetables such as Beans, Pumpkin, Spinach, and Carrots which are typical of Orijen recipes.
Tundra is another formula by Orijen that tops out the price range. Tundra uses less common red meat ingredients such as Goat, Wild Boar, and Char.
While these ingredients make the formula more costly, they may be a pleasant surprise for some dogs who enjoy the variety of never-before-tasted meat ingredients.
However, we’ve chosen to highlight Regional Red as the Tundra recipe from Orijen is often harder to purchase or source.
If you’d like to see Orijen’s full product range or learn about their ingredients and nutrition, we highly recommend you take a read of our Orijen Brand Review.
The Honest Kitchen Limited Ingredient Diet Duck Recipe
An article on expensive dog food wouldn’t be complete without mentioning dehydrated dog food and The Honest Kitchen is by far the best example of this unique type.
The Honest Kitchen is a well-known brand in the premium space and has seen significant growth over the last decade.
The basics of dehydrated dog food are simple. The food comes with its moisture removed, much like dry dog food. Dog owners then add water to the food and mix.
While dehydrated dog food is expensive, once the weight of water is taken into account, it isn’t quite as eye-watering as it first seems.
If you’d like to learn more about Dehydrated Dog Food, we’d highly recommend reading our Best Dehydrated Dog Food Guide for a detailed discussion or checking out our The Honest Kitchen Brand Review for specifics on the brand.
So how much does The Honest Kitchen cost? The above Duck Recipe is one of their most expensive and usually costs around $65 for a 4lb box or $125 for a 10lb box.
For reference, a 4lb box of dehydrated dog food should translate to roughly 16lbs once rehydrated, and a 10lb box would become 40lb’s.
As one would imagine, the above recipe uses Duck as its primary ingredient. While Duck is undoubtedly not as scarce or pricey as others like Venison and Rabbit, it could be considered to be the premium poultry ingredient when compared to Chicken or Turkey.
The Honest Kitchen’s recipe has a much smaller variety of plant-based ingredients compared to some of its competitors. The only significant contributors are Sweet Potatoes, Navy Beans, and Flaxseed.
The simple combination could make this recipe appealing to those dogs whose stomach is easily upset or who have allergies or sensitivities.
Spot & Tango Lamb & Brown Rice
Spot & Tango is another provider of fresh home-delivered dog food similar to Nom Nom and has seen explosive growth from its US-based customers.
Similar to other fresh dog food brands, Spot & Tango chooses to freeze their recipes after production and ships them with dry ice. This technique ensures that they stay fresh and safe for consumption.
While it isn’t their most expensive offering, Spot & Tango stands out from its competitors by offering a ‘Fresh Kibble” recipe known as Unkibble. You can read more about Unkibble and Spot & Tango on our Spot & Tango Brand Review.
So how does Spot & Tango’s fresh food compare to its competitors when it comes to cost? As with Nom Nom, the cost varies significantly based on the size of the dog, but a medium-breed dog would cost approximately $5-$6 per day or close to $40 per week.
This weekly cost would sum to be over $2000 per year per medium-breed dog, which is substantial.
Spot & Tango offers three fresh food recipes, and it was hard to pick between them, but we quickly chose to go with their Lamb & Brown Rice recipe.
The recipe provides an excellent overall nutritional profile with a finely tuned balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This balance is thanks to the generous portion of Lamb, which will not only be enjoyable for your dog but can provide them with the nutrition they require.
The recipe also makes use of a broad range of plant-based ingredients, including Brown Rice, Spinach, Carrots, Peas, and Blueberries. This mix contains some regular but also some more unusual ingredients.
The core benefit of this broad mix is the range of vitamins and minerals it can provide, which are sure to ensure your dog remains healthy and active.
You can check out the full ingredient list and Guaranteed Analysis of all of Spot & Tango’s recipes here.
However, to combat the high cost of Spot & Tango, they offer a 20% discount on your first order and a money-back guarantee if your dog isn’t a fan.
K9 Natural Lamb Feast
K9 Natural is another New-Zealand-based brand and could be easily compared or equated to Ziwi Peak, which we discussed earlier.
K9 Natural uses very high-quality ingredients that are sourced from New Zealand and are suitable for human consumption.
Unlike many brands in the industry, K9 Natural also uses an in-house animal nutritionist to ensure that dogs’ nutritional needs are met by their recipes.
With these high standards, you can expect their recipes to come at a cost, but for some, it is worth consideration.
You can learn more about their use of a nutritionist and their ingredient sourcing in our K9 Natural Brand Review.
K9 Naturals has a small range of canned dog food recipes, including a Lamb Formula, Chicken Formula, and Beef Formula.
We’ve chosen to discuss the Lamb Formula as Lamb is the primary livestock animal of New Zealand and a more unusual dog food ingredient than Beef or Chicken.
Despite not including any unusual meat ingredients or being dehydrated, this Lamb Formula is still extremely expensive and typically costs over $80 for a case of 24 6oz cans.
The primary ingredient is whole Lamb, but there are also a number of Lamb organ meats present, including Lamb Liver, Lamb Heart, and Lamb Kidneys.
As we often mention on this site, these organ meats can provide a unique cocktail of vitamins and minerals.
However, K9 Naturals recipes include some ingredients that Ziwi Peak does not. Examples of these include Lamb Blood, Eggs, and a small range of vegetables such as Pumpkin, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage.
Eggs are incredibly nutritionally dense and an excellent addition to any dog food formula. The vegetables will provide additional vitamins and minerals, as well as a very modest portion of carbohydrates and fiber.
The inclusion of organ meat ingredients, as well as some other unusual additions, is one of the reasons that K9 Natural is so expensive, along with their high-quality standards and excellent nutrition.
Farmina N&D Ocean Herring & Orange
Farmina is a premium dog food brand based in Europe, and its N&D range contains some extremely high-quality and nutritious formulas. Across the board, their recipes tend to come in towards the top of the price range as a dry dog food recipe.
The brand undertakes notable amounts of research in collaboration with the University of Naples Federico II and also works closely with veterinary clinics to offer specialized recipes for pets with health issues.
You can read more about this collaborative relationship in our Farmina Brand Review.
We are particular fans of their puppy recipes (which we discussed in our Best Puppy Food Article), but their adult recipes are not to be brushed aside.
Because they do not make use of unique or uncommon meat ingredients, most Farmina recipes tend to be similarly priced. Typically a 26lb bag of Farmina’s dry dog food costs in excess of $80, which is far above the industry average.
However, we’ve chosen to highlight the Herring recipe as it is the most expensive in their range by far. A 26lb of this particular recipe can easily cost in excess of $100, depending on the retailer you use.
The Herring formulas use a mix of whole Herring and dehydrated Herring to ensure that the total proportion is significant. This Herring provides an ample portion of protein and fat that is significantly above average.
Many of Farmina’s recipes tend to go with the safety of legume ingredients, but this particular recipe strays from that norm.
Instead, it makes use of Sweet Potatoes, which are a starch ingredient. Starch ingredients such as these are dense sources of carbohydrates, but the portion size is small, which makes ensures the overall proportion of fish-based protein and fat is still extremely high.
Almost all Farmina recipes also contain much smaller portions of a broad range of fruit and vegetables.
Examples include Blueberries, Carrots, Apples, and Pomegranate. These could give the kibble a unique flavor and provide some less abundant micronutrients.
Nature’s Logic Canine Rabbit Meal Feast
Nature’s Logic is a lesser-known dog food brand, but that doesn’t diminish its strengths. Nature’s Logic produces a range of formulas, including some with less common meat and fish ingredients such as Sardine, Venison, Lamb, and Rabbit.
Many of these are considered Novel Meat ingredients, which can make Nature’s Logic very appealing to those dogs with severe allergies or sensitivities.
One of the most significant advantages of Nature’s Logic is that they very clearly display a vast range of nutritional and Ingredient information on their website, which is far more than their competitors.
The information provided includes accurate levels of a wide variety of micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals outside of the typical information, such as protein, fat, fiber, and moisture.
They also show you exactly where their ingredients are sourced on an easy-to-distinguish map.
This level of transparency is unheard of and shows they are passionate about dog nutrition and not ashamed of the nutrition their formulas provide or the source of their ingredients, which is something that many other dog food brands could not say with confidence.
You can learn more about Nature’s Logic, including some of the points discussed above and their extensive use of Millet in our Nature’s Logic Brand Review.
Their Rabbit Formula is one of their most costly, and as we discussed earlier, this is due to uncommon ingredients such as Rabbit being most costly to source.
A 25lb of Nature’s Logic Canine Rabbit Meal Feast usually sells for a little under $100, whereas most of their other recipes are in the $70-$80 range.
However, this high price comes with many advantages, and the recipe provides a very high proportion of protein, which, as we discuss regularly, should be at the core of every dog’s diet.
Rabbit is also likely to provide a unique flavor that may be appealing to some dogs who are tired of constantly eating Chicken, Turkey, or others.
The formula also contains a small portion of Turkey and Pork Liver. Pork Liver and other organ meat ingredients can provide unique minerals and vitamins that traditional meat cuts can not and could enhance a dog’s health.
Lastly, the majority of Nature’s Logic recipes utilize Millet as their primary plant-based ingredient. Millet is not a well-known grain compared to others but is growing in popularity and can provide a mix of carbohydrates, fiber, and other nutrition.
Hound and Gatos – 98% Gamebird Poultry
Hound & Gatos is a notable brand in the Premium Canned Dog Food world. The cost of their recipes might make some wince, but behind that price tag is some excellent dog food formulas.
Hound & Gatos comes into its own with the quality of its meat ingredients. This quality is, without a doubt, why their recipes are so costly.
They use cuts and sources that are very comparable with meat found in your local butchers or meat store, and in some cases, the meat may be of an even higher quality than most of us are used to, which is unheard of in the dog food industry.
Their recipes are very similar to the canned recipes sold by other brands mentioned earlier, like Ziwi Peak and K9 Natural. You can learn more about their product range and ingredient sourcing in our Hound & Gatos Brand Review.
The above Gamebird Poultry is one of their most expensive recipes, and a 12-pack of 13oz cans usually costs around $60.
This Gamebird Poultry formula is one of our favorites; it offers a wide range of nutritious poultry ingredients, including Duck, Turkey, Guinea Fowl, and Quail.
This variety of meat ingredients will produce an excellent flavor and provide a reliable range of minerals and vitamins to keep your canine friend in good health.
The only other ingredients are Agar-Agar, which is used to help maintain a consistent texture and preservatives such as Salt.
NRG The Raw One Free Wild Caught Salmon Dehydrated Raw
The Honest Kitchen isn’t the only dehydrated dog food brand and NRG is another worthy of discussion. The brand has been operating for over twenty years producing specialized premium recipes.
Similar to other brands mentioned here, NRG uses ‘Human Grade’ ingredients that are a step up from those that are typically used in pet food recipes.
A 10lb box of NRG Dehydrated dog food typically costs well over $100 and often closer to $120, depending on the retailer.
While most of the recipes in this article contain unique or expensive ingredients like Venison or other Red Meats, NRG focuses on quality and uses many staples of the industry, such as Salmon.
The Salmon used in this particular recipe is Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon, and it is present in the recipe in plentiful supply.
Salmon is an excellent addition to any dog food recipe, thanks to the high levels of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids it contains.
These fatty acids are believed by many to provide several health benefits to dogs, including an improvement in the condition of their skin and coat.
However, the recipe also uses a wide range of plant-based ingredients, including Squash, Carrots, Pumpkin, Pineapple, Broccoli, and Kale.
This huge mix is sure to provide an unbeatable balance of micronutrients with virtually none missing.