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Why Is Dog Food So Expensive? 6 Factors On Pet Food Inflation

Key Takeaways

  • The increase in the price of dog food is mainly due to the increased price of the raw materials needed to make them – including gas prices which adds up to the cost of transport.
  • The higher costs are also driven by the changes in demand of pet owners and the increased variety of pet food products available
  • Notably, the rate of increase for pet food is still lower compared to the rate of increase in human food.

Everything is becoming more expensive – and canine food is definitely one of those things! I recently purchased my regular pet food from the store and noticed the jump in prices. I realized that it was because of the rising cost of the ingredients needed for the product. Real meat, grain, electricity, water – all of these things are needed to make pet food and many of these items are increasing in price. I don’t really have to go far since I noticed the same costly increase in my regular grocery budget. Other than the basic ingredients, however, there are other things that affect how manufacturers price pet food.

The Science Behind Dog Foods

Scientific research is required to ensure today’s best quality of pet meals – both dog and cat food. Kibble, for example, is the cheapest canine food but still has a complex formula. Scientists use their skills to create long-lasting and balanced kibbles for dogs. Pet parents, however, are willing to pay extra to receive a kibble that the puppy not only enjoys – but will also meet the pet nutrition needs.

The U.S. pet food and treats market is worth $42 billion as of 2020. This has definitely grown over time as the pet food industry continues to invest in research studies for improved recipes. With much research necessary, pet foods are difficult to create because of the long list of ingredients to make them tasty for pups. 

Dogs and people have different attitudes about what smells and tastes good. My dogs, for example, seem to love pet food that smells bad to my human nose. The complex recipe for kibble requires a high nutritional value and strong smell to attract dogs [1]. Fortunately, the smell is often less powerful when it comes to kibble.

Byproducts are not Byproducts

Canine food manufacturers have coined the term byproducts for the proteins western consumers rarely buy. This typically includes internal organs like the liver, kidney, and intestines. They’re perfectly edible but we don’t eat them – but our dogs definitely do and actually love them! To pump the protein load, manufacturers add by-products to the food while still keeping the costs low. Unfortunately, even internal organs today are increasing in cost and I can definitely see this reflected in the price of canine food for my pets. Even worse is pet food that uses pure meat products which typically have a higher price range.

The Lingering Effects of the Pandemic

The effects of the pandemic on the dog and cat food industry have been long-lasting. Dry food and wet dog foods rely on the meat-packing industry for ingredients. One of the side effects of the pandemic was a drive to euthanize animals that had come into contact with infected human workers. Before the meat packing industry created procedures to combat infections, the number of euthanized animals threatened the global supply chain. Meat packers and the agricultural industry have been returning to normal. These industries will take a long time to return to their pre-pandemic levels. 

Inflation caused by global uncertainty spiked in 2022. The pandemic and conflict in Eastern Europe have pushed prices for everyday products. The pet food and meat industry has managed to keep its rate of inflation below that of human-grade food. The inflation rate for human-grade food has risen by 8.6% in February 2022. In contrast, manufacturers have managed to steady their ships at 3.7% in February 2022. 

That is not to say pet owners have not seen spiking inflation rates. The rate of inflation for pet food since February 2020 reached 5.4%, with human foods rising by 13.4%. 

Millennials Spend More

Why Is Dog Food So Expensive?

One of the biggest changes in the pet care industry has been the rise of millennial pet parents. Americans and Europeans have spent excessive amounts on their pets for decades. 

Millennials have led the human health and well-being market over the last two decades. I know for a fact that aside from personal health, however, millennials are heavily invested in their pet’s health too! From DNA health screening through the best dog DNA test kits to a healthy diet and exercise, millennials are more aware of the needs of their pups. This is why I – and many of my friends – are willing to spend more if it will guarantee the good health of our dogs. Simply put, sellers aren’t afraid to offer pricier products because there’s a market for them. I know for a fact that I’m willing to spend a little more to keep my pet healthy.

A pampered pooch can enjoy raw foods and the best fresh dog food meal kits that are more expensive canine food options than kibble. The best canine food delivery service subscription options are rising in the pet services industry for pet owners with disposable income. Note that it’s best to consult veterinary services before proceeding with unfamiliar pet services.

Pet Food Manufacturers Know Their Market

Canned food in bag.

Pet parents are looking to maintain the good health and energy levels of their pooches. Multiple canned wet dog food and commercial pet food are options that continue to drive the pet food market. Pet food companies are turning to human-grade food to create pet food recipes too. The change in the industry to meet the demands of consumers is adding to the rising pet food costs. 

The cost of items in the pet food and treats sector is being driven by consumers who will spend more than in the past. The wide range of food products for pets means prices are climbing for premium and human-grade foods. Checking the ingredients of products is a good idea to find new products at lower prices. The pet food industry is also catching up with the human food sector in packaging innovations. A product packaged only for dogs sells for a higher price than the same food on a human grocery store shelf.

Competition is Driving Inflation

Competition is a good thing for consumers. The question in the pet food and treats industry is how much competition exists? It’s only lately that I found out that manufacturers produce products for different retail brands. Producing food for different brands by manufacturers drives prices up based on packaging. Keeping the market diverse allows wet and dry dog food brands to develop competition regardless of manufacturer. On the plus side, this gives us consumers more choices – for example, I’ve seen a few types of Royal Canin during my last visit. The downside is that since manufacturers are alternating between packaging, there’s a slight cost increase in the manufacturing process.


1. Do dogs need expensive food?

More research needs to be done on the link between expense and the dog’s food quality. More expensive does not always mean better for our pets. For certain dogs with health issues, however, a specific diet, such as a grain-free, gluten-free, or allergen diet – may be more expensive.

2. How can I reduce the cost of dog food?

I like to compare the ingredients when I buy dog and cat food. It is possible to find the same product at a lower price – especially if like me, you have two dogs or more to feed.

3. Is it cheaper to feed your dog human food?

Price-wise, it’s a bad idea. The rate of inflation for human food is higher than for pet food. Pet food remains cheaper than human food.

4. Has dog food gone up in price?

Like most products in 2022, canine food prices have risen – even with the cheaper brands. The rise in price for canine food remains lower than for other products. The added cost is worth it though if it would help reduce vet bills.

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5 thoughts on “Why Is Dog Food So Expensive? 6 Factors On Pet Food Inflation”

  1. I can say that is not true, the cost of dog food is skyrocketing , it cost as much to feed my dog as me. The pet food industry is making a killing, my bag of dog food went up 14 dollars in 3 weeks! Thats ridic considering they use the cheapest ingredients and fillers they can get. Unless a food states it is human grade all pet foods use the same renderers, and ingredient suppliers. And the real kicker is all pet foods minus a very few use premixes from china. Most people dont know that. None of the crap they put in there is worth what they charge, my bag went from 54.98 to 68.98 in 3 weeks! Im not ignorant person I worked in the pet food industry for a few years. I know where they get their ingredients from and the dirty label tricks. Consumers need to revolt against this industry, if you ever saw the low quality junk they put in there you would realize how they are ripping you off. And yes millennials are gullible and have caused this upward trend.

  2. This is insanity! In early on chewy I bought two bags of purina one small bites beef delivered to my home for 38.00. Now I can’t get it and when it’s available it’s 85 dollars? I will make their food way before I will pay what they’re asking!


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