Pet-food inflation and how to deal with it


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/05/2022 (393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Inflation affects everything. The price increases we have been seeing in recent months don’t just affect the price of gasoline and people-food – pet foods are also affected, in some cases even moreso, given how much of the cost of pet foods is energy related.

Pet foods and litter are heavy, so they can cost a lot more to ship. Shipping costs are even higher for pet food ingredients that require refrigerated transport. Making pet food is both energy and labour-intensive, and the costs of both factors have increased quite a bit recently.

For the pet fopod retailer, foods that require refrigeration also carry higher costs. Most of these costs are not factored into what a brand may set as its MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), and that makes margins on those foods even tighter, so even though you may be paying more at the cash register, your pet food store may be making less.

If inflation has you wondering about where to cut costs in your budget, cheaper pet food may not be the best bet.
If inflation has you wondering about where to cut costs in your budget, cheaper pet food may not be the best bet.

When people see a price increase in a brand of pet food, their first reaction is often that someone else is making more money. But I can assure you that, in most cases, stores and manufacturers are not making more money through price increases. In many instances, profits and margins are actually decreasing, with manufacturers and retailers hoping that costs will come back into line.

We deal with a lot of pets that have very specific dietary needs, and in many cases, there are a very limited number of foods that will work for those pets. Some pet owners opt for these foods over using a combination of less expensive-food and medications in order to avoid reactions to cheaper foods and to avoid any side effects the medications might have. In the long run, a more-expensive pet food may actually be less costly than the alternative.

As prices increase, some owners may reassess their budgets and wonder if the medication route is cheaper. In some cases, it just might be. But how do you weigh the side effects? Can those lead to additional costs?

When most people find something that works great for them, it takes a substantial price change to make them even consider returning to a cheaper option.

There are two ways of dealing with cost increases at the manufacturing level. One is to increase the retail price of your product to cover the increased costs of the ingredients you presently use. Most small companies and independent manufacturers choose this path, as they have worked long and hard on their formulations and do not want to compromise them.

The other way is to buy cheaper ingredients. The source of most pet food ingredients is what is left over from production of food for humans. Sometimes the items were intended for human consumption but could not be used due to contamination or other factors. To find a less expensive ingredient, you generally have to compromise on either its quality or its safety. That is one reason we see generally see recalls for lower-priced products, as they rely on these potentially risky ingredients.

If you see an increase in the price of your pet’s food, it may make you reconsider whether you should continue with that brand or type of food. In some cases, you may not see much of a change. But it is my observation that, while more expensive food does not always make a difference, less expensive food will make a difference, and almost never a good one.

You may not always get what you pay for, but you rarely get something you don’t pay for.

Jeff McFarlane

Jeff McFarlane
Pets Are People, Too

Jeff McFarlane is the owner of Thrive Pet Food Market. Contact him with your questions or ideas or visit

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