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Pet Food Wars: What does 'kcals per cup' mean and why that expensive bag of food is cheaper than you think!

Since our pets can't buy their own food, we have to.  And while a lot of us want to do right by our pets, we are often influenced by brands we see on TV.

Remember my rant on Beneful?  If not, go read it.

I'll wait....

The moral of that story was to not be swayed by TV and to do a little research yourself.  This post is going to address the problem of "Well, I buy _____ because the other brands cost too much."

Yes, Mr. Customer.  Brand B does cost more than Brand A.  But have you looked at cost per feeding?

This is a chart I use when I'm talking about cost-per-feeding to my customers (your pet stores).  If you compare these two brands, Beneful and Premium Edge, you will notice Premium Edge costs $10 more per bag.

Yes, you get almost 4lb more than that bag of Beneful, but at a cost-per-weight basis, Beneful will cost you under $1/lb, and Premium Edge will cost you $1.14/lb.

So the expensive bag will cost me more to feed, right?


A dog needs a certain amount of calories to maintain their body weight.  It varies by energy level, but the guidelines use an 'average' of 32.5 calories per pound of body weight.  To get to that desired level for a 60lb dog, you need 4-5.5 cups of Beneful (depending on energy level) compared to 2.25-3 cups of Premium Edge.

You feed less and get the same result.  This means LESS POOP IN YOUR YARD, but more importantly the bag lasts longer.  26 days for a $30 bag of Beneful, or 50+ days for a bag of Premium Edge.  The 'expensive' bag wins by the tune of $100+ in savings each year.

But can kcal content be misleading?  ABSOLUTELY!

Take Canidae Pet Foods for example, as well as a few comparable brands.  (I pick on Canidae, because they're a well-known 'Independent' brand.  They recently went into Petco, even though I have heard personally from the owners' mouths that would never ever happen.  So now I poke at them.)

I used to sell Canidae long ago, and would show my friends that a bag of Canidae was technically cheaper to feed than the cheapest bags of pet food you can find at Walmart.  I honed my 'cost per feeding' pitch with them, and now use it against them.

You see, a 44lb bag of Canidae now sells for $54-62 in my area.  I sell similar brands that cost way less to feed, and haven't changed their bag, formula or promises in recent times.  Canidae still costs less to feed than Beneful, but let's compare it with other high-end brands, shall we?

Canidae claims to have a whopping 468 kcals per cup in their All Life Stages diet.  I called their office to confirm what 'cup' they use, and they said they get their numbers from an 8oz dry measuring cup, which holds exactly 4.5oz of Canidae kibble.

I tested, they are correct.

But if you do the math (which I did for you on the graphic) it only adds up to 460 kcals per cup.  When you compare to a big brand like Beneful, you will feed less.  But what about other high-end brands?

Taste of the Wild dog food claims to only have 370 kcals per cup, but if you use the same measuring guidelines as Canidae, I get 451 kcals per cup.  That's very similar in feeding rate, and makes me wonder why my math is so different.  I called the company and have not received a response.

Another brand, with ingredients closer to Canidae's, is Hi-Tek Naturals.  Their Chicken Fitness formula has similar ingredients, also comes in a 44lb bag ($50, compared to Canidae's $60) and also has a frequent buyer program (Buy 10 get 1 free, Canidae's is Buy 12 get 1 free).  Their bag shows more kcals per kilogram than Canidae, but less kcals per cup.  When I measured cup to cup, I only saw a 0.13oz difference in weight.  Using my math, Hi-Tek really measures at 465 kcal/cup.  Making it a cheaper bag to buy than Canidae, and a cheaper feeding rate.

For that same 60lb dog used earlier, it would cost you $338 per year to feed Canidae vs $272 with HiTek.  $312 vs $248 if you use a frequent buyer card.  And while both brands are a better value than Beneful ($385/yr) and a much better quality, when you start to compare premium vs premium you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

But the question is:  Which math is correct?  If we use Canidae math, other brands look better than they realize.  But is this the accurate way of measuring calorie content, or does everyone do things a little differently??

In the end, sometimes the expensive bag costs less than you think.  But sometimes, if you look hard enough, you can find even better value out there.  Do some research, don't be afraid to use a calculator, and don't believe everything a business says.  Do YOUR math and don't trust theirs.
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