Sourcing Ingredients for Homemade Pet Food

Estimated reading time: 5 min

Feeding a fresh food diet is a steep learning curve for most pet parents. Additionally, sourcing the ingredients necessary to prepare a balanced homemade diet can be overwhelming for those who do not know where to start. However, there are multiple options that pet parents can leverage to purchase items needed.

There are many ways to source ingredients and knowing the tricks of the trade can help reduce the stress and cost of sourcing. Below are the most common options for sourcing ingredients:

Retail Businesses

Pet parents can find most of the ingredients needed to feed a homemade diet at their local grocery stores, ethnic markets or butcher shops.

Online Suppliers

Many ingredients for home prepared diets can be ordered online and shipped to a home address.

Raw Feeding Co-ops

Food Cooperatives (Co-ops) can provide access to bulk quantities, wholesale prices, and difficult to source ingredients.

Abattoirs & Game Processors

Slaughterhouses and wild game processors can be affordable sources for organs and scraps.

Small Local Farmers

Local farmers are a great source of high quality meats and organs, even in more suburban and urban areas.

Hunters & Wild Game

Hunting for wild game provides the opportunity for high quality food. However, networking with hunters is an alternative option for pet parents who do not hunt.

Freezer Cleanouts

Farmers and hunters alike clean out their freezers from the previous year’s stock to make room for fresh meat in the upcoming year.

Retail Businesses

Local grocery stores, ethnic markets, and butcher shops are excellent ways to source ingredients for homemade diets. Ethnic or international markets in the USA often carry many organs, seafood, and cuts of meat that the average american grocery store does not carry. Butcher shops may also carry or offer custom ordering.

Pro Tip 1

Grocery stores that have a meat counter will have an employee that manages the purchasing of meats for this department. They can often special order organs, muscular organs and meaty bones that aren’t normally stocked on request. 

There are two myths that commonly circulate about sourcing from grocery stores or ethnic and international markets:

Many believe that ethnic and international markets are not as clean or carry lower quality ingredients as compared to other grocery stores in the USA. However, this assumption is inaccurate and harmful to their communities. All ethnic and international markets must adhere to the same standards of cleanliness and quality as any other grocery store in America.

It is often perpetuated that meat from a grocery store is not safe to feed raw since it is intended to be cooked for human consumption. However, meat that has gone through the inspection process for human consumption by a regulatory agency (such as the USDA, or another country’s equivalent) is safe to feed raw in homemade diets for cats and dogs. Meat from raw food suppliers will come from the same sources that stock grocery stores.

Pro Tip 2

Purchasing sale items in bulk and freezing them for later use is one way to reduce costs. If storage space is an issue, used storage freezers can easily be found cheaply on craigslist or facebook marketplace.

Online Suppliers

There are many raw pet food suppliers that sell the various muscle meats, seafood, organs, and meaty bones that can be used in a home prepared diet. Depending on the company, they may offer local pickup, delivery via a local route, or ship these items with dry ice directly to a home address. Shipping heavy, frozen ingredients is always going to be pricey but the convenience can be worth it for many pet parents. 

Below are common online suppliers that ship within the continental USA.

There are also many companies that ship seafood and meat for human consumption to your door. While these products are typically cost prohibitive, they are another convenient option for sourcing ingredients for homemade diets. Additionally, canned fish and shellfish can often be ordered from Amazon.com or a comparable website.

Raw Feeding Co-ops

Raw feeding co-ops or facebook groups can be a great way to source ingredients for homemade diets. These Co-ops are groups of raw feeders who have come together to purchase in bulk from wholesale sources. This method offers the benefit of purchasing in bulk, lower wholesale costs, or sourcing hard to find ingredients. 

Finding a local co-op will require searching either on the internet or in raw feeding facebook groups. Additionally, raw feeding facebook groups dedicated to a specific state or region can also be good resources for finding local ingredients.

Stay Safe

Co-ops and facebook groups are typically run by individuals and not businesses. They often involve a meet up in order for each member to pick up their portion of the bulk order. Therefore, it is important to use discretion and common sense when meeting and dealing with unknown individuals.

Pro Tip 3

If a co-op or facebook group for a specific area does not yet exist, consider paving the way by starting one! Connecting with restaurant wholesale providers and business-to-business connections for bulk purchases is recommended.

Abattoirs & Game Processors

Abattoir is another term for slaughterhouse. While the butchering of meat animals is not a pleasant subject, abattoirs handle this process in order to provide meat for groceries, butcher shops, and restaurants. Some abattoirs will sell directly to the public or are willing to save the organs on request that they would normally discard. These items such as heart, lungs, liver and other organs from the chest cavity of an animal are often termed “pluck” or “offal”.  

Additionally, some areas will have Game Processors that handle the breaking down and packaging of big game animals such as deer and elk. These processors may be willing to save meat scraps for raw feeders on request.

Pro Tip 4

When asking for pluck or scrap from abattoirs and processors, it is important to be polite and to arrive on time. No-shows or impoliteness will make these businesses unwilling to work with raw feeders.

Small Local Farmers

Small local farmers can be another great source of high quality ingredients. Even in urban and suburban areas, there are often some local individuals raising small meat animals such as rabbits or quail. Many people who raise their own meat animals do the processing themselves and may have offcuts and organs which would normally get discarded. 

Posting in local facebook groups, whether they are raw feeding groups or not, can be one way to connect with small farmers. Additionally, perusing local farmer’s markets and speaking with meat vendors is another option for making a relationship with local farmers.

Hunters & Wild Game

Local hunters may be willing to save scraps and organs for raw feeders to prevent waste. However, this will depend on the person and the location of the hunt. If a hunter must carry out their meat from a remote location, they may not be able or willing to carry the added weight of the offal.

Freezer Cleanouts

Freezer cleanouts are often the best way to obtain game meat or free meat. In areas where hunting and/or farming is common, posting in local buy and sell groups asking for meat from previous seasons that is being cleaned out can prove fruitful. Even meat that is several years old is safe to feed if it has remained frozen.

Pro Tip 5

It is important to specify in these posts that any meat must have remained frozen and must be unseasoned. Many well meaning individuals incorrectly assume that raw feeders will utilize meat that has started to go bad or that has been pre seasoned for human consumption.


Many pet parents who are just beginning to feed a home prepared diet do not know where to begin when it comes to sourcing ingredients. However, there are multiple options:

Retail Businesses

Including but not limited to supermarkets, ethnic and international markets.

Online Suppliers

Common online suppliers in the USA are Raw Feeding Miami, North Star Bison, Top Quality Dog Food, My Pet Carnivore, and Hare Today.

Raw Feeding Co-ops

It is recommended to research local co-ops.

Abattoirs & Game Processors

Slaughterhouses and game processors are a way to access off-cuts from meat processing.

Small Local Farmers

Sourcing from small scale farmers is an option to purchase high quality ingredients.

Hunters & Wild Game

Networking with hunters is an option for pet parents who do not hunt.

Freezer Cleanouts

Obtaining frozen and unseasoned meat from freezer cleanouts is a method to reduce overall spending.

The amount of effort pet parents can put into sourcing ingredients for a homemade diet will vary based on budget, location, and lifestyle. As a general rule, easy and convenient sourcing may result in higher costs; while time invested into thrifty shopping may yield more affordable costs.