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The Pet Food You Choose Has A Huge Impact On The Environment – Here’s Why

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Every pet owner has their unique way of feeding their pet, due to either personal beliefs, marketing or their pet’s preference.

And, as The Conversation suggests, it can be difficult for owners to come to terms with what’s fad and what’s fact.

The pet food industry is worth nearly US$25 billion in the United States alone, and current pet food trends “encourage owners to feed their pets much the same foods that humans eat: high-quality “human grade” meat and organic produce, [and] maybe even some “superfoods”.

Unfortunately, as much as you might think your dog is your child, these types of food are not necessary for pets’ health, and it’s really not all the environmentally sustainable either.

Here’s why:

Pets can have a large ecological footprint, and their food is a big contributing factor. Sustainable living experts Robert and Brenda Vale suggest in their book “Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living” that a medium-size dog could have a similar footprint to a large SUV. Other experts have come to similar conclusions about the sustainability of feeding pets.

You see, it’s all about the meat:

Making pet food takes a lot of animal protein, and the current trend is to feed our pets high-meat diets. Typical dog foods contain 20 to 40 percent protein, while cat foods range from 30 to 60 percent, much of it from animal sources.

Meat-based diets for humans and animals alike have much larger ecological footprints than plant-based diets, because it takes lots of land, water and food to feed pigs, cows, sheep, poultry and farmed fish.

So how can we minimise this? There are a few ways.

First, by using animal by-products which are sustainable and healthy for animals to consume:

The best way to feed our pets meat-based diets with minimal footprints is to use every part of the animals we slaughter for human food, including organs. These ingredients (which do not include hair, horns, teeth or intestinal contents), often collectively termed “by-products,” can be very good-quality sources of nutrients that pets enjoy.

While the pet food industry is well aware of this issue, many companies persist in telling pet owners that by-products should be avoided to make their own diets more appealing.

Then there’s the term “human-grade”. While some manufacturers use the term to describe their products, it has no legal meaning and does not actually connote anything about quality or nutritional value.

And what about those “vegan” dogs? Well, contrary to many reports, “there are no documented health benefits to feeding pets a grain-free diet or one that avoids other plant ingredients.”

Dogs have an increased ability to obtain nutrients from grains and other plants – but this doesn’t mean a vegetarian or vegan diet the best diet choice. Dogs and especially cats generally do best with at least some animal products in their diets.

But the biggest way to reduce the environmental impact of pet food? Consume less.

Obesity is not only real in humans, but pets too. If you really care about animals, you should be considering the environment, too.


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