In his 2017 study, Gregory Okin set out to quantify the environmental impact of our pets -- in particular, our meat-eating dogs and cats.
"Compared to a plant-based diet, meat requires more energy, land and water to produce, and has greater environmental consequences in terms of erosion, pesticides and waste," Okin says. Previous studies have found that the American diet produces the equivalent of 260 million tons of carbon dioxide from livestock production.
If U.S. dogs and cats were their own country, they'd rank fifth in global meat consumption
Dog and cat foods tend to have more meat than the average human diet. According to Okin, dogs and cats consume about 25 percent of the total calories derived from animals in the United States. "Through their diet, [dogs and cats] constitute about 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides."
Okin confirmed through his research that premium pet foods usually contain more animal products than byproduct-based brands, and that premium pet food purchases are increasing.
The "premium" pet food trend comes at a major environmental cost
“I’m not a vegetarian, but eating meat does come at a cost,” says Okin. “Those of us in favor of eating or serving meat need to be able to have an informed conversation about our choices, and that includes the choices we make for our pets."
The number of households with dogs and cats is increasing in the US, and at the same time there is a trend toward increasing meat quantity and quality in pet foods. Pet ownership, and by association meat consumption by pets, are also on the rise in other countries like China.
Reducing our pets' meat consumption doesn't require getting rid of our pets
Okin concludes by offering up possible solutions: "Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts."
Plant-based protein sources use a small fraction of the energy, land, and water required to produce meat, all while offering many health benefits to dogs. Compared to animal-based food, which can contain carcinogens, growth hormones, and antibiotics, plant-based dog food is clean and sustainable.
Learn more about the power of plants here.
V-dog is a vegan owned and operated family business that makes ethical kibble and treats for your pooch. Not only does a plant-based diet save lives and minimize your pup's environmental impact, it also provides all the nutrition they need to thrive. (Plus, it tastes amazing...just ask these dogs!) Learn more about the benefits of a vegan diet below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.