Consumer demand is shifting towards "human-grade" dog foods, largely as a result of recalls and heightened awareness of animal byproduct ingredients. Tim Wall, senior reporter for Petfood Industry, shares his thoughts on this trend in the midst of grim climate change predictions.
Is pet food becoming less sustainable?
Using large amounts of prime muscle meat in dog food could be described as an "ecological elephant in the room," according to Wall, who points out that dogs are omnivorous. Is it responsible of us to give our dogs fine cuts of meat when the environment is suffering from the impacts of animal agriculture? Is it ethical to produce resource-heavy dog food amid ongoing world hunger?
"Over the past few decades, some individuals, groups and pet food marketing campaigns have denigrated organ meat, byproducts and other tissues that most U.S. consumers don’t themselves eat," says Wall. Pet parents don't love the idea of feeding their dogs ingredients like pulverized feathers and beaks (labelled as "poultry meal") or horse meat (often contaminated with barbiturates).
Many consumers now seek out human-grade ingredient claims, which Wall argues may be projecting their human desires onto their pets. After all, pet food trends do tend to follow human diet fads (think: low-carb, high protein diets).
How much do our pets really contribute to climate change?
In a 2017 paper by Gregory Okin, PhD, the environmental damage caused by U.S. dogs and cats was estimated to be 25-30% of the country's total animal agriculture footprint. The study raised a red flag about the environmental impacts of having a meat-eating pet.
Wall predicts that a major shift could be on the horizon for the pet food industry: "As ecological and social sustainability grow in importance to pet owners, certain trends may be affected, and pet owner demands can change faster and more easily than formulations, marketing campaigns or packaging."
Can dog food be sustainable without resorting to animal byproducts?
If human-grade pet food is environmentally taxing and byproduct-based diets are low-quality, where do we go from here? Many companies are making plant-based diets for dogs that tread lightly on the planet and provide complete and balanced nutrition. The resources required to produce a meatless diet are significantly lower, even when high-quality and byproduct-free ingredients are used. Learn more about why pet parents choose plant-based for their dogs.
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Source: Petfood Industry