Sustainable Pet Food Is “In,” and That Means Long-Distance Transportation and Industrial Farming Is “Out”
By Beth Rush
Pet owners want the best for their companion animals, so they provide unconditional love and delicious food to keep them happy and healthy. But what if your furry friend’s favorite beef meal poses environmental risks?
Discover why traditional pet food practices like transportation and industrial farming can harm the environment, the growing importance of sustainability in the industry, and how businesses and owners can minimize their carbon footprint.
Detrimental Impacts of Long-Distance Transportation
Transportation consumes most of the world’s oil, which brings many significant environmental impacts, such as air pollution. Aside from that, this sector can contribute to the following:
- Emissions: Transportation accounted for 29% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it one of the major causes of climate change. Trucks, aircraft, railroads, and other automobiles contribute to this growing number.
- Health: Direct impacts such as carbon monoxide emissions and noise pollution can harm public health, especially those living near roadways.
- Land: Many people face traffic congestion daily, one of the most alarming effects of long-distance transportation. It can also contribute to the ever-growing urban sprawl, which can affect agricultural land and the natural habitat of wildlife.
The Environmental Impacts of Industrial Farming
Around 49 million hectares of agricultural land are used yearly to produce dry food for cats and dogs — almost twice the size of the U.K. Like transportation, industrial farming also accounts for 106 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
This sector also contributes to deforestation. Industries must get rid of trees to make room for crops fed to livestock. In addition to air pollution, industrial animal agriculture uses massive amounts of freshwater to feed and farm the animals that go into your pet’s food.
The Rise of Sustainable Pet Food Options
These environmental impacts contribute to the demand for sustainable options. Since producing food has environmental implications, many industries are shifting to manufacturing eco-friendly selections.
This rising trend is in conjunction with the booming pet ownership rate, with around 66% of households in the U.S. having at least one animal at home in 2023. This growing number means that the demand for pet food will only increase throughout the years.
Creating food for your furry friend uses many animals. A review of the ingredient labels of the 2020 pet food industry showed that chicken, cow, fish, and lamb are mainly produced for food. The numbers and environmental impacts will only continue to rise if pet food brands avert from adopting eco-friendly practices.
How Pet Companies Can Be More Sustainable
Fortunately, there’s a way to provide food for your pet without costing the lives of other animals. As more animal owners become environmentally conscious, companies should work to develop ways to save the planet while feeding cats and dogs. Here are some ways they can contribute to reducing their carbon footprint.
- Produce Eco-Friendly Food Options
Sustainably-sourced food uses quality ingredients that are ethically sourced and nutrient-dense. Your pet can enjoy the following multitude of benefits:
- Higher-quality protein: Sustainable pet food contains organic vegetables, grains or legumes. These contribute to a well-balanced diet to support your furry one’s well-being.
- Gut-friendly: Since food options are ethically sourced, your cat or dog will have improved digestion.
- Longevity: Nutrient-dense meals help boost your pet’s immune system, keeping them in tip-top shape for longer.
An example of a pet food brand offering planet-friendly options is the Portland Pet Food Company. Their microwave-friendly pouches contain human-grade ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. It’s free from hormones, meat by-products, and preservatives.
In addition to the growing sustainable market, food products with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified sustainable seafood are becoming popular, with salmon being the most popular planet-friendly fish option for pets. This fish has many scientifically proven benefits for humans. The good news is it’s also beneficial for your pup or cat’s health. Salmon has one of the highest omega-3 contents among all fish, which provides physiological and cognitive benefits.
- Use Electric Cars
Companies can utilize electric cars for long-distance transportation to help combat high GHG emissions as they have a significantly lower impact on the planet than diesel cars.
- Increase Items Per Order
Pet food companies can tackle the road to saving the planet and costs by increasing the number of items delivered by order. They can offer product bundles at a discounted price so consumers can purchase more items per checkout.
- Use Sustainable Packaging Materials
Using recycled materials could be a pet food brand’s first step toward sustainability. They can explore using upcycled items to create containers that don’t compromise food safety. Brands and technological companies can also look into developing innovative packaging materials that detect pathogens, absorb oxygen, and alert pet owners of spoiled food.
How to Switch to Sustainable Pet Food
Over 10% of pet owners feed their dogs an intermittent plant-based diet. As an owner who only wants the best for their companion animal and the planet, you can join your fellow animal caretakers in taking these steps toward a greener tomorrow.
- Swap Slowly
If you want to replace some of your pet’s meat-based products with plant-based ones, do it gradually. You can introduce it to your furry friend by mixing their current food and progressively increasing the proportion of sustainable food.
- Monitor Your Pet
Observe their reaction to the new diet. If they show signs of discomfort, lack of appetite or changes in stool consistency, consult a veterinarian.
- Choose Proteins Wisely
Did you know that beef is more resource-intensive than other animals, such as chicken? Feeding them requires land to grow, which comes with a carbon cost. When shopping for sustainable pet food, skip those made from beef and opt for more eco-friendly alternatives, like chicken or edible insects.
Love Your Pet and the Planet
As a pet owner, making small shifts toward sustainability can slowly, but surely, help save the environment for the next generations. Feeding your cat or dog eco-friendly food can help create a safe future for you, your companion, and the world.
About the Author: Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind. She has more than five years of experience writing and editing articles covering topics like sustainable transit and the importance of green spaces in urban planning. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.
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