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Sustainability in the Pet Food Industry


The idea of sustainability has become increasingly popular in the early 21st century. Not only are individuals looking for ways to apply eco-friendly practices and use sustainable products in their personal lives, but businesses and entire industries are finding ways to use sustainable practices in their operations.

Some industries have embraced sustainability, while the idea still hasn’t caught on in other sectors. Pet food is one of the areas where eco-friendliness is not yet a common topic.

Nonetheless, sustainability, environmental friendliness, and related topics are becoming more important for pet food producers. The idea of “going green” has reached every industry on some level, and pet food is no exception.

Furthermore, more pet owners want to make sure that their pets get healthy food, and the products that they buy are sustainable. Pet food companies need to respond to this demand to remain competitive and meet their customer’s needs.

Environmental Impacts of the Pet Food Industry

The pet food industry will increasingly impact the environment in the coming decades. This is because the population of pets will likely increase as the population of people increases. If pet ownership levels remain the same, there will be more pets in the world as well.

As the number of pets increases, so will the demand for pet food. Like all other industries, the pet food industry needs to figure out how to meet this rising demand while also creating a sustainable production model.

How much will the pet food sector grow? According to an industry report, the pet food market will grow at a continuous annual rate of 4.85%. This growth will move the market size from $79.49 billion to $107.49 billion.

Why will sustainability practices become more important in the future?

Just like food systems for humans, pet food has a significant impact on the environment. The pet food industry emphasizes obtaining human-grade ingredients. The same sustainability issues that plague the livestock industry, for example, also impact the pet food sector.

Land, water, and feed are expensive, and their use eats up valuable resources.

Additionally, pet food manufacturers often produce their products in facilities that rely on fossil fuels for energy, which contributes to carbon emissions, air pollution, and global warming.

Finally, while a good deal of pet food uses ingredients leftover from human-food production, it leaves leftovers itself. These byproducts often get tossed into landfills.

What can pet food companies do to mitigate the impact of the industry on the environment? Whatever solutions they use, they must be scalable because of the expected rise in demand for pet food in the coming years.

Sustainable Ingredients

Sustainable ingredients can help increase the environmental-friendliness of pet food both in the short term and in the long run.

What Is a Sustainable Ingredient?

Food producers who use sustainable ingredients seek to limit the negative impact on the environment. They limit the use of resources that cannot get replaced, and they also restrict other damaging factors such as carbon emissions.

Part of limiting its negative impact on the environment involves protecting ecosystems and biodiversity in the places from which ingredients get sourced. In some cases, sustainability also includes not harming the local economy in the area where a company sources its ingredients. This aspect of sustainability can include ensuring fair wages and decent working conditions for laborers who pick or process the ingredients.

In the simplest terms, a sustainably sourced ingredient is one whose production and distribution respect the living world and the livelihoods of those involved in that production and distribution.

Integrating Sustainable Sourcing in Pet Food Production

So, based on this definition, how can food manufacturers ensure sustainability in their ingredients?

  • Food manufacturers can source ingredients from supply chains that do not rely on exploitative labor practices, such as child labor, bad working conditions, or unfair compensation.
  • Animals need nutrition more than they need specific ingredients. Food manufacturers can increase sustainability by considering alternative ingredients to provide various nutrients, especially protein. These sources can include fish, insects, and cuts from animals that humans typically don’t eat, such as organ meats.
  • Manufacturers should consider using more plant protein in their products. Soybeans, for example, are viable ingredients in pet food. Why is soy more sustainable? The overall environmental costs of producing plant protein are many times less than those of producing animal protein.
  • Feeding pets vegetables that are safe for them should be normalized. Contrary to popular belief, some vegetable products are reliable nutrient sources for both cats and dogs.

Vegetables and Pet Food

If a pet food company wants to include vegetables in their food products, which plants should they consider adding? It depends on the type of pet food. Also, the producer needs to ensure that they use these ingredients in the proper proportions.

Dogs

Dogs can benefit from the following vegetables:

  • Broccoli is a valuable source of fiber when eaten in small quantities by dogs. Note that they can lead to diarrhea when a dog eats an excessive amount.
  • Carrots are a rich source of fiber and vitamins. They are also good for your dog’s teeth as they can effectively remove tartar when a dog eats them raw.
  • Cucumbers are an excellent low-calorie snack in small quantities. Like broccoli, too much cucumber will likely cause an upset stomach.
  • Like carrots, celery is a good scrub for your dog’s teeth, and it does not add much to their daily calorie count.
  • Potatoes are an excellent ingredient to add calories and starch to a dog’s meal.

Cats

The situation for cats is a little different. They are pure carnivores, which means their diet should contain plenty of protein. A cat doesn’t necessarily need vegetables to stay healthy as they get all the nutrients they need from protein. You can, however, offer plant foods as light treats that are low in calories. The following products are safe for cats:

  • Asparagus;
  • Carrots;
  • Broccoli;
  • Green beans;
  • Peas;
  • Spinach.

Cats are not the same kind of chewers that dogs are. If you serve vegetables directly to a cat, you need to steam them first to get the right consistency.

Pet owners should consult their vet before adding vegetables to their pet’s diet.

For manufacturers, including vegetables in pet food or making snacks out of them is a viable move toward making the industry sustainable. It is not a difficult move if you get the right food processing equipment.

Industrial Dehydrators can help food producers get the right consistency and shelf life for their plant-based food products, while industrial dicers can help prepare vegetables for production.

Overfeeding

Overfeeding is not an issue for pet food manufacturers directly. However, it is still a problem for the general pet food industry and for individual owners.

For owners, overfeeding can impact pet health. Obesity is a big issue in much of the developed world, and it affects both humans and the pets they keep.

A measure that pet owners can take is to ensure that they don’t overfeed their pets. On a macro level, this will lead to an overall reduction in the amount of pet food that gets made, as the demand will become limited to cater strictly only to the nutritional needs of pets.

On an individual level, owners can ensure that their pets remain healthy and do not require repeated trips to the veterinarian.

The Future of Sustainability in the Pet Food Industry

Because of population growth, the demand for pet food will undoubtedly increase in the coming decades. Manufacturers are responding to this increase by adopting sustainable practices to make sure this growth does not come with environmental consequences.

Nestle, for example, is looking to bring new dimensions to its core brands and shift its portfolio to sustainable products.

Food manufacturers are increasingly turning to alternative sources of protein, including plants and insects as ingredients because these options are more sustainable.

Other companies are taking steps to ensure that their ingredients come from farms and processors with fair labor practices.

While sustainability practices continue to develop and evolve, industries, including the pet food industry, strive to make changes to their practices and products.

 

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