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The Impact of Ecology in Pet Food: Sustainability and Environmental Concerns

Discover how ecology in pet food affects the environment. Explore sustainable options, packaging, and ethical considerations.

The benefits of the presence of such animals on physical and psychological health are widely known and recognised. At the same time, the impact of a pet-centred lifestyle on the environment is less considered.

The importance of ecology in pet food. They are the ray of sunshine illuminating dark moments, the best friends we could wish for, who do not judge us and are always there for us.

They are suitable for our body and soul, and their presence in our homes, even in the city, and in our hectic days, reconnects us to that ‘animal’ part of us, close to Nature, that we are increasingly losing in the age of technology. But have we ever wondered what impact they have on the environment surrounding our pets, the hundreds of things we buy for their well-being, and the industry that revolves around it all?

Market development

This is an important question to ask, and it is equally important to know what green lifestyles we can consider during our ‘six-legged life‘. All the media have, in recent years, ample devoted space to the worrying environmental and climate changes that are taking place, and there are simple steps we can all take to reduce the impact of our daily activities.

To get an idea of the market generated by our little friends, suffice it to say that the pet food market in the UK is the second largest in the world, behind only the US, and appears to be growing. Consumer spending on pets and pet-related products in the UK increased by almost 17% between 2020 and 2021, reaching nearly GBP 9.7 billion. (Source: Statista.com)

Therefore, it seems inevitable to start here to analyse some of the problems raised by the pet market regarding environmental sustainability and possible solutions.

Ecology in pet food. Quality of life of farm animals

Sustainability is the conscientious management of resources and waste necessary to meet the physiological needs of companion animals without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their environmental, social or economic needs.
The Journal Nature, which conducted a study on Brazilian pets, leaves no room for doubt: according to the research, wet food produces eight times more climate-warming emissions than dry food.

What, for example, are the characteristics that pet owners look for in the food they choose for their pets to call green? Of course, quality is the priority: no responsible pet owner would consider feeding his dog or cat less than excellent, healthy and adapted products, given the impressive variety of brands, formulas and recipes available today.

But recently, a broader vision has also gained ground, which leads one to consider not only the welfare of one’s animal but also that of the planet and the other creatures involved in this market. An aspect that poses many ethical problems since it is well known that the intensive farming used to produce both types of meat for us and meat that will end up in pet food is certainly not an example of respect and mercy towards the animals from which that meat comes.

Ecology in pet food. Packaging and organic products

For this reason, 66% of owners prefer brands that use animal-friendly farms. Other relevant parameters for product greenness, again according to owners, are the use of environmentally friendly packaging (64%) and ingredients from organic cultivation and sustainable animal farming (55%). In addition to the already mentioned ethical and moral problems, large-scale farming, especially of pigs and cattle, involves more strictly practical issues, namely the devastating impact on the soil.

Even without thinking of the hectares of forests cut down to make way for intensive cereal cultivation to feed these animals, the spreading of harmful, sometimes even illegal, gases and livestock waste is responsible for as much as 57% of the total polluting emissions of ammonia and methane, which cause soil acidification and groundwater pollution and contribute to global warming.

The massive use of antibiotics in these contexts magnifies the problem. However, it is also true that the amount of protein in pet food comes partly from processing residues from the food industry, which are then processed, through processes such as extrusion, into the pet food of our furry friends.

However, this does not reduce the environmental impact we have described, which can be measured through the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the zootechnical and industrial processes involved in production (the so-called carbon footprint).

How to be Greener

A first skim, within reach of any owner, in the direction of sustainable pet food is undoubtedly to do some research, through the vast amount of information available on the web, but also through the advice of trusted experts (veterinary surgeon, nutritionist, breeder, dog trainer…), looking for brands that are attentive to these issues.

And for those who want to go a step further? There is a widespread conviction that ‘homemade’ or raw diets, such as BARF or even those introducing vegan food, are more sustainable and healthier for our pets than industrial diets. Still, vets do not unanimously agree on this point.

Moreover, a veterinary nutritionist should always follow and monitor these diets, especially in animals suffering from gastrointestinal intolerances, deficiencies or hypersensitivities. An alternative you might consider is to offer your pet food produced by less polluting processes, such as cold-pressing, or even a type of protein that has less impact on the environment, such as those from insects.

You may have already come across these unusual foods in your pet shop, and if you were surprised or even disgusted, here are some excellent reasons why you should reconsider. So-called novel foods, in which the primary protein source is insects, or even algae, yeasts and mushrooms, are already a reality in the food cultures of many countries, and leading universities are researching their properties.

They are proteins of high nutritional value, containing all the essential amino acids for our and our pet’s life processes. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, highly digestible and ideal even for dogs and cats suffering from intolerances and allergies.

Suffice it to say that a meal made from insects provides between 9.96 and 35.2 grams of protein per 100 grams, compared to 16.8-20.6 of meat, with an incalculably lower environmental impact than food from traditional livestock farming.

If, despite all this, the idea of feeding our dog or kitten a bowl of kibble made from grubs and crickets still doesn’t convince you, then to help the environment, you could turn to a brand that uses sustainable packaging such as products SALMOIL by NECON PET FOOD SRL.

Salmoil Recipe 2 contains a unique mix of ingredients such as dried yeast, FOS ( short chain fructoligosaccharides) and poluphenols able to promote intestinal well-being stimulating bacterial flora growth and modulation the immune response.
The original aluminium pack is only Salmoil! Complementary Food for Dogs and Cats based on Norwegian Salmon Oil.

The future of packaging is linked to the advent of innovative and ecological materials, from biodegradable and compostable films derived from vegetable components such as corn to so-called biofilms and bioplastics, aggregates of microbial cells held together by a self-produced polymer matrix. The current trend is to produce sustainable mono-material packaging to make proper disposal easier.

In addition to being more convenient for the consumer, maxi-size pouches (e.g. bags of kibble) can be enriched with remarkable freshness-saving technologies to ensure not only optimal product preservation during the (usually rather long) shelf life of pet shops but also the possibility of re-use without the risk of oxidation and contamination.

Ecology in pet food use, Shortening distances

We need to consider, in addition to what has already been said, the possibility of implementing strategies that for the moment seem to be perceived as marginal, such as the use of shorter supply chains to reduce the burden of road transport, which, in the light of the recent energy and supply crisis that is affecting the industry across the board, as well as the robust post-pandemic growth of e-commerce and home deliveries, has a decisive impact on costs and the environment.

Green is not only in pet food.

The Pet Sustainability Coalition, an international organisation that promotes awareness of virtuous behaviour and sustainable lifestyles to adopt in our coexistence with pets, makes other suggestions. For example, we prefer detergents based on vegetable ingredients for the hygiene and grooming of our furry one and consider other possibilities for all the accessories that may be useful to us.

Entirely vegetable-based cat litter and 100% biodegradable bags for collecting Fido’s needs are readily available. Thanks to this, we can help reduce the amount of plastic disposed of separately, and therefore incorrectly, daily.

For serial chewers, the Pet Suistainbility Coalition recommends choosing toys made of natural rubber that are durable and environmentally friendly.

We want to take this opportunity to remind you: it is an urban legend that faeces ‘fertilise the soil’; instead, they are potential pollutants and sources of dangerous bacteria, so ALWAYS pick them up! But there’s more: recycled materials can be an excellent choice when buying kennels, leashes, and clothing, and it is possible to come across fantastic quality products even second-hand if you know the proper channels to look through.

Through play, you can entertain your dog and find lots of fun games on ETSY made entirely by hand for your four-legged friend.

And what about toys? These are a sore point for any owner (and their wallet, alas…!) dealing with a particularly destructive dog. For the fiercest chewers, the PSC recommends choosing toys made of natural rubber that are durable, environmentally friendly and vandal-proof!

It is estimated that food containers and packaging waste account for just under a third of all municipal solid waste in the United States.
You are choosing dog toys that are safe for your puppy but also for the environment where he likes to go for a walk.

Caution also when adopting a pet.

In short, a world of strategies to help our planet is within everyone’s reach. But remember that a sustainable life with our pet always starts when we choose. If you have opted for a purebred pet, only entrust it to a qualified breeder (we will never stop repeating this), who will hand over a healthy puppy with all the necessary documentation and who will have no problem showing you the puppy’s parents and the environment in which they live.

Never give animals to anyone: the choice to take in a new family member must always be conscious.

Or, if the breed does not interest you, turn to your local kennel or cattery, where your next best friend is already waiting for you. Never buy puppies online or from untraceable traders offering exchanges in ‘neutral’ places and payment in cash only.

In addition to the risk of being conned, you would be feeding a black market that mercilessly exploits breeders and broodmares and churns out sick and unhealthy puppies, infested with parasites that are dangerous even to humans due to the poor hygienic conditions in which they are bred, and often unstable in terms of behaviour. Only in this way can we slowly reduce the number of abandoned, unwanted animals left in shelters, which would be a small step toward sustainability.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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