As we increasingly watch our own environmental footprint, it is only natural that we start wondering how we can reduce the impact our pets may have on our planet.The American Public Health Association defines a sustainable food system as “one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment.”
Like many of us, cats and dogs eat meat. But, we have come to realize that large-scale meat consumption can be harmful to the environment. Food production now accounts for one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and takes up half of the planet's habitable surface. Meat and dairy production specifically accounts for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization.
So, you may well have considered cutting down your own and your pet’s meat intake. Perhaps you are vegan and wondering if there is vegetarian or plant-based food for pets and whether it could be a viable alternative diet for your dog or cat.
Is vegan pet food healthy for your pet?
This has been a hotly debated topic in pet parent circles in recent years – as more vegan or vegetarian pet owners switch to what they believe is also a healthier, plant-based and more environmentally-friendly diet for their dogs or cats.
It is important to remember that although diets for pets may often contain the same ingredients as human diets, our nutritional needs are not the same.
Protein is a very important part of a healthy, balanced pet diet and it is involved in various biological functions – such as building and repairing muscles, forming new skin cells and growing hair.
Proteins are made up of amino acids and dogs need 10 essential amino acids. Healthy dogs are able to synthesize additional amino acids themselves.
Because dogs are able to more efficiently digest and utilize nutrients from plant sources, they are better suited to a plant-based diet than cats. In principle, therefore, it is possible for dogs to follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet, but experts warn that the diet has to be very carefully balanced and possibly supplemented to meet the dog’s nutritional needs. How much protein they need also depends on their life stage and activity levels. For example, puppies need more protein than adult dogs. It is always better to consult your veterinarian when planning to introduce a change to your dog’s diet.
When it comes to cats, most experts agree that cats need a high protein diet as they are obligate carnivores. Unlike dogs, cats need to eat meat to fulfill their unique requirements for specific amino acids, vitamins and fatty acids. A lack of protein in cats can cause a lack of energy and in the long run, vegan diets can cause serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease and blindness. It can also lead to urinary tract disease in cats.
It is therefore absolutely essential to consult your veterinarian before considering a vegan diet for your cat.
Sustainable pet food companies – what to look for?
Look out for pet food made from sustainable ingredients
What is a sustainable ingredient?
An ingredient produced and distributed in a way that respects the environment and also the livelihoods of people involved in the production of the product.
Sustainably sourced proteins
One way to adopt sustainability into you and your pet’s life is to feed your pet sustainably sourced proteins such as cage-free chicken, free-range beef and venison or wild-caught salmon. These options can have a reduced impact on our planet.
Canidae’s new Sustain product line includes a cage-free chicken recipe. Canidae's chickens are raised humanely and stress-free - without cages, protected from the elements, and in an enriched environment with natural light and proper rest. And their Salmon recipe uses wild-caught Alaskan Salmon, sourced from fisheries that maintain sustainable salmon populations and minimize the impact to their habitats.
Sustainable plant-based proteins
Pet food manufacturers are increasingly searching for more environmentally-friendly sources of protein. For example, yeast is a popular protein source for dogs.
One example is the use of brewers yeast, used by Canidae™ in their new sustainable range Sustain. Canidae's first plant-based recipe is made with highly digestible brewer's yeast, an excellent source of protein for adult dogs' needs. This vegetarian dog food is part of their new range of sustainable products. Its protein source includes brewer's yeast that is up-cycled from the brewing industry. This formula contains all the essential amino acids your dog needs.
As explained earlier, you should always discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian first to ensure your four-legged friend is receiving proper nutrition.
Other ways to reduce the environmental impact of your pet
- Consider buying from pet food companies that support sustainable practices to help reverse climate change, such as reducing pesticide use, reducing runoff and adopting regenerative farming practices.
- Look for brands with ingredients sourced from supply chains that don’t involve exploitative labor practices – such as inappropriate working conditions or child labor. Be sure to choose a pet food brand with a history of supporting sustainability throughout the pet food cycle.
- Buy pet food made in the USA, which cuts down on unnecessary transport from overseas and can reduce the carbon output.
- Support sustainable pet food packaging. By reducing, reusing and recycling pet food packaging, companies can reduce their carbon footprint. For example, Canidae Sustain packaging is made from 40 percent post-consumer recycled material – the highest percentage of recycled packaging of any US pet brand.
Canidae’s nutritionally dense food uses wholesome ingredients like farm-grown veggies, hearty grains and premium proteins. Every recipe is vet formulated to meet AAFCO standards.
Canidae believes in delivering goodness to pets, people and the planet and they have introduced their own “cycle of goodness” to ensure sustainability all the way through the supply chain.
If you want to reduce your pet’s environmental footprint – check out Sustain, Canidae's sustainably sourced, nutrient-rich and responsibly packaged pet food range.