The new buzz word in pet food is ‘sustainability’. There has even been a ‘Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition’ formed. Is sustainability a real issue in pet food manufacturing or is sustainability the buzz to camouflage the use of horrible wastes in pet food?
How much does your dog impact the environment? A whole lot, according to sustainable-living gurus Brenda and Robert Vale. In their 2009 book “Time To Eat the Dog,” a medium-size dog’s environmental impact is about double that of an average sport utility vehicle.”
Our dogs are doing us a favor by eating the unwanted byproducts of our own food system. If we deny ourselves this benefit, we will have to raise cattle, sheep and pigs for the sole purpose of feeding them to dogs. That would make dogs into a luxury item that would be difficult to justify from an environmental perspective.
Two German Shepherds use more resources just for their annual food needs than the average Bangladeshi uses each year in total. But our pet population consumes a huge amount of resources which, in our climate constrained reality, are no longer available. With a human population of 7.2 billion and a dog and cat population now in the hundreds of millions (it’s estimated at 179m in the US alone), the Earth cannot sustain these populations – especially as a growing percentage of pets live their lives as ravenous consumers.
Veterinarian Dr. Tony Buffington goes so far to question if it is ethical to feed people food to pets. He states:
“Feed a puppy or Feed a child?”
“I recognize that marketing is not about evidence, and that pet owners are free to be convinced to buy and feed anything, regardless of the evidence for or against it. If people choose to believe that grain causes food allergy even though it doesn’t (any more than lactose causes milk intolerance), or that pets perform better when fed some imagined “ancestral” diet, even though their ancestors only lived for months vs. the many years of life that most contemporary pets enjoy, I respect their right to do so. It’s a matter of personal preference. But I cannot accept the notion, promoted by some pet food marketer, that animals should be eating “human-grade” foods.”
This veterinarian even goes so far as endorse 4D meats (meats from dying, diseased, disabled or deceased animals), stating “all of our ancestors, animal and human, ate “4D” meat, without benefit of modern food-safety processes to minimize the risk of harm to those consuming it.” He implies that since this classification of meats was good enough for our ancestors – why isn’t it 4D good enough for our pets?
And now we have the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition. From the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition website:
We value inclusive collaboration with manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, brands and retailers that leverages existing sustainability knowledge and experience as well as innovating solutions for sustainability issues facing the pet industry.
We value genuine sustainability improvement that favors implementation and action-oriented participation by member companies.
We collaborate to accelerate sustainability in the pet industry by encouraging the implementation of best-practices, by providing tools and resources for advancement and by promoting continual and authentic improvement for the benefit of our environment, communities and businesses.
Some of the information provided on the organization’s website seems beneficial, but my concern is that this organization would become a front for the continued use of dangerous wastes in pet food. I spoke with this organization and addressed my concerns with them. I was assured this was not the case, but I didn’t receive any real understanding of what the organization was about or any true confirmation the organization would take a stance against the use of 4D animals or other dangerous wastes in pet food.
My suggestion to pet food sustainability would be to provide pet food consumers assurances that meats and vegetable ingredients have passed USDA inspection. I believe most pet food consumers would be fine with by-product ingredients in their pet foods if we were provided the assurance the ingredients are disease free, have not been decomposing for a week out in the hot sun before inclusion in a pet food, and don’t contain denaturing agents or other dangerous chemicals. You want consumers to accept by-products – assure us they are safe. All food ingredients – human food or animal food – should be sourced from healthy, quality sources and held/transported in clean, appropriate manners.
I suggest to Dr. Buffington (quoted above) – since you are such a proponent of 4D meats – perhaps you can consume these meats yourself…say, for 30 days? Dr. Buffington – please make sure your affairs are in order before you attempt this, because you are probably going to get very, very ill…you might even die.
This won’t ever happen. Because there are federal laws that prohibit the consumption of 4D meats. There are such significant dangers to the consumption of diseased meats or consumption of meats from animals that have died other than by slaughter that federal laws were established stating any “food” would be adulterated (and illegal) should it contain any part of a diseased animal or an animal that has died other than by slaughter. That ‘food’ also means pet food. Federal laws prohibit meats from 4D animals to be used in any food – human or animal food.
But sadly – no authority enforces these laws with animal foods.
Sustainability in pet food could lead to good things, but sustainability Dr. Buffington’s way is just an excuse to dump more waste into pet food. The problem for pet food consumers is that much/most of the pet food industry is not transparent enough for us to know which sustainability they are talking about.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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