How Dog Food Can Reduce Your Pet’s Carbon Footprint
Animal lovers and pet parents can’t imagine life without their little furry buds. However, even as more families are welcoming pets into their homes, environmentalists are consistently raising concerns about the alarming growth in their pet’s carbon footprint.
Studies indicate the meat ingredients in pet foods alone contribute close to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. This value is equivalent to the emissions from driving 13.6 million cars.
Americans own close to 163 million dogs and cats, according to statistics gathered in 2018, and these numbers have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. This statistic is noteworthy because pets consume around 25% to 30% of the 94.3 billion pounds of meat produced in the country, comparable to the meat eaten by 62 million Americans.
Pet owners must take a closer look at the land and water resources needed to produce the food they feed their furry friends.
So, what can you do to lower your pet’s carbon footprint, but at the same time, ensure they are healthy and happy?
Switch to Green, Sustainable Food
One of the first steps you can take in the right direction is to look at the food options available. While there’s a lot of discussion of human sustainable food, these pet options often go overlooked–yet, they are present. When you go shopping, look for products that have been produced with minimal impact on the environment and the earth’s capability to sustain future generations. Check labels carefully for non-GMO foods made without using chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers.
Shopping at local farmers’ markets helps support small businesses reliant on natural methods to grow and process food. Small farms are more likely to use organic, cheaper, and more effective fertilizers like cow manure, limestone, and alfalfa meal that nourish the soil without causing permanent damage. Besides fresh farm produce, you would also want to add free-range poultry to your small friend’s diet. Avoiding beef and lamb will help cut back on the greenhouse gases produced when rearing cows and sheep.
Consider Adopting a Vegan Diet to Lower Your Pet’s Carbon Footprint
Gradually phase out meat-based brands and focus on vegan dog food unlikely to contain feed-based ingredients. Meat- or feed-based animal products are typically low quality as compared to human-grade food. Should you read conventional pet food labels, you’ll come across terms like “meat and bone meal,” “meal,” and “animal byproducts”. These are essential ingredients taken at the expense of livestock.
Consuming such foods from sources of dubious quality could have adverse effects on your little friend’s health. Instead, go for yeast and fungi-based foods rich in essential amino acids that help in tissue building. These vegan foods also help regulate hormones and build more robust immunity. Most importantly, you’ll lower reliance on farmed livestock, which we all know has a severe impact on the environment.
The Impact of Meat Production on the Environment is Staggering
Research published by National Geographic has some interesting information. As compared to producing beans, beef consumes 20 times more land resources and has 20 times more emissions per gram of protein. And that’s not all; beef, lambs, and goats release copious amounts of methane gas which has far more damaging effects than carbon on the atmosphere.
It may interest you to know, aside from land use and fertilizer, beef production also raises carbon dioxide levels during meat processing, packaging for consumption, and transporting to retail outlets. Simply by switching to greener products, you could help lower global temperatures by 1.5C degrees.
What Else Can You Do to Lower Carbon Emissions?
That’s often the question pet parents have. Most importantly, never overfeed your buddy. Dogs can melt your heart when they beg for food, treats, and tidbits from your table. But keep in mind obesity is one of the leading pet problems vets warn against. Restrict portion sizes and measure out dog food carefully according to your vet’s instructions.
You would also want to lower waste as much as possible. Americans are known to waste around 40% of the food they buy. Try not to add to this statistic. Talk to your friends and family to raise awareness about their carbon footprint and lowering emissions. And, when you see someone sporting an amber yellow climate change bracelet, let them know you share their commitment to the planet.
Reversing the effects of human activities on the environment is a long road, but today is an excellent time for you and your pet to take the first steps to lower your pet’s carbon footprint.
Author bio: Ryan Bethencourt is the CEO of Wild Earth. Through his work, he aims to positively impact the lives of billions of people, animals and our planet, through applied biotechnology.