Monday, January 25, 2010

Sustainable Pet Food: How Can Your Pet Eat Green?

We love our pets. But what are we feeding them? While we might be feeding our human family organic, local, and sustainable food, the quality and the origins are the food that we feed our pets often leaves something to be desired. Pet food is food, and when we talk about sustainable food we want to consider the diets of all members of our family, including the non-human ones. In the US alone, there are more than 61 million pet dogs. That’s million, folks. That’s a lot of pet chow.

Now, there are a number of ways to green your pet’s eating. There’s even the hard-core option of seeking vegan-friendly foods for your carnivorous pets, an action that attracts a lot of controversy on both sides of the fence. If Fido and Fluffy are going to be carnivores, though, what can you do to make their impact less profound?

Even before we touch on what’s in the food, think about the packaging that your pet’s food comes in. Is it sustainable? If you’re using many miniature cans of cat food or very small packages of non-recyclable cat treats, it might be worth looking at bulk options. Even buying pet food in larger cans makes a difference. Make sure that you choose packaging that is recyclable, if at all possible.

Many people swear by homemade or raw food diets for their pets. When you’re feeding a pet raw or homemade food, it’s possible to look into all sorts of local, sustainable, and ethically-raised sources of meat. While you may not end up feeding your pet the prime cuts, you’ll know that the pet food you’re feeding your pets is raised in the same way as the rest of your food. You’ll also be supporting a local farmer and using up some of the less-choice cuts of meat.

If you’re looking at commercial pet foods, look for foods that incorporate organic and ethically-raised sources of meat. Many pet foods incorporate the leftovers from human foods like fish into the creation of food for pets. Now, it’s good to use the leftovers, but if the industry itself is depleting the oceans or damaging air and water, are its byproducts still sustainable?

Pets are very much an industry, with marketing and branding just like food for people. Yet for some reason, the pet food industry has avoided much of the push for sustainable food. Next time you visit the store to pick up some dinner, think about the origins and the packaging of what’s in the pet food aisle, just as you think about it in the other sections of the store.

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