For example, animal protein can be replaced by plant protein, which requires substantially less water and energy to produce. Soy-based proteins are a common pet food ingredient, and their production is estimated to be 6 to 20 times more efficient in terms of fossil fuel requirements.
Pet food manufacturers also make heavy use of the secondary products from the human food chain.
"That's great from a sustainability standpoint because we're using the products that would otherwise not be used," said Swanson.
In short, there are strategies to make pet food manufacturing more sustainable while meeting the animals' nutritional needs and keeping the products affordable. Pet food is a $55 billion industry worldwide, so adopting sustainable practices could have a global impact.
Nutritional sustainability is not just about minimizing environmental impact, it also involves promoting pet health through appropriate nutrition and food quality and safety. "Advancement in areas of nutritional sustainability will help us develop innovative products to improve pet health and nutrition and produce quality and safe pet food," said Rebecca Carter, research scientist at The Nutro Company. "Nutritional sustainability is part of a wider sustainability platform to improve the sustainability of our products and promote the sustainability of pet ownership and the pet food industry."
However, pet owners also need to adopt sustainable feeding practices. Overfeeding and obesity of pets is a growing concern. Swanson stresses the importance of educating "consumers, veterinarians, pet food professionals, everybody."
"They're being fed as much as 20 percent more than they need, so their health is poor, and you're wa
|Contact: Susan Jongeneel|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences