Pet food is inherently sustainable due to the ingredients used to make it. Because pet food is made from meat, poultry, grains and other agriculture products, the pet food industry has benefited from the increased efficiencies in agricultural production over the last century.
Farm Output Has Grown
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the efficiency of the U.S. agricultural sector has made significant production efficiency gains over the past few decades. Today the amount of crops grown per acre is more than 4 times what it was in 1950.
"Agriculture producers have become more efficient in the last century due to modern technology,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "In 1940, producers fed on average 19 people. Today, each farmer feeds on average 155 people. While modern technology on the farm helps farmers be more productive, biotechnology also plays a big role. Crops enhanced through biotechnology allow farmers to produce more food on less land with significant benefits for the environment.”
Environmentally Friendly Co-Products
In addition to benefiting from increasingly efficient agricultural production, the use of plant and animal co-products (a.k.a., by-products) is a soundly sustainable practice. Animal co-products, for example, are defined by culture and are those meats and other portions of an animal generally not eaten by people within a particular geographic area. Co-products may be delicacies in one culture while they remain uneaten in another. These ingredients are important sources of good quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and essential amino and fatty acids that do not diminish the human food supply while providing other environmental benefits.
Animal co-products that have been processed at a rendering facility are greener still. Rendering facilities cook down portions of an animal at very high temperatures to derive nutritious, usable fats as well as a fine, protein and mineral rich powder called a "meal."
The National Renderers Association (NRA) commissioned an independent scientific study to establish the carbon footprint of a typical rendering facility. The study found that for every 50 tons of carbon dioxide released, the rendering process captures at least 200 tons of carbon dioxide.
"Alternative processes release tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and pose other serious environmental problems. Plus they do not recapture usable products such as nutritionally dense protein meals, fats and tallow,” said Tom Cook, president of NRA.
To learn more about sustainability and the pet food industry, read Winds of Change in the Fall 2010 issue of PFI Monitor.