Taking a dog’s diet, researchers concluded that a dog would be responsible for 828.37 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year if consuming a dry diet compared to 6541 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year if they consumed a wet diet. There is a stark difference. The scientists highlighted the importance of considering pet food when discussing sustainability because the impact of pet food can be extensive. ‘Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq)’ brings together all the gases and processes that negatively impact the environment such as methane and equates it to CO2 emissions.
The scientists decided that the total dog population of Brazil (52.2 million) contributes to the total emission of carbon dioxide indirectly at 2.9 to 24.6% of the total estimated emission of carbon dioxide in Brazil. That is my interpretation.
The study is called “Environmental impact of diets for dogs and cats”. It is published on the Scientific Reports website. You can read it by clicking on the following link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-22631-0
They decided that dry food provides the highest amount of energy per gram. Wet diets and home-made diets provided higher amounts of protein.
Food’s contribution to global warming
The production of food is responsible for about 25% of the environmental impact on the planet. And pet food is a major operation and contributes markedly to carbon dioxide production and therefore global warming.
Pet numbers growing
Also, as the human population grows (it has just reached 8 billion) so does the pet population. The ingredients of companion animal food have a high environmental impact.
The scientists analysed the impact on greenhouse gas emission by assessing land use, acidifying emission, eutrophying emissions, freshwater withdrawals, and stress-weighted water use. ‘Eutrophying emissions’ refers to the run-off of excess nutrients into the surrounding environment and waterways which pollutes ecosystems.
They say that “dry pet foods caused lower environmental impact because the environmental impact variables studied were lower per 1000 kcal”.
Home-made cat and dog food falls in between wet and dry in terms of negative environmental impact according to them.
Wet food more popular
They rightly state that pet owners are becoming increasingly interested in the health impact of their diet and the general consensus, today, is that the wet diet is healthier than the dry diet because the latter is unnaturally low in water. The wet diet more accurately replicates a prey animal.
Some veterinarians are very much against the dry food diet, one of those is Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM who wrote a book about it essentially in which she criticises dry cat food extensively as an underlying cause of a number of upwardly trending feline illnesses such as type II diabetes (YOUR CAT). Although many vet clinics push dry diets.
Goal: pet health or the environment?
There’s going to be friction, therefore, between minimising environmental impact and improving companion animal health. Which is the more important? Everybody should do their bit to minimise global warming.
The world is watching Cop27 in Egypt and seeing the disaster that it is. It’s all talk talk, blah blah and no really positive, functional action because the participating leaders cannot agree on such matters as how much developed countries should support developing countries in tackling climate change.
The argument is that developed countries have contributed far more and continue to contribute far more to global warming than the poorer, developing countries. Therefore, they should support the latter, but they don’t want to fork out the money to do this.
Animal proteins versus plant proteins
Animal proteins, which are an essential part of a domestic cat’s diet, are in the spotlight because they usually have higher CO2 equivalent emissions. For example, they state that “the production of 100 g of pee protein is responsible for the emission of 0.4 kg of CO2 equivalent while the production of the same amount of protein from beef is responsible for 35.0 kg CO2 equivalent which is 90 times more.
Beef production in Brazil
This goes back to beef production which is a known major cause of global warming particularly in the Amazon basin where the forest has been cut down to create farms for cattle and cattle produces methane and of course cutting down forests also damages the planet because forests absorb carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. And in burning forests to remove them they also contribute to global warming.
Vegan and vegetarian food for pets
There is a trend at the moment towards producing dry cat food made from plant protein. There’s been some pushback from cat owners on this product because some people believe that you have to have animal protein in cat food. I have disagreed with this because protein is protein. This study if it is publicised enough will probably promote those products. These are not vegan or vegetarian cat foods. That is a misconception. This is pet food simply made with protein from a different source and a source, according to the study which is better for the environment.
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