What makes a dog food eco-friendly and sustainable? Should your dog’s environmental footprint matter?
To better understand why it matters we need to first look at the facts behind the environmental impact feeding our dogs has.
It is estimated our dogs currently consume approximately 20% of all animal meat produced annually. (1)
Agriculture, and livestock and animal production in particular, is responsible for almost 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production (2) and 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation. (3) Livestock is responsible for 44% of the most destructive gas, Methane, 2800% more warming than CO2 (4)
When evaluating the environmental impact and sustainability of the dog food we feed our dogs, the impact of growing the feed to produce the animals cannot be overlooked. Most livestock is now intensively reared and fed crops including soya and corn.
These monocrops are responsible for massive deforestation, excessive harmful fertiliser use, pollution of waterways and degradation of soils.
It is easy to see the impact that feeding our dogs food that is made from beef, lamb, chicken and pork has on our fragile environment.
So what makes one dog food more eco-friendly than another?
The first consideration is the ingredients used in your dog’s food. How sustainable are they? Do they require environmentally harmful fertilisation? At what levels? Are they mono-cropped or can they be intercropped? How much irrigation do they require? Do they deplete soil nutrients? Do they reduce biodiversity?
The most damaging of plants are the 4 major crops – soya, corn, wheat and rice – cover almost 50% of all farmland (5), with just 37% of crops being used for direct food. The remainder are used for animal feed, biofuels and processed into other products like alcohol (6)
In order to foster more eco-friendly and sustainable crop production it is vital that we shift production of crops to less environmentally impactful crops like legumes including chickpeas, peas, beans, oats and quinoa.
These crops are far more sustainable. Considered ‘climate smart’ they require less water (an increasingly scarce commodity), less fertiliser and can be intercropped (and in the case of oats, used as groundcover reducing the need for herbicides), increasing the yields of follow-on crops.
In the case of dry dog food, which accounts for about 75% of all dogs’ diets (7, 8), how it is produced also impacts it eco-friendliness, sustainability and overall impact on the environment.
The majority of dry dog food is produced using high temperature short time extrusion. This process is energy, and relatively water intensive. The ingredients are heated to temperatures in excess of 100°C and water is injected to allow steam to form the kibble shape.
By contrast cold extrusion cooks the food at temperatures of approximately 70°C requiring less energy and less need for water.
Another sustainability factor to consider is the packaging used for your dog’s food.
Most dog food is packed in polyethylene (plastic) bags. While many companies claim they are recyclable, which they strictly are, the fact is the majority of these end up in landfill sites because there is no readily available domestic collection of these types of plastic globally.
These bags then degrade, very slowly, releasing micro-plastic particles into water streams and eventually into our oceans. Worryingly these microscopic beads are now being discovered in human body systems through unintentional ingestion via foods and water.
Whilst not yet the perfect eco-friendly solution, paper bags with a PLA lining (a bio-based, vegetable derived greaseproof material) offer both a compostable and recyclable dog food packaging alternative.
The final aspect to consider of a sustainable dog food is the ‘food miles’ the food travels to from production of ingredients through to your dog’s food bowl.
A typical journey of most dog food once it has been produced and bagged ready for you to scoop into your dogs bowl will look like this – dog food factory > brand warehouse > distributor’s warehouse > retailer’s warehouse > retailer’s store > your home.
By contrast purchasing your dog’s food online from a D2C (direct to consumer) brand the journey looks like this – dog food factory > brand warehouse > your home – a far more eco-conscious and sustainable way of getting your dog’s food into their bowl at mealtimes.
As our mission at Bonza is driven by feeding our dogs in a way that is more environmentally sustainable than the existing regime we have considered all of the environmental impacts the various aspects of our food have – the ingredients we include, how and where it is grown, how it is produced, packaged and delivered to your home.
For this reason we do not use any meat or the major crops in our dog food – soya, wheat corn or rice – we use ‘climate smart ingredients and purchase these ingredients from farms as close to our factory as possible. We use cold extrusion as our cooking method to reduce the energy and water required in the cooking process, bag it in recyclable, and compostable, paper-based dog food packaging and choose not to sell through retail shops but deliver directly to your home from our warehouse closest to you.
Our aim is to be the most sustainable and eco-friendly dog food, not just in the UK, but on the Planet and we do everything we can to achieve our objective.
Bonza is a 100% plant-based, vegan dog food formulated to deliver nose to tail good health for your dog long into their senior years.
Bonza. Healthier Dogs. Healthier Planet.