Future Aspects and Perceptions of Companion Animal Nutrition and Sustainability

Tuesday, July 22, 2014: 4:25 PM
3501B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Kelly S Swanson , Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
Abstract Text:

With an increasing world human population and resources becoming scarce, sustainable practices are of utmost importance.  The world pet population also continues to grow.  Because pet foods are based largely on secondary products from the human food system and often compete with the human food and livestock feed industries for ingredients, sustainability is also an important issue for the pet food industry.  Land, water, air, and waste management, species biodiversity, and energy use are key issues to consider.  Although the environmental impact of an ingredient or food usually receives the most attention, one cannot ignore the social and economic factors involved, especially when it comes to pet foods.  The anthropomorphism of pet dogs and cats greatly impacts the expectations and purchases of consumers and marketing strategies and products sold by pet food companies.  Pet owner preferences introduce challenges in regards to ingredient selection and dietary nutrient composition, with increasing preference for ingredients that compete with the human food chain, including many high-protein, animal-based products.  Research focused on pet food sustainability is seriously needed in the future.  The carbon- or water-footprint comparisons of animal- vs. plant-based ingredients for human foods have received a lot of attention.  However, not only are the published footprint values hotly contested, but are only applicable to human-grade ingredients.  To date, nobody has provided insight as to the footprint of secondary products, an issue that needs to be addressed to provide accurate calculations for pet foods.  Further research is also needed to compare farm-raised vs. wild-caught fish, livestock raised under conventional vs. free-range systems, and ingredient processing, packaging, storage, and handling practices, and to search for acceptable alternative protein sources.  Finally, even if an ingredient source is available for use, its nutritional quality, safety, price, and marketability must also be considered.  Although many challenges exist, a coordinated effort across the industry, including ingredient buyers, formulators, and nutritionists may result in a more sustainable pet food system.    


Pet food; canine; feline