There’s no question that the world’s food production system is broken.
It’s so complex with factors like soil degradation, water crises, climate change, population explosion, and changing demands for food. For example, according to an interview on Time.com with soil scientist John Crawford, just taking into account three of those factors, “Under a business as usual scenario, degraded soil will mean that we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years. This is against a background of projected demand requiring us to grow 50% more food, as the population grows and wealthier people in countries like China and India eat more meat, which takes more land to produce weight-for-weight than, say, rice.”
This has significant, far-reaching implications for the almost eight billion people in the world.
But what about our pets?
The scary reality is that our pets consume enormous amounts of resources through their diets that, quite frankly, will not be available to pet food manufacturers in the not-too-distant future because of the massive increase in demand for more resources to feed the exploding human population.
Honestly? I don’t necessarily think my dog needs to eat a prime cut of steak for dinner. (Personally, I don’t think people need to, either, but that’s another topic for another day…)
What’s the answer?
Of course, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does yet. But I do think we’re going to be forced to answer this question far sooner than anyone’s expecting because the earth just can’t sustain the practices we currently have in place.
Two things I’m trying to learn more about:
Byproducts. They have a bad reputation, but the more I read, the more I wonder if it’s an American perception issue because the definition of byproducts: “is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, & stomachs & intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth & hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food.” (In other words, feces, hooves, roadkill, etc. are not legal byproducts.)
Those parts–heart, livers, kidneys, etc.–make up a generous portion of raw feeders’ diets, I believe, and in many other countries around the globe they’re eaten regularly by people.
So, why have we cut them out of our pet food to replace it with meat? Just thinking out loud… I don’t know the answer, as I said…
(For the sake of discussion, here’s the legal definition of meat: “is the clean flesh of slaughtered mammals and is limited to…the striate muscle…with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh.”
Crickets. Bear with me here. Cricket protein is supposedly more nutritious all around than beef and chicken, and it seems to be far more sustainable to raise crickets than livestock (though in my reading, it seems like the benefits have been inflated by marketers). There are going to be 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, and the UN says insect protein is pretty much the only solution to meet those protein demands. So, why not dog food out of cricket protein? I’m learning more about all this, but if you’re interested, here’s some reading material for you: Huffington Post, CBS News, Time.com, and Men’s Health.
Here’s a great video put out by the Pet Sustainability Coalition that touches on this issue, including mentions of cricket protein and another alternative protein, Asian carp. The most startling fact to me in this video: The average European cat consumes more resources in a lifetime than the average African. Not the average African cat. The average African person.
One final note: If I could find dog food made from crickets or Asian carp, I’d totally switch Cooper to it (since he’s allergic to most non-novel proteins, byproducts are probably out for my little guy)! In our family, we aren’t vegan. Even if we were, we wouldn’t impose that on our pets. That said, we do eat vegan three days a week. We subscribe to a dinner box of vegan meals and sides (Hungryroot <— referral link for $30 off) and we’ve made a ton of other, super-simple swaps like vegan mayo for regular, vegan sprinkle cheese instead of dairy shredded, plant-based milk (for John and I) instead of cow’s milk, that sort of thing. Violet’s formula is made from cow’s milk, and the cats eat cans of Wellness meat, and Cooper eats The Honest Kitchen fish formula. We’re trying to do better, and now that I’m researching this in depth, we’re going to try even harder to do even better. But I still don’t have any answers.
So, I’d love to hear from you: What are your thoughts on how we feed our pets? Have you thought through the relationship between our food production system and what hits your pet’s dish? Anything I missed here? Or any further questions you have that I should include in my research?