the global environmental paw print of pet food
Global pet ownership, especially of cats and dogs, is rising with income growth, and so too are the environmental impacts associated with their food. We find annual global dry pet food production is associated with 56–151 Mt CO2 equivalent emissions (1.1%−2.9% of global agricultural emissions), 41–58 Mha agricultural land-use (0.8–1.2% of global agricultural land use) and 5–11 km3 freshwater use (0.2–0.4% of water extraction of agriculture). These impacts are equivalent to an environmental footprint of around twice the UK land area. These results indicate that rising pet food demand should be included in the broader global debate about food system sustainability.
Link to article : Alexander P. et al. (2020) The global environmental paw print of pet food. Journal of Global Environmental Change. volume 65.
02) 30% of US meat consumption driven by dogs and cats
In the US, there are more than 163 million dogs and cats that consume, as a significant portion of their diet, animal products and therefore potentially constitute a considerable dietary footprint. Here, the energy and animal-derived product consumption of these pets in the US is evaluated for the first time, as are the environmental impacts from the animal products fed to them, including feces production. In the US, dogs and cats consume about 19% ± 2% of the amount of dietary energy that humans do (203 ± 15 PJ yr-1 vs. 1051 ± 9 PJ yr-1) and 33% ± 9% of the animal-derived energy (67 ± 17 PJ yr-1 vs. 206 ± 2 PJ yr-1). They produce about 30% ± 13%, by mass, as much feces as Americans (5.1 ± Tg yr-1 vs. 17.2 Tg yr-1), and through their diet, constitute about 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides.
Link to article: Okin GS (2017) Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats. PLOS ONE 12(8): e0181301.
25% of EU meat production driven by dog & cat food
It was the aim of the present study to estimate feed consumption, land use and carbon dioxide equivalents (CO₂e) for dogs and cats as the most frequent carnivorous companion animals in the USA, EU and selected European countries from available statistics. The total number of dogs and cats is similar in the USA and in the EU. However, the number of dogs and cats per capita is higher in the USA than in the EU and any selected European country. Annual feed intake was estimated 98 kg (23kg dry matter) per cat and 211 kg (76.5 kg dry matter) per dog. The fraction of materials of animal origin is 50 % for cats and 45 % for dogs. Land use for feed production was about 1000 m² per cat and 2000 m² per dog. Annual CO₂e for cats and dogs was 411 and 840 kg respectively. Arable land required for the production of feed for cats and dogs varied between 10 and 20 % of the national land resources. The CO₂e for dog and cat feed is about 1 – 2 % of the countries’ total CO₂e production, but equals about 10 % (for a cat) to 20% (for a dog) of the CO₂e for feeding their owner. And Finally the dogs and cats animals feed in % of toral meat production is 24.73% for the EU en 31.52% for the US.
Link to article: Leenstra F. (2018). Environmental footprint of meat consumption of cats and dogs. Lohmann Information.
average dog yearly CO2 impact same as owning 5 cars
The lifetime emissions of a dog weighing 10-20 kilogrammes in the Netherlands is anywhere between 4.2 and 17 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. For the same dog living in China, emissions were between 3.7-19.1 tonnes. In Japan however, the same dog would be expected to produce 1.5-9.9 tonnes during its life. Ten tonnes of CO2 is roughly the same as the emissions produced by two cars every year. Based on an average dog weighing 30 kg such as an golden retriever, in the Netherlands that would be equivalent to owning 5 cars. The first and most evident solution for dramatically reducing companion animals’ dietary EPP is to adopt vegetarian or vegan diets.
Link to article: Pim Martens, Bingtao Su, Samantha Deblomme, The Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats, BioScience, Volume 69, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 467–474.
Formulation of diets to provide nutrients in excess of physiological requirements, the use of ingredients that compete directly with the human food system, or overfeeding by owners resulting in food wastage and obesity are common challenges in optimizing the sustainability of the pet food system and pet ownership. Furthermore, proteins found in meat have a higher environmental impact than those found in plants and cereals.
Link to article: Swanson K.S. et al. 2013. Nutritional sustainability of pet foods. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 4: 141–150.
animal agriculture 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions
With emissions estimated at 7.1 gigatonnes CO2 -eq per annum, representing 14.5 percent of human-induced GHG emissions, the livestock sector plays an important role in climate change. Beef and cattle milk production account for the majority of emissions, respectively contributing 41 and 20 percent of the sector’s emissions. While pig meat and poultry meat and eggs contribute respectively 9 percent and 8 percent to the sector’s emissions. The strong projected growth of this production will result in higher emission shares and volumes over time. Feed production and processing, and enteric fermentation from ruminants are the two main sources of emissions, representing 45 and 39 percent of sector emissions, respectively. Manure storage and processing represent 10 percent. The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products. Included in feed production, the expansion of pasture and feed crops into forests accounts for about 9 percent of the sector’s emissions. Cutting across categories, the consumption of fossil fuel along the sector supply chains accounts for about 20 percent of sector emissions.
link to article: Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome.
137 species lost every day due to deforestation.
Experts estimate that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years. The Amazon rainforest has been described as the “lungs of our planet” because it provides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20% of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest. It is estimated that in rainforests around the world, 150 acres of rainforest are burned every minute.
Link to news article: COP26 (2021): This is how mass deforestation is wiping out species around the world. ABC News.
a dogs impact switching to a plant-based diet
An average dog such as an golden retriever weighs 32 kg, eats 1500 calories a day, and lives 11 years. Based on these metrics and a fresh-meat diet the average dog would save approximately 8.030 animals, 33 million liters of water, 2,2 hectometers of rainforest, 80 ton CO2 equivalents, and 588.030 kilometers of fossil fuels (15 drives around the planet) in its entire life when switching to a plant-based diet.
Link to book: Pitcairn, Richard & Pitcairn, Susan. Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.1982: 28.
livestock agriculture leading driver for deforestation and biodiversity loss
Every year the world loses around 5 million hectares of forest. 95% of this occurs in the tropics. At least three-quarters of this is driven by agriculture, with most of this used to raise livestock for dairy and meat. Livestock are fed from two sources – lands on which the animals graze and land on which feeding crops, such as soy and cereals, are grown. The expansion of land for agriculture is the leading driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss.
Link to article: |Ritchie H. and Roser M. (2021). Forests and Deforestation. Our world in Data.
shift to plant-based diets cuts land use by 75%
If everyone shifted to a plant-based diet we would reduce global land use for agriculture by 75%. This large reduction of agricultural land use would be possible thanks to a reduction in land used for grazing and a smaller need for land to grow crops. Less than half – only 48% – of the world’s cereals are eaten by humans. 41% is used for animal feed, and 11% for biofuels. Only 7% of soy goes towards human foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk and other substitute products. Most of the rest goes towards oil production which is split between soybean meal for animal feed and soybean oil. The land use of livestock is so large because it takes around 100 times as much land to produce a kilocalorie of beef or lamb versus plant-based alternatives. In the hypothetical scenario in which the entire world adopted a vegan diet the researchers estimate that our total agricultural land use would shrink from 4.1 billion hectares to 1 billion hectares.
Link to article: Ritchie H. (2021). If the world adopted a plant-based diet we would reduce global agricultural land use from 4 to 1 billion hectares. Our world in data.
protein inefficiency of meat and dairy
The protein efficiency of meat and dairy production is defined as the percentage of protein inputs as feed effectively converted to animal product. An efficiency of 25%would mean 25% of protein in animal feed inputs were effectively converted to animal product; the remaining 75% would be lost during conversion. For feed this conversion is only 3.8% meaning that 96,2% of the plant-based protein are lost using cows as the inefficient middle man.
Link to article: Alexander et al. (2016). Human appropriation of land for food: the role of diet. Global Environmental Change.
four billion people facing severe water scarcity.
Freshwater scarcity is increasingly perceived as a global systemic risk. Previous global water scarcity assessments, measuring water scarcity annually, have underestimated experienced water scarcity by failing to capture the seasonal fluctuations in water consumption and availability. We assess blue water scarcity globally at a high spatial resolution on a monthly basis. We find that two-thirds of the global population (4.0 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round. Putting caps to water consumption by river basin, increasing water-use efficiencies, and better sharing of the limited freshwater resources will be key in reducing the threat posed by water scarcity on biodiversity and human welfare.
Link to article: Mekonnen, A. Hoekstra, (2016) Four billion people facing severe water scarcity. Science Advances.
global causes for water scarcity
2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries, of which 733 million live in high and critically water-stressed countries 72% of all water withdrawals are used by agriculture, 16% by municipalities for households and services, and 12% by industries. (UN-Water, 2021)
Link to article: United Nations (2021) Summary Progress Update 2021: SDG 6 — water and sanitation for all.
european commission: at least 25% organic farming by 2030
By producing high quality food with low environmental impact, organic farming will play an essential role in developing a sustainable food system for the EU. A sustainable food system is at the heart of the European Green Deal. Under the Green Deal’s Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission has set a target of ‘at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming and a significant increase in organic aquaculture by 2030’. The action plan is broken into three interlinked axes that reflect the structure of the food supply chain and the Green Deal's sustainability objectives. Axis 1: stimulate demand and ensure consumer trust, Axis 2: stimulate conversion and reinforce the entire value chain, Axis 3: organics leading by example: improve the contribution of organic farming to environmental sustainability.
Link to article: European Commission (2019). Agriculture and rural development: Organic action plan 2030 European Green Deal.
organic fertilizers hazards
Just because organic compounds are organic, does not mean they are safer. In fact, organic copper products are one of the most toxic chemicals used anywhere in farming. Studies show that soil copper in conventional and organic vineyards had lower soil microbial activity in organic vineyards, which had higher copper concentrations than conventional fields. Highest concentrations were measured from vine leaves. Copper cycling is very slow, so it can accumulate in large amounts in the soil over time. Too much copper can cause chlorosis of vine leaves. Unlike glyphosate (non-organic fertilizer), it poses huge dangers to beneficial insects and other life forms. According to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), copper sulfate “is very toxic to aquatic life, is very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects, may cause cancer, may damage fertility or the unborn child, is harmful if swallowed, causes serious eye damage, may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.”
Link to article: G Edwards-Jones et al. The origin and hazard of inputs to crop protection in organic farming systems: are they sustainable?(2001) Agricultural Systems, Volume 67, Issue 1,
Link to blog article: Andrew Porterfield ( 2021) Organic pesticide copper sulfate—unlike glyphosate—is a carcinogen, kills beneficial insects, decimates soil, pollutes water. It also works. Here are political and science reasons why regulators give it a free pass. Genetic literacy project.
Explanation video: University of Vlaanderen professor Dr. Ir. Pieter Spanoghe (2021) "Is biologisch echt beter".
99% petfood packaging end up in landfills and oceans
RePurpose Global announced that its efforts have recovered 2,000 tons of plastic waste from the environment, which is equivalent to about 111 million plastic bottles or 1 billion plastic bags. It’s estimated that about 300 million pounds of plastic waste is produced annually by the pet food industry, in just the United States alone. According to the industry, much of the plastic packaging is made of non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle materials, which equates to about 99% of pet food packaging ending in landfills or oceans.
Link to blog article: N. Kerwin (2022) RePurpose Global receives support from pet food brands. Pet food Processing.