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How sustainable is pet ownership?

Pets have positive impacts on both the emotional and physical health of people with whom they have contact. Pets play an important role in our lives and society, so sustaining pet ownership is critical in maintaining these benefits.

Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present while not compromising the future. When it is about sustainability, people suddenly think about carbon footprint, but nutritional aspects are also important. If you just change the diet a little, the financial and environmental costs associated with it are quite different.

The pet food industry faces some unique issues:-

  1. First, it is tightly interlinked with livestock production and the human food system.
  2. Second, many people consider their pets to be part of the family, so the food has to be culturally acceptable to the owner as well as good for the animal.
  3. Finally, pet food has to be affordable.

As with human food, dietary ingredient selection and nutrient composition affect the sustainability of the pet food system. Protein is expensive, both financially and environmentally, so the choice of protein source and amount in the diet are particularly important.

There are thousands of widely varying pet foods on the market. Many are formulated to appeal to the owners, who think their pets need extremely high levels of protein and other nutrients. Often, they contain human-grade ingredients, thus competing directly with the human food system, which will have to feed a human population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

Furthermore, Dogs and cats require specific nutrients, not ingredients. It is possible to meet nutritional requirements using a wide variety of nutrient sources. For example, animal protein can be replaced by plant protein, which requires substantially less water and energy to produce. Soy-based proteins are a common pet food ingredient, and their production is estimated to be 6 to 20 times more efficient in terms of fossil fuel requirements.

Pet food manufacturers also make heavy use of secondary products from the human food chain. That's great from a sustainability standpoint because they are using the products that would otherwise not be used.

Simply put, there are strategies to make pet food manufacturing more sustainable while meeting the animal's nutritional needs and keeping the products affordable. Pet food is a $55 billion industry worldwide, so adopting sustainable practices could have a global impact.

Nutritional sustainability is not just about minimizing environmental impact, it also involves promoting pet health through appropriate nutrition and food quality and safety. Advancement in areas of nutritional sustainability will help to develop innovative products to improve pet health and nutrition and produce quality and safe pet food. Nutritional sustainability is part of a wider sustainability platform to improve the sustainability of products and promote the sustainability of pet ownership and the pet food industry.

However, pet owners also need to adopt sustainable feeding practices. Overfeeding and obesity of pets is a growing concern. Proper education in this regard is needed.