It's inevitable that an animal hospital's bathroom reading materials would include a wide variety of animal-themed periodicals. So it was that one day earlier last week I spied a Natural Cat publication sitting atop a twelve-pack of toilet paper. In it was an article on what owners can do to lessen their pet food's impact on the environment. Not a week too soon, I figured. Just in time for Earth Day!

Here's an excerpt:

One obvious way you can lessen your cat's carbon pawprint is to feed organic cat food, which is produced without adding pesticides or fertilizers to the ecosystem. But there are other ways producers can lessen the environmental impact of the packaging, production and distribution of their pet food.

Yes, getting to the right ingredients are a great first step. But there's lots more than making sure the veggies are organic, the salmon Atlantic is wild caught and the beef is grass fed. Here's what this article offers by way of alternative thoughts on best environmental practices for all pet foods, not just cats:

Solar (and other renewable energy usage): It's officially a trend now that several pet food manufacturers have installed solar equipment at their facilities. Cardinal Pet Care's manufacturing and distribution facility (out of Arizona) is reportedly 100 percent solar powered. Now, if only I knew which brands it serviced I might be willing to investigate recommending them...

Biodegradable (or readily recyclable) packaging: This is a biggie. Seeing as I currently feed my cats either meaty scraps or pouched foods, I can honestly say I'm frustrated by the fact that I have to laboriously wash these annoying pouches before I can recycle them. Hence, I would happily subscribe to the notion of a bio-D package. Too bad I can only find treats, not actual meal-foods, in this form (mostly cardboard).

In fact, this article recommends the following:

To reduce waste, purchase foods in larger containers and choose snacks and treats packaged in cardboard.

Distribution: Yes, distribution is huge, carbon pawprint-wise. It's just hard to justify shipping so much of this food. Which is why canned and pouched foods get downgraded for their environmental sustainability. (Yes, I already confessed to currently feeding pouched, mostly.)

Then there's always the SmartWay Partnership program the EPA has initiated by way of helping consumers figure out which companies are doing a greener job of getting their ware shipped. The EPA apparently offers an online list of companies who implement these eco-friendly practices, some of which include pet food companies

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Sure, these are interesting metrics but I can think of plenty more issues to tackle beyond the basics of transportation, packaging and plant fuel-efficiency. In fact, let's talk about the elephant in the room: Our pets eat more of the Earth's proteins than might prove sustainably doable in the future.

Indeed, shipping, wrapping and powering are probably the lowest long-term issues on the want list. Where the meat for our pets will come from is likely to be a far more pressing problem.

And on that note...

Happy Earth Day everyone!!

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Crisp by Gagliardo_