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Meat-based pet food has high environmental cost; studies suggest pivoting to insects

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Meat consumed by an average pet dog in a year has twice the carbon footprint as driving an SUV for 10,000 kilometres, says a study. The issue is even more nuanced in countries where cows or sheep are reared specifically for their meat to prepare pet food.

Meat-based pet food has high environmental cost; studies suggest pivoting to insects
Owing to increased awareness regarding the importance of quality food for pets, the pet food industry has surpassed the mark of $90 billion globally. But since these products mostly contain canned meat, there is a hidden environmental cost of these cat and dog food.
According to Brenda and Robert Vale’s book "Time to Eat the Dog?", meat consumed by an average pet dog in a year has twice the carbon footprint as driving an SUV for 10,000 km. Highlighting the concern, a 2017 study conducted in the United States revealed that 160 million domestic cats and dogs in the country were responsible for 25-30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumed in the country. This was equivalent to the annual emissions of 13 million petrol or diesel cars.
The issue is even more nuanced in countries like The Netherlands where cows or sheep are reared specifically for their meat for pets. Besides, the pet food industry is also increasing the use of plastics globally, causing another environmental menace.
Another factor compounding the issue is overfeeding. This is specific to the developed world but the emerging economies are also catching up fast. According to estimates, 55 percent of pet dogs in the US are obese. Similarly, 40 percent of pet dogs in New Zealand were found overfed.
Solutions
The solutions to issues regarding heavy use of plastic in pet food products and overfeeding of domestic animals are obvious. The manufacturers should opt for environment-friendly packaging material and stop using single-use plastic. Meanwhile, pet owners should use a calorie counter for their pets and feed them accordingly.
Now, the bigger issue is that of meat consumption by pets. However, there is a way to address this concern as well. According to researchers, people should give their pets a diet rich in plant-based food and reduce animal source food.
A 2019 Lancet study concluded making pets switch to plant-based food products helped in reducing the "negative impacts related to climate change, land system change, freshwater use, nitrogen and phosphorous cycling and biodiversity loss."
Also, studies have shown an insect-based diet (instead of meat products) for pets would lower greenhouse gas emissions significantly. They also point out that an insect-based food product makes for a protein-rich diet for pets. This is also more commercially viable. According to research, while an acre of land can produce about 192 pounds of beef, it can yield 65,000 pounds of cricket or 130,000 pounds of black soldier fly larvae.
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