As consumers, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the impact our purchases have on the environment. With dog food, this could be by way of its packaging, animal welfare, its carbon footprint, or the provenance of its ingredients — there are all manner of factors that, in many cases, affect our buying decisions.
These factors are often placed under the same umbrella words: sustainability. It’s something people want — most sustainability measures taken by producers are due to consumer demand. People don’t want packaging that can’t be recycled, reused or composted; they don’t want meat to be imported or from unethical sources.
Of course, it’s not always easy to tell if a product, especially a dog food, is sustainable. Which is why we spoke to Megan Tuttle, Director of Impact at 5-star-rated Open Farm — a company with a strong commitment to environmental and ethical standards — for her tips on choosing a sustainable dog food.
Signs that a dog food is sustainable
Contains Upcycled Ingredients
There’s often a significant amount of unnecessary waste involved in dog food production. If you see a dog food that lists upcycled ingredients, that’s a positive sign it’s a sustainable recipe.
“There are lots of ways to source sustainable ingredients,” says Megan. “One way to do this is to get creative when making recipes and use every part of an ingredient. Take an apple, for example. We use non-GMO dried apple pomace in our Be Good Bites, giving pets a great source of fiber and antioxidants from an ingredient that is commonly thrown out.”
Uses Recycled or Recyclable Packaging
Making sure the dog food you buy uses sustainable packaging is an important metric in discerning how Earth-friendly it is. Packaging made with renewable materials means a lower carbon footprint.
Look for dog food packaged in bags that indicate recycled materials and explain how to easily recycle the packaging with programs like Terracycle, for example, once you’re done with it.
“300 million pounds of plastic pet food and treat bags are generated in the US annually,” says Megan. “But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are so many new materials that are recyclable, food-safe, and look great on shelves. That is one of the reasons that committing to Zero Waste to Landfill was such an easy decision for Open Farm.”
Made with Sustainable Protein
Sustainable protein means many things. It means meat raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. It means animals fed a healthy diet and raised in an environment where they are free to be, without cages and crates. And it means dog food that holds certifications for high standards of farm animal welfare. Make sure the food you select has all of these traits.
“We know animal welfare is very important to pet parents and contributes to a robust definition of sustainability– 87% of pet parents would switch to a pet food brand that prioritized animal welfare,” says Megan.
“To feel confident about the animal welfare of your pet’s food, look for logos like Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Approved, or Certified Humane. That way you know that the farms went through a rigorous 3rd party audit and adhered to strict standards and that you’re giving your pet the best and healthiest protein.”
Made with Quality Produce
While ingredients with flashy names may be enticing, they don’t usually add insignificant nutritional benefits. When choosing food for your dog, look for recipes that use non-GMO fruits and veggies, superfoods like turmeric and coconut oil, and wholesome grains like quinoa and oats.
Ingredients Are 100% Traceable
It’s important to know where every single ingredient in your dog’s food comes from to ensure it’s produced using sustainable practices and is of the utmost quality. Look for food with detailed ingredient lists that offer a tracking method for each one. That way, you’ll be able to confirm all fish were caught wild and sustainably, all meat was raised humanely, and all were vegetables grown without harmful chemicals.
“It can be really difficult to know what is in your pet’s food and where it comes from,” says Megan. “Look for products that make that part easy for you as a pet parent. But transparency isn’t just about the source of ingredients, it’s also about carbon footprint, nutritional value, and sharing more about the farmers in the supply chain. If there is a QR code or website where you can dive into the details, you know there’s nothing to hide.”