Japan's two national pet food associations and its Ministry of Environment are working together to solve the problem of “pet food loss” or the disposal of pet food that reached their expiration dates.
In December 2022, they launched an ambitious program called Pet Life Support that tells pet food manufacturers and sellers which animal shelters and animal protection groups can receive their products before they go bad.
It's a system of reporting and collecting pet food products near the end of their shelf life that offers a win-win solution for both the givers and the takers. Pet Life Support receives products that are close to their expiration dates from pet food and supplies manufacturers and wholesalers. The goods are then delivered free of charge to the registered animal welfare group that made the request for food support. As a result, manufacturers can clear out their old inventories without having to spend for disposal. On the other hand, animal facilities can feed their wards for free.
The National Pet Food and Supplies Wholesaler Association and the Japan Pet Food Association kicked off Pet Life Support in five pilot prefectures with plans for eventual nationwide coverage.
In essence, Pet Life Support is a pet food drive, but one that is highly organized in helping registered manufacturers manage their own supplies to maintain quality and in extending regular donations to animal care organizations. The two associations said yearly global pet food shipments have been roughly 600,000 tons on average. Not all of that gets eaten, so it became their mission to convert the expected pet food losses into resources that can feed homeless and abandoned animals.
The program's website lists the brands and types of pet food available from participating pet food companies, the products' expiration dates and the available quantity.
Pet Life Support has taken its cue from one of the short-term development goals (SDGs) adopted unanimously by member countries at the United Nations Summit in 2015 in relation to human food loss. The program's proponents believe the problem extends to pet food, especially when the raw materials used (many are used for human food, too) are taken into consideration.
“Pet food is categorized as miscellaneous goods rather than food, which probably helps explain why pet food loss is not seen as a big problem," their statement said. "Food waste tends to be viewed as a problem only for human food, but pet food has the same problem and disposal requires a considerable amount of money."
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