As petfood manufacturers and marketers, our industry is constantly asking the question, "What are consumers looking for in the bag?" And the answer to that question is relatively simple: pet parents want to be able to scrutinize your product's ingredients and they want to know several key things about them. Are they healthy and human-oriented? Does your food contain by-products, allergens or traditional grains? Are your ingredients functional? And perhaps most recently, are your ingredients sustainable?
Green petfood is no longer just recyclable packaging and solar-powered facilities. It's also what's in the bag that must now be sustainable and environmentally conscious.
In recent years, petfood companies like The Honest Kitchen, Raw Advantage and Karma have sprung up to provide petfood that addresses not only the quality of ingredients, but the environmental impacts they make. Greenopia.com has even listed the three as the top 'green' petfood producers because each vendor has exhibited a dedication to supporting a local and sustainable food system—paying careful attention to where they source their ingredients. Each uses a high percentage of organic products and The Honest Kitchen is certified by the Food and Drug Administration as human-grade, human-edible food.
According to Dr. Gary Lynch, PhD of Roquette America Inc., yellow pea ingredients can help petfood formulators and marketers achieve sustainability goals on the product label, as well as provide a healthy alternative to traditional plant, animal protein and carbohydrate sources. In Dr. Lynch's 2012 Petfood Forum presentation, "Ingredients from the Yellow Pea: Pet Food Applications," he says ingredients derived from the yellow pea—pea protein, pea starch, internal pea fiber—are environmentally friendly raw materials.
Yellow peas are legumes that are a spring crop that require no nitrogen fertilizer and minimal irrigation. This novel ingredient also has a lower carbon footprint than both whey and soy isolates, and a higher protein yield (up to 84%). Dr. Lynch also says yellow peas used in the application of petfood formulas are organic compatible, GMO- and solvent-free and an alternative non-grain/gluten-free energy source.
Aker BioMarine Antarctic has recently introduced a new ingredient for petfoods providing Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, with 100% traceability and MSC certification for sustainability. "With consumers expressing concerns about sustainability and demanding 'eco-friendly' products for themselves and their pets, companies are increasingly adding more and more claims on their products. This, paired with increased demand for functional ingredients, particularly in premium petfoods, has provided a unique opportunity for ingredient suppliers to meet this need," a company press release says. Qrill Pet, whole dried Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), is an ingredient that not only touts increased health benefits, but also derives from a sustainable supply chain.
Krill are zooplankton invertebrates that float in huge swarms in oceans all over the world, swarms which sometimes reach such densities they can turn the surface of the ocean pinkish-red. Euphausia superba krill are the most common krill, and are found only in the pristine oceans around Antarctica, where there is very limited accumulation of contaminants. Aker BioMarine Antarctic harvests the krill in the Southern Atlantic, and cooperates closely with WWF-Norway (World Wide Fund for Nature) to support work on sustainable krill management.
In June 2010, Aker BioMarine’s krill fishing operations received MSC certification as a sustainable fishery, making it the first MSC-certified krill fishery in the world, according to the company. Products carrying the MSC eco-label, which is increasingly embraced by leading retailers such as Costco and Walmart, provides consumers with a guarantee of sustainability, effective fisheries management and full traceability from sea-to-shelf. BioMarine also developed proprietary eco-harvesting technology based on its krill harvesting activity since 2003. This technology holds a special mechanism that singles out unwanted by-catch (non-krill species) and releases it unharmed. According to the BioMarine, eco-harvesting restricts environmental impact and prevents the krill from enzymatic degradation, allowing for greater preservation of all key nutrients in the end products, and provides for complete utilization of the product, without waste.