Nutritional sustainability of petfoods

Sustainable practices meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Applying these concepts to food and feed production, nutritional sustainability is the ability of a food system to provide sufficient energy and essential nutrients required to maintain good health in a population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their nutritional needs.

Ecological, social and economic aspects must be balanced to support the sustainability of the overall food system. The nutritional sustainability of a food system can be influenced by several factors, including the ingredient selection, nutrient composition, digestibility and consumption rates of a diet. Carbon and water footprints vary greatly among plant- and animal-based ingredients, production strategy and geographical location. Because the petfood industry is based largely on by-products and is tightly interlinked with livestock production and the human food system, however, it is quite unique with regard to sustainability.

Often based on consumer demand rather than nutritional requirements, many commercial petfoods are formulated to provide nutrients in excess of current minimum recommendations, use ingredients that compete directly with the human food system, or are overconsumed by pets, resulting in food wastage and obesity. Petfood professionals have the opportunity to address these challenges and influence the sustainability of pet ownership through product design, manufacturing processes, public education and policy change.

A coordinated effort across the industry that includes ingredient buyers, formulators and nutritionists may result in a more sustainable petfood system.

Source:  K. Swanson et al., 2013. Nutritional sustainability of pet foods. Adv Nutr online March 2013. doi: 10.3945/​an.112.003335

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