Pet owners most want plant-based diet nutrition info

Scientists asked pet owners about their own dietary preferences and their beliefs and behaviors about plant-based dog and cat foods.

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Protein derived from plants like algae may soon play a large role in pet food. | (waldru | Bigstock.com)
Protein derived from plants like algae may soon play a large role in pet food. | (waldru | Bigstock.com)

Globally, pet owners may tend to be vegetarians and vegans at higher rates than average, which has repercussions for their plant-based pet food purchasing preferences.

People who avoid eating animal products for ethical reasons face a moral conundrum when feeding their omnivorous dogs and carnivorous cats. Scientists explored this dilemma with an English-language online survey of 3,673 pet owners worldwide. The scientists asked pet owners about their own dietary preferences and their beliefs and behaviors about plant-based dog and cat foods. Participants were located in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States.

“It is clear that an association exists between the diet a pet owner has chosen to follow and the diet they choose to feed their pet,” wrote the researchers in the journal PLOS ONE. The scientists hailed from the University of Guelph, Massey University and Petcurean.

Overall, 6.2 percent of participating pet owners described themselves as vegetarian. Another 5.8 percent reported themselves as vegan. By comparison, previous research suggests that between 3.7 and 6.3 percent of people in the United States are vegetarian and 3 to 5 percent are vegan.

“To put that into perspective, in the USA alone, with its population of 325 million and a national a pet-owning rate estimated at 56 percent, there may be as many as 20 million vegetarian and vegan pet owners.”

Fifty-eight vegans and one vegetarian were the only survey participants who fed their pets plant-based diets, together making up 1.6 percent of the group.

Pet owners want data on plant-based pet food nutrition, animal welfare

Five hundred ninety-nine pet owners did not currently feed plant-based diets but expressed interest in doing so. Of these, 45 percent wanted more information about the nutritional sufficiency of plant-based pet foods for their animals.

Likewise among all pet owners, nutrition topped pet owners list of concerns about plant-based pet foods. Farm animal welfare ranked as the top concern related to meat-based pet foods, with 39 percent of all participants reporting this.

“Considering the number of pet owners found to be feeding, or interested in feeding, plant-based diets to pets, and the implications on pet health, nutrition, and the pet food market, more research is warranted regarding plant-based foods for dogs and cats,” wrote the scientists in their conclusions.

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