Using otherwise-wasted ingredients from the humans food chain now serves to boost pet food industry sustainability. Before recycling even entered the English language in 1922, though, some pet food and animal feed ingredient companies reduced the amount of waste produced by reusing byproducts of the human food system, although the environmental benefits may have been coincidental.
For example, 139 years ago the founder of F.L. Emmert started facilitating the transport of beer brewing byproducts to dairy farms outside Cincinnati, Elizabeth Barber, F.L. Emmert Company executive vice president, said (video below). Emmert makes pet food and livestock feed ingredients from brewers yeast. If the yeast products weren’t used for cats, dogs and livestock, the nutritious fungi would end up rotting in a landfill.
“Our founder noticed that the dairies needed to be better connected with the brewers in picking up the spent grain to be used to feed the cattle on the outside of Cincinnati,” she said.
Beyond brewers yeast, many pet food ingredients come from otherwise wasted human food products. Economic efficiency and ecology can find common ground in co-products.
“It's a beautiful system,” she said. “Something has to happen to these leftovers, and we know it's good for the livestock. We take it from one place and get it to the place that needs to be. That same thing is happening in all of the pet food industry.”
Brewers yeast repurposes beer byproducts
However, despite the environmental benefits of avoiding waste, there seems to be a disconnect between the pet food industry and pet owners about byproducts and co-products.
“Owners need confidence that pet food is safe,” Barber said in a previous interview. “They like the idea of recycling and sustainability, but they don’t want to feel like they’re feeding their pets recycled ingredients they wouldn’t eat themselves. That presents a unique challenge to pet food manufacturers that do their best to minimize food waste by using leftovers from human food production. Initially people considered ‘left-overs’ from food production to be by-products. Now we recognize these more appropriately named co-products as an essential part of the pet food industry. Brewers yeast is simply a co-product of beer that benefits pets.”