Pet food market leaps in favour of vegan pet food

Pet food market leaps in favour of vegan pet food

As pet food and cat owners become more aware of the impact of their beloved pet's diet, eco-friendly pet food is on the rise.

The numbers released exclusively to the Guardian show that the number of pet food products containing Marine Stewardship Council MSC certified sustainable seafood has grown by 57% in the last five years, from 49 to 77. In the last year, consumers bought more than 7 m tins, pouches and packs of MSC-certified pet food.

Animals consume about 20% of the world's meat and fish, a number set to rise with the trend for consumers to feed human-grade meat. An area double the size of the UK is used to produce dry pet food for cats and dogs each year, while approximately 3 m tonnes of fish are used in pet food in the UK every year. Pet food is estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the environmental impact of meat production, such as the release of greenhouse gases, phosphates and pesticides.

There are growing number of environmentally friendly alternatives available. Dog food containing insects was on sale for the first time in 2019 and can be bought in high street pet food shops, and vegan brands are exploding. The market is growing as people realise that the food their pets eat could increase their carbon emissions and contain meat from animals kept in poor welfare conditions.

A study found that vegan pet food is just as good for dogs and cats as meat. The British Veterinary Association doesn't recommend feeding your pet a plant-based diet. A 20,000 fine or a 51 week jail sentence could ensue if pet owners don't feed a suitable diet meeting their dog's nutritional needs.

Andrew Knight, professor of animal welfare and ethics at the University of Winchester, said at the time that cats and dogs had as good or better health outcomes on plant-based diets as they did when fed on meat pet food, provided these were carefully formulated with additional synthetic nutrients.

According to research published in the journal Climate Change Nature, fish has a lower carbon footprint than meat, while red meat production produces between 50 and 750 kg of carbon per kilogram of meat.

It is important for pet owners to choose food containing fish that is not overfished, including Cornish sardines. There have been concerns raised about salmon after investigations revealed the environmental impact of salmon farming. Animal Equality revealed recently the lack of oversight in the UK's fish farms.

Salmon is the most common species for MSC-certified sustainable pet food containing fish, followed by cod, tuna, sardines and saithe. Pet food ranges include a prawn pet food product by McAdams, Cornish sardines by Aldi and a golden red fish product by Woofs.

George Clark, MSC's programme director for the UK and Ireland, said: "UK pet owners increasingly understand that caring for their furry friends means looking after the wider environment." Fish species and marine wildlife are being put at risk because overfishing threatens our oceans. We know that seafood is a much lower carbon footprint than meat, so buying sustainable seafood products is one of the best pet owners can make to reverse this worrying trend.