Updated on October 25, 2012
Eco-friendly Pet Food
What constitutes “eco-friendly” pet food? Packaging? Sourcing? Transportation?
I found this video about a Purina One “BeyOnd”, which is supposedly an eco-friendly type.
I do not know what is on the inside of the bag, however. Where do the ingredients come from? How are they harvested and transported? How many additives and preservatives are in there? You can simply look at the ingredients labels for some of this information, but you might have to do some research for the rest, and even then, you might not find out. What they are pointing out is the mainly the packaging – made up of 90% renewable materials, using soy inks, including a “breakthrough” bio-plastic material which is made out of corn. That’s pretty cool, right? BeyOnd has an alright sustainability page on their site, I will give them a B for effort. They are at least headed in the right direction with solar panels, ISO14001 certification, and a partnership with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, to name a few. These are all operational/manufacturing based steps though.
One thing I learned from working for veterinarians for many years, is that you should choose pet foods that have an AAFCO label.
AAFCO is short for Association of American Feed Control Officials. Simply put, it’s the FDA for animal food and certain animal drugs, except AAFCO has no statutory authority to regulate pet products. Knock the FDA all you want, but it’s better than nothing, and AAFCO is better than nothing when it comes to pet food, too. They try their best to protect our pets against harmful ingredients, so if you’re going to pick something and you’re not one of those people who cooks meals for their pets on a daily basis, go with something that has an AAFCO label. AAFCO sets guidelines for everything from ingredients to labeling to registration/licensing procedures (if you decide to start making your own pet food). Maybe they can’t really enforce it, but if a company has an AAFCO label on it’s bag, it had to meet lots of serious requirements.
Ok, so AAFCO, check. What about organic?
I found this interesting piece of info (from http://www.petfood.aafco.org/Organic.aspx):
“Organic” refers to the handling and processing of ingredients and products. Pet foods and pet treats must comply with the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) regulations (7 CFR 205). These regulations cover:
- ingredient sourcing
- ingredient handling
- labeling & certification of products wanting to use the word “organic” in their labeling
NOTE: “Organic” refers to the processing of a product, not the quality of the product.
In terms of quality, look at the ingredients list. Ingredients on packages are listed in order of predominance by weight (this is true for human food too!). The first ingredient is that which has the highest percentage in terms of total weight of the product. So, if the first ingredients says “corn”, probably best to look for something else, preferably something meat related (or whatever you want your pet eating).
Let’s practice. Here is the ingredients list for Timberwolf Brand of dog food (I chose this one because it looks like Geisha is on the front of the package), which claims to healthy and natural and all that jazz. The first several ingredients are: Venison, Brown Rice, Lamb, Barley, Salmon Meal, Oats, Lamb Meal, Venison Meal, Kelp, Alfalfa, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Cinnamon, Flax Seed, Sesame Seed, Thyme, Carrots, Celery, Beets, Watercress, Salmon Oil, Chicory Root, Potassium Chloride, Sea Salt.
Sounds good. The weird sounding stuff comes all the way at the end – most of which from what I can tell are just vitamin supplements. Timberwolf also has a little section on their environmental commitment, mentioning some effort they make in terms of being environmentally friendly. There are many brands like this one that can provide your pet with a healthier diet while having a smaller impact on the environment. I am certainly not telling anyone to go buy Timberwolf, the point is that a little research goes a long way in this department. The only downside is that these types of “specialty” foods are more expensive, and less readily available than they typical Pedigree or Alpo types. Sometimes I am a bad mom and completely forget to buy Geisha’s food when she runs out, and I do have to resort to IAMS or something like that. But that is ok, it’s like every once in a while indulging in a cheeseburger or having chocolate cake…. just as long as it’s not the norm.
Also, I was unclear as to what “meal” referred to – i.e.: “Chicken Meal” as the first ingredient. What this means is that it is real chicken, ground up and dried. Wikipedia says that dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals are allowable in “meals”, therefore making it unfit for human consumption (but ok for our pets???). The only other info I could easily find on this was from the Halo website (another brand of natural type of dog food). So, for now, let’s steer clear of “meals” also, at least as the first ingredient or unless the company specifically says they don’t used diseased animals as an ingredient.
After learning this, I looked at Geisha’s food’s ingredients…I was shocked to find out that the food I’ve been feeding her for almost a year (Innova) has CHICKEN MEAL as it’s 3rd ingredient! GASP! We might be shopping around next time we’re at Petco. Lesson learned: if you don’t know what an ingredient is – look it up!!!!
- Don’t feed you pet something you wouldn’t eat, can’t pronounce, or can’t determine if it’s a plant, animal, or chemical.
- Do a little research to find a company or brand that is at least trying to be eco-friendly. It is difficult to get all the facts – which is true for human food also. Unless you make a personal visit to the farm and factory, the company can tell you whatever they want.
- Read the ingredient’s list. Make sure the first several ingredients are real things.
- If your pet has allergies or other medical issues, get your veterinarians recommendation before feeding them anything.
- If you cook for your pet, make sure you are giving them all the necessary nutrients they require!