Making a sustainable choice when it comes to feeding your pet is much more than just reading the label, here’s How To Green Your Pet’s Food!
Whatʼs on the can?
A large part of greening our pet’s food involves the choices we make when we feed them. Buying cheap pet food to save money is not doing poor fluffy or fido any good. With the hundreds of choices currently available, choosing the right pet food can feel like an overwhelming task. The first thing is to talk to your vet, not all animals are created equal, some have specific dietary needs. Your vet can help steer you in the right direction if this is the case.
Youʼll also want to pay close attention to the certification labels. The USDA organic label is good but not perfect. The USDAʼs standards for sustainably produced, chemical-free food is one of the best, but it gets criticized for failing to adequately define just how much ranging a free-range chicken is allowed. Having said that though, its one you can trust.
From an environmental standpoint, Organic food is better than conventional food. Organic food is grown without petroleum-based pesticides and herbicides and the animals are raised without being pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Also, make sure the product is not tested on animals. If you are not sure, visit www.peta.org (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), they have an extensive list of companies that you can choose from. If your specific food is not listed, call the manufacturer and ask them.
The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) is an advisory body that proposes regulations for the production and labelling of animal feeds, including pet food. The organization has a list of criteria for labelling and recommends a percentage of amounts of various ingredients in pet foods. However, they have no regulatory power, they conduct no testing and do not directly suggest standards for labelling foods.
Whatʼs in the can?
It is probably the most important aspect of what you feed your pet. Hereʼs what you need to know:
On many labels youʼll see the words meat or poultry by-products, this usually means that the food contains waste materials culled from “4D” animals. 4D animals are the dead, diseased, dying, or disabled. You wouldnʼt eat that so why should your pet? These ingredients are not fit for human consumption so why would we feed it to our pets? Iʼll answer this a little later.
RELATED: Healthy Essentials to Green Your Pet
Byproducts have absolutely no nutritional value. In some cases, this food can be contaminated with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, which can infect cats.
This stuff is scary! Itʼs used in kibble to help keep it fresh. You can find this ingredient in antifreeze and hydraulic fluids. Studies have shown that animals who eat this on a regular basis suffer from heart disease.
Like people, pets are getting fatter and fatter thanks to artificial sweeteners. Corn syrup, fructose, sorbitol, sugar and cane molasses can cause obesity, hypoglycemia, diabetes and tooth decay. If your pet food contains these ingredients, it’s going to be hard to get him/her off it, as they are all highly addictive. Studies have also shown that pets can develop allergies.
Colours and Dyes.
These really donʼt need to be in pet food at all. In most cases, dyes are used in cheaper foods to hide the grey colour of low-quality meats. To make matters even worse, they use coal tar dye. If you see FD&C Blue 2 and Red 40 on the label, AVOID, at all costs. These are known human carcinogens and studies have found they do cause cancer in pets.
Other unwanted ingredients.
Stay away from butylated hydroxysanisol (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BTA), they have both been linked to cancer. For dog owners, be weary of grape pomace, it is an antioxidant, but in some cases, grapes are toxic to dogs. Cellulose and wheat (also found in human foods) have no nutritional value and are usually found in cheap pet food.
The bottom line is you want to avoid food that are highly processed. Choose foods that are naturally preserved with vitamins C and E instead on BHA and BHT.
Whatʼs in the bowl?
After the 2007 pet food recall, which killed 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs, pet owners began digging a little deeper and really paying attention to their animalʼs food. Now, three years later, pet owners are moving away from buying commercial pet food products in favor of alternatives, such as organic varieties and home-made raw food diets.
For more information on raw food diets for your pets visit: Whatʼs Really In Pet Food?, Animal Protection Institute, May 2007 and Selecting A Commercial Pet Food, Animal Protection Institute, July 2004.
My catʼs love FROMM. It took me a while to find a food that they like. I like FROMM because they offer balanced diets that have no wheat or corn (catʼs do not need this in their diets.) There are no artificial and industrial preservatives. Merrick offers a lower-protein option, too much protein can be problematic for cats. They use human-grade ingredients and their products contain no artificial preservatives and fillers.
The Greenest Options:
Produced here in Canada Orijen and Acana use free-run chicken, free-range wild boar, bison and pork. You can also choose from a variety of wild-caught fresh and saltwater fish. Newman’s Own Organic Pet Food is also a good option.
Where does the can go?
Packaging makes up one-third of the trash in the world’s waste stream. The cans, bags and plastic containers that our pet foods come in are heading straight to landfill and in most cases, they are hanging around for hundreds of years. So, when you shop, be mindful of the recycling numbers on those plastic containers. 1,2 and 4 are better choices than 3,6 and 7. When it comes to cardboard, make sure you check for a recycling symbol. Not all of these are created equal, some of them are lined with metal or plastic to help keep the food fresh.