15 May 2020
We love our pets. They are part of our family, a source of love and joy, and, for many, furry life companions that reduce loneliness. In a time where the covid-19 pandemic keeps more people than ever sitting alone in their homes, the company of our furry friends have never been more important.
According to Statistics Denmark, there are about 456,000 dogs and 1.3 million cats in Denmark. Research shows that owning a pet is good for both our physical and mental health - it counteracts stress and anxiety, lowers the risk of lifestyle diseases, and is beneficial for the immune system. However, the many animals are a strain on the climate because they eat meat and researchers talk about their impact as their “ecological paw print".
These days most people are aware of the climate impact of air travel and the benefits of meat free days, but the topic of meat consumption of pets is not often discussed. It is estimated that there are just under 500 million cats and dogs in private homes worldwide that, in order to thrive, require a diet that includes protein. According to research from the University of Sydney, food for our four-legged friends accounts for as much as 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from global meat production.
These huge numbers clash somewhat with our general concern about climate change. In 2017, a Eurobarometer survey of 28,000 EU citizens found that 92% believe that climate change is a serious problem. In the same survey, 90% say they have personally taken action to benefit the climate within the last six months. However, getting rid of your pet, which many consider as a family member, for the sake of the climate, is probably inconceivable to most pet owners.
Pets should also eat plant-based
However, something must be done because the numbers are increasing. Every year more and more people worldwide are getting a cat or a dog, and there is no indication that this development will not continue. The global pet food market reached $ 98.3 billion dollars in 2018 and it is estimated to grow to $ 128.4 billion in 2024. That requires a lot of meat unless we find other sources of quality protein.
The ProEnrich project is focused on finding a solution by developing methods for extracting protein from food waste. In this case from the leftover press cake from rapeseed or canola oil production which means that a waste product could potentially replace some of the meat protein used in pet food today reducing CO₂ emissions. Among the project partners is one of the world's largest pet food manufacturers, Mars, who, in addition to the well-known chocolate bars, is behind pet food brands such as Whiskas, Royal Canin and Pedigree. Mars is in it to explore the possibilities of working with more sustainable raw materials in their products, although the development of the methods is still at a very early stage.
- Mars aims to embed the knowledge gained in the project and test the products obtained in model wet pet food recipes to evaluate specific benefits. This is in line with the ambition to incorporate more raw materials that reduce the carbon footprint. Mars is committed to being sustainable in a generation and we remain committed to reduce our impact on climate change, water stress and land use, says Dr. Seronei Cheison from the Mars corporation.
Fortunately, our furry friends are not just a burden on the climate. Some studies indicate that people who own a dog drive and fly less frequently than they otherwise would have. However, the fact remains that we need to work to reduce the impact of their ecological paw print to help reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The ProEnrich project is supported by Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the EU's Horizon 2020 program under Grant Agreement no. 792050 and runs until April 2021.
Climate-friendly pets with protein from rapeseed