Dry food for our pets takes an area double the size of the UK
An area double the size of the UK is used to produce dry pet food for cats and dogs each year, a by experts in Edinburgh has found.
Analysis of the carbon footprint of pet food production also revealed that the industry emits more greenhouse gases each year than countries such as Mozambique and the Philippines.
The Edinburgh University-led project is the first to assess the global environmental impact of pet food production.
Researchers say rising demand for pet food – driven by an increase in pet ownership around the world – should be factored into initiatives aimed at improving sustainability of the global food system.
The team analysed data on the main ingredients in more than 280 types of dry pet food available in the US and Europe, regions which account for two thirds of global sales.
They found that around half of dry food is made up of crop plants – such as maize, rice or wheat – with the rest consisting of various animal or fish products.
Around 49 million hectares of agricultural land – roughly twice the size of the UK – are used annually to make dry food for cats and dogs.
Annual greenhouse gas emissions were found to be 106 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. A country producing the same levels would be the world’s sixtieth highest emitter, researchers said.
Dr Peter Alexander, who led the study, said: “Even accounting for the use of by-products in pet foods, the feeding of companion animals plays a role in environmental change."