Sustainability of the Meat Industry
Written by Sarah Griffiths, DCH and Inna ShekhtmanJanuary 25, 2018
At Red Dog Blue Kat, we are all about balance. We want our pets to be healthy and we know that animal protein is an essential part of that. However, we also can’t ignore the elephant in the room: the meat industry is greatly affecting our environment and the Earth’s climate.
There is now enough published scientific research on the subject that it’s undeniable: human overpopulation, industrial, transportation and agricultural industries and over-fishing of the oceans have put us in a very tight spot. The long-term prognosis of the health of our planet is completely in our hands. And we are going to have to make some big changes in order to live in a balanced way with the Earth, including how we feed our pets.
Current estimates suggest that there are approximately 525 million domestic dogs (1) and 600 million small cats. (2,3) living with us worldwide. In nature, each ecosystem has a balance of predators and prey. Food and water resources naturally control the population size of all species. We have strayed far from the natural balance with increasing human and domestic animal populations and have created industries to support this. Scientists agree that the meat and dairy industries are unsustainable at the current rate of production and are putting our planet at risk.
I recently revisited the documentary “Cowspiracy” (available on Netflix) to get some of the facts on how seriously the agricultural industry is affecting the planet:
- Meat and dairy animals consume 34 trillion gallons of water per year (4,5)
- Livestock agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. (6,7,8,9,10)
- Livestock inhabit 45% of the earth’s total land. (11,12)
- Livestock produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day (13)
- Every minute, 7 million pounds of waste is produced by food animals in the USA. (14)
- Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than Co2 over a 20 year time frame. (15, 16)
Dr. Kirk R. Smith, MPH, PhD, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of California Berkeley says, “If you reduce the amount of methane emissions, the level in the atmosphere goes down fairly quickly, within decades, as opposed to CO2. If you reduce the (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere, you don’t really see a signal in the atmosphere for about 100 years or so.” (Quote taken from an interview in the “Cowspiracy” documentary).
At Red Dog Blue Kat, we believe that our planet deserves the utmost respect. We want our families and pets to be healthy, but we need to find a balance that also keeps our planet healthy. So, what can we do to reduce the destruction that animal agriculture is creating, improve livestock conditions and help our planet recover, especially if we want to feed a raw diet to our pets? Are there healthy, sustainable protein alternatives that are good for pets and the environment?
“Cowspiracy” suggests that people should move away from eating meat and to plant-based diet instead. Even eating LESS meat, eggs and dairy products will help! Every conscious choice about how you eat is an important step in making a difference. While our pets may not be able to thrive on a plant-based diet, perhaps there are ways we can use less animal protein without compromising their health.
To find a better balance between pet health and sustainability, our team at Red Dog Blue Kat began investigating something that is natural for pets to eat – insects! Insects can be grown for food at a fraction of the environmental footprint that traditional livestock practices leave. It made a lot of sense to us to make a raw food recipe with them! We call it our Eco Line – it’s better for the environment and costs less to make!
There are a few insects that are now being grown for commercial production including crickets, mealworms, and the Black Soldier Fly. After researching all our options, we decided that Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) were best suited to our needs. The Black Soldier Fly has several advantages over other insects. Their biggest advantage is their ability to convert waste into food, generating positive value and closing nutrient loops. Their natural function is to break down organic substrates and return them to the soil – making them a nutritional powerhouse as a food source! They are abundant in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, protein, and minerals like calcium and manganese.
Other things we can do to reduce negative environmental impacts:
- Driving smaller, more gas-efficient cars or electric vehicles
- Recycling and composting as many waste materials as possible
- Shopping local and growing your own vegetables and/or rearing your own chickens for eggs and meat (reduces transportation emissions)
- Turning off lights and heat sources in your home/workplace whenever possible
- Using energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs in your home
- Walking or riding your bike instead of driving for short distances
If you’d like to learn more about our Eco Line, please contact us. If we all do a small part, we can make a big difference!
- (1) https://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/07/global-livestock-counts
- (2) https://www.statista.com/statistics/263979/global-cattle-population-since-1990/
- (3) https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/54/10/909/230205
- (4) https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2009/3098/pdf/2009-3098.pdf
- (5) http://comfortablyunaware.com/blog/biodiversity-and-food-choice-a-clarification/
- (6) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-dead-zones/
- (7) http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
- (8) https://editors.eol.org/eoearth/wiki/Causes_of_extinction
- (10) https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/10601/IssueBrief3.pdf
- (11) https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter11.pdf
- (12) http://www.pnas.org/content/110/50/20018.abstract
- (13) https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/technical/nra/rca/?cid=nrcs143_014211
- (14) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-bad-of-a-greenhouse-gas-is-methane/
- (15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19900930
- (16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/