My Eco Sins: Pet Food

Lately, I've been using this space to focus mostly on my journey as a new mother. It's been awhile since I've written much of substance about our goals for living a more sustainable life. But, they are never very far from my thoughts. As we slowly settle into new rhythms I am trying to resume those life changes that I made pre-baby in order to live more lightly on this earth. One change that we never really got around to addressing, though, was the environmental impact of our pets.

Steve and I share our home with three cats and a dog. All are rescue animals. There are those who would argue that companion animals have a larger carbon footprint than Hummers and that no one should have them. But unless those people are willing to euthanize all of the domesticated animals that are out there, my response is that their opinion is not very helpful. These animals exist and someone has to care for them. We love our animals dearly. They have been with us for many years and we really do believe that we did the right thing by taking them in. They are all spayed, so they will not be producing any more of their kind and they are all kept indoors, so they are not interfering with local ecosystems. The one thing we could do better on, but haven't yet tried to, is what we feed them.

We provide for them the standard bagged dry dog and cat food. The problem with this? The protein portions of these foods are made up of the waste products (organ meats, bones, etc.) of animals raised in factory farms. I've given up eating factory farmed meat myself and I would really rather not support that system at all. But the honest truth is that we really can't afford anything else. In my dream world, I'd feed my animals a real food diet that included ethically raised meat. This is not completely impossible, but in order for us to be able to afford it, I'd have to find a local ethical producer/butcher/slaughterhouse that would sell me those parts of their animals that they can't sell for human consumption. From it, I could make my own pet food. Or, I could raise my own animals. Just thinking about all of the coordination that would need to take place in either of these scenarios makes me tired. So, we maintain the status quo.

In my desire to find something better, I am reminded to be vigilant and to not be swayed by greenwashing and, now, local-washing as well. When I first saw these dog treats I got so excited. Made of real meat? And produced locally? Where do I sign up?

But just flipping the bag over reveals who the manufacturer is: Tyson. This is factory farmed chicken and is no better than any other treat that's out there, regardless of the premium price. This is one issue that I'll keep working over in my mind and trying to find small steps that we can take right now, with bigger goals for the future. For now, that will have to do.


  1. Do you have room to raise rabbits? One of my readers told me about raising mini-rexes for their pets raw food diet. Might be something to look into.

    I make ours with our "waste" from home butchering.

  2. i am not sure if i have ever delurked on your blog but this topic is so salient for me. i only have one sweet kitty cat, but she is now the reason we still have a recycling bin (her canned food) and the single way we are still supporting, yes, factory farms. i so totally hear you on this. i have also thought about using waste meat parts (i have friends who would probably give them to me or sell them cheap) but i too haven't found the time. yet. i think it would be easy once i got down to it- stuff it in jars and pressure can forever, right? not too hard, but it is a hump to get over, and one i haven't gone over yet. i'm right there with you. :)

  3. @Phelan: No room to raise rabbits currently, but that's definitely an option for the future. I haven't heard of mini-rexes before...I'll look into it. Thanks!

    @mb: Thank you for delurking! I think you're so's not an insurmountable hump, but a hump none-the-less. Like so many other life changes it just tikes time and dedication, two things I always wish that I had more of!