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Crop to canine: Sustainable pet food starts in the soil

February 20, 2018
As consumers gravitate toward functional

As consumers gravitate toward functional "superfoods" and foods cultivated using sustainable practices, they often apply the same scrutiny to their pets' food. Crop management that uses natural ingredients helps improve environmental impact and promotes the plant's nutritional value.

Companion animals have now become an extension of the family. It should come as no surprise, then, that many pet parents would say their pet’s nutrition is just as important as their own. They pay as much attention to the ingredients in their pet food as they do to the food they put on the dinner table. 


Superfoods make it into the doggie dish


Consumers are gravitating to “superfoods” that tout beneficial effects on the human body, and they want the same for their dogs and cats. Functional foods now starring in the ingredient lists of pet food include: 


  • Blueberries: Identified as a source of antioxidants, they can be found in dry dog food. 
  • Carrots: Known for having beta-carotene, they can be found as a principle vegetable ingredient in pet food and can be given as a treat to dogs in their raw or cooked form. 
  • Pumpkins: In the fall, when we are all inundated with pumpkin and pumpkin spice products, even pet food is not immune. Pumpkin is a good source of soluble fiber with beneficial digestive properties.


Sustainability: Supporting a positive cycle of “good” for pets and the planet


Sustainability is a concept that has become increasingly important to consumers when thinking about their own food. They want to know not only how nutritious their food is, but also what practices were used to grow the vegetables and feed the animals that are nourishing their bodies. 


This concern extends to pet food ingredients and how the grains, vegetables and fruits (and superfoods) were grown.


From this standpoint, the management practices used on the farm are very important to the concept of sustainability.


When a plant is stressed, whether from environmental factors, disease pressure or micronutrient deficiency, it lacks the necessary ingredients to attain its peak performance. This can result in subpar yield, size, flavor and texture. Growers will invariably use synthetic products to try and combat these deficiencies. 


However, a more sustainable approach will incorporate the use of products that are naturally based, with substances such as amino acids that enable micronutrients to be more readily available to plants, increasing their ability to fight stressors. The plant becomes stronger, and, by using these natural products, growers also limit residues that could be left on the fruits and vegetables that go into the pet food. 


The process is cyclical. By using sustainable practices that protect the soil, such as cover crops, crop rotation and precision agriculture, growers create a more active soil microbiome filled with beneficial microorganisms that help provide micronutrients to the plants. These micronutrients, in conjunction with natural plant biostimulant products, improve a plant’s resistance to stressors and help the plant protect itself. This in turn decreases the need for pesticides and other synthetic products that leave residues in the ground, on the field and in the food.


Plants raised on healthy soils with the micronutrients needed for plant health, supplemented with naturally based fertilizer as needed, have increased nutritional value. Meanwhile, these farming practices also improve the environmental footprint of the crop itself so you can be confident that your pets’ food is not only good for them, but for the planet, too.