Not only Hamlet contains emotional reactions to basic philosophical questions, which in the end cannot really be resolved, let alone considered in black and white terms. They can only be discussed contemplatively and then answered subjectively. Sometimes men (more rarely women) just let themselves get carried away by the zeitgeist. It is about nothing less than the emotive number one topic, namely meat and its meaningfulness or even necessity in dog food (I leave cats out of these “insights”).
Wolves are predators, at least in terms of biological order. But that doesn’t mean they’re carnivores. Dogs belong to the Canidae family, but that doesn’t make them carnivores either. Wolves and dogs differ in terms of both biology and genetics.
Finally, on the sofa the image of the wolf in my dog is reduced to absurdity. Nonetheless, there are some dietary intersections. Both need nutrients, such as fatty acids, essential (absolutely necessary) proteins and of course minerals as well as vitamins. Meat provides a lot of all that, but it is not essential, because those who know the composition of balanced complete meat-containing feeds (and that’s what it’s all about if we want to nourish healthily and sustainably) can optimize and, if necessary, supplement every plant-based formulation.
Many vegetable proteins provide a complete range of amino acids directly from the field (without going through the intestines of farm animals), and what is missing can be supplemented. Vegetable fats, such as rapeseed or sunflower oil, are not only recommended for humans, but also very opportune for dogs. Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are also supplemented in classic poultry fat. Vitamins and minerals are used in the BARF kitchen as well as in wet feed; so, meat doesn’t make them redundant.
So where does this focus on meat come from? From the fact that it is a cheap, high quality protein and highly available. It is mostly from industrialized agriculture: highly efficiently produced at the lowest unit cost as (currently) demanded by the end customer. And the continuous cheap slaughterhouse by-products (in terms of the protein contained) make feed with a high meat proportion not only affordable, but when coupled with good marketing, also guarantee good returns for the manufacturer. If all externalized costs (water / air pollution, land consumption and the high demand for soy, which among other things contribute to the deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest) were factored into the meat value, competition for the highest meat content would no longer exist, because many end customers would no longer want (and be able) to afford that.
The carbon footprint (on which the focus is put due to the heated climate debate) of the conventionally produced poultry meat that is mainly used is not that much worse than highly processed vegetable protein. Pork, more commonly used in wet feed, does not have much higher CO2e emissions either. Due to the methane emissions, our cattle alone, like all ruminants, account for many times more, and in literature, even water consumption is described to be significantly higher. For the sake of completeness, I would like to add that the differences in husbandry systems, such as intensive, grain-based stable husbandry and extensive pasture husbandry, should be further examined by science.
In agriculture, we generally have to think in terms of cycles, and this means that biodiverse grassland can only be reasonably used by ruminants (otherwise, everything would be scrub-covered). Whenever we slaughter these animals, there will also be slaughter by-products. Future material flows will show how we then “recycle” them in the most appropriate way. There are definitely more reasonable alternatives than dog food, considering the diet of 10 billion people in a few decades. One example is the rapidly increasing aquaculture, which has been looking for alternatives to fishmeal for years.
And it also becomes clear that many other factors, such as animal suffering, water consumption, biodiversity and much more, should be taken into account in personal considerations. Even if, on paper, the eco-efficiency of poultry protein seems no worse than some rare vegetable protein, many reject meat because of the killing process. There are many reasons for a vegetarian / vegan lifestyle.
And again, we are talking about animal welfare or suffering. Even if everything was clear so far, at this point at the latest, opinions would diverge again. The human species predominantly feels compassion for our pets. On the other hand, the pity forfarm animals is rather selective or often characterized by inconsistency. Many say they support more space for animals, but buy meat with a “husbandry compass 1”, which is the lowest of 4 levels and therefore the cheapest. However, the general prejudice that all conventionally kept animals suffer is not correct. Just like not all organic animals find paradise on earth. Ultimately, (almost) all of them end up at the same butcher’s and die. Nevertheless, there are many good reasons for organic meat … if only we all practised what we preach and “bought less”, but good meat from the butcher / farmer we trust”! This however means we need to significantly reduce our meat consumption, which would be healthier for us humans and no problem for the animals.
Just as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger have successfully conquered shelf spaces in retail in the last few months, also vegan dog nutrition will conquer a permanent place on the shelves. There is still more research on this topic required at universities, but this new “genre” has long since passed the final exams. This “insight” is not a condemnation of meat, but a plea for an enlightened approach to it. As a farmer and an avowed “flexitarian”, I know about the importance of animals and the inimitable taste of a good beef liver, pickled rumen or brawn made of pigs’ trotters.
A little practical tip (to make you smile) for those who consider meat to be indispensable: “The head is round to let your mind circulate either way”.
The greenologist courageously greens up brands, people and markets!