- Hahnbee Choi, Cert. CN
Climate Change & Raw Feeding
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
The planet is heating up rapidly. And this affects every living being on Earth. This human-caused climate change has led to life-threatening consequences such as intense temperature changes, melting sea ice, extinction, increased drought, air pollution, etc. As enlightened pet parents who want to do better for our pets and with livestock contributing 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, it’s vital to think about how raw feeding impacts this and the efforts we can make.
And I am confident I am not alone - as dozens of pet parents voiced their concerns on the impacts feeding a meat-based diet has on the environment. Some even said they were reluctant to feed raw or even get a dog due to this.
Do you have climate anxiety?
In 2017 UCLA found that “25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States.” Pet product consumption “releases up to 64 ± 16 million tons [48-80 million tons] CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs).” And globally, the UN estimates meat creates more than 14% of human-made gases. Beef produces the most greenhouse gas emissions, including methane which can be 28-34 times more harmful than CO2 at 50kg/110lbs. Per 100g/3.5oz.
While putting dogs, cats, and ferrets onto a plant-based diet is not the solution, it is crucial to recognize that factory farming contributes largely to climate change, air & water pollution, and deforestation.
What Can Fresh Feeders Do?
Fresh feeding requires raw meat, bones, and organs, contributing to environmental consequences. But raw feeding utilizes parts that would otherwise go wasted in the human industry, such as heads, lungs, tripe, trachea, organs, and raw meaty bones, which helps prevent food waste.
However, around 8 billion tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year. And with microplastics and nanoplastics now being found in the ocean, drinking water, food supply, and even human blood & lungs, it is vital to reduce single-use plastic.
Raw feeding does not exactly make it easy. Raw feeding uses a large amount of single-use plastic. This feeding style creates a lot of waste, from insulated boxes to ziplock bags, Clorox wipes, and plastic packaging. Here are a few swaps for a more sustainable future:
Using reusable rags versus single-use paper towels
Endless cleaning calls for single-use paper towels and/or cleaning wipes. Instead, you can make an easy swap for reusable rags. Save old shirts, towels, and more to reuse as clean-up rags.
Swapping toxic cleaners for safer alternatives
Many modern cleaners have harmful chemicals to us, our pets, and the Earth. Common cleaners may seem harmless, but more and more literature shows their harmful effects on humans and animals. Science of The Total Environment Journal showed that 21 different phthalates (common chemicals in cleaners) were measured in dog and cat urine for the first time. It’s easy to purchase or even make a non-toxic cleaner.
Exchanging single-use storage containers for reusable ones
Raw food comes in plastic and must be stored in a sanitary way in the freezer, often calling for ziplock bags. Reuse ziplock bags as many times possible before tossing or even swapping for reusable ziplock backs or plastic/metal/glass meal prep containers to store.
Purchasing meat in bulk
For the time being, meat being shipped in plastic bags is unavoidable. But when ordering in bulk, it allows you to reduce the amount of plastic being used overall. Many companies will also have flat rate shipping or discounts for bulk orders.
What’s needed and what humanity must strive for is a more diverse and sustainable way of living overall. In the case of food – all food must become more sustainable for the planet. The UN issues a code red for humanity as humans are in trouble, not Earth. Mother nature is robust and powerful and will, most likely than not, survive the ecological disaster. But without permanent action, we humans may not be so inclined. Here are a few tips on responsible food feeding & sourcing:
Feeding head to tail
As mentioned above, raw feeding can utilize the quality by-products from the human food industry. Cuts that would otherwise go to waste, such as tripe, trachea, and other cuts not consumed by humans, are used.
Avoiding Food Waste
All the energy and water it took to grow is wasted if food is wasted. Avoid food waste by not letting meats spoil with proper planning and feeding only as much as needed. Feed for the dog’s ideal weight - this also prevents overweight pets!
Whether from hunters or local family farmers, sourcing nearby saves on transportation and energy. Hunters will often have scraps for free - make sure to freeze for 3 weeks minimum for any wild game and fish.
Commercial agriculture overuses and degrades the Earth’s soil through harmful practices, pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, etc. However, regenerative farming practices promote a healthy and diverse ecosystem by rebuilding the soil through holistic farming and grazing techniques. Regenerative farming has a 66% lower carbon footprint compared to conventionally raised. Regenerative farming is slow food - meaning it considers the environment, animals, and the supply chain last but also takes 2.5x more land. This reflects the higher price of regenerative agriculture food, which is not feasible for everyone. If possible, supporting regenerative farms such as White Oak Pastures is valuable, but if not, there are plenty of other steps mentioned above.
Unfortunately, all these steps combined will not stop the planet crisis as “nearly two-thirds of anthropogenic carbon emissions originated in just 90 companies and government-run industries” and “20 percent of world carbon emissions from fossil fuels and cement production since the Industrial Revolution.” Fossil fuel corporations are largely to blame. But David Victor, a political scientist and energy policy specialist at UC San Diego, says, “Frankly, we’re all the users, and therefore we’re all guilty. To create a narrative that involves corporate guilt as opposed to problem-solving is not going to solve anything.”
While carnivorous pets deserve and require a meat-based diet to thrive, humans are omnivorous and can survive on a plant-based diet. Therefore we can make the trade-off for feeding our carnivores by rethinking our eating habits. Now, I am not telling anyone to do this or that, but if you are an individual with a zealous fixation on solving the climate crisis like me, going vegetarian, vegan, or simply reducing your meat consumption will help the overall problem as humans can survive on plants while dogs, cats, and ferrets should not.
Beware of Greenwashing
Greenwashing essentially means that brands mislead consumers into concluding untrue statements about their products. They add flashy words and colors to the product to make it seem healthier and eco-friendly. Remember, just because they claim something does not mean that it is true. Many labels seem like they have a more eco/health-conscious product when they have an empty meaning in reality. Examples of greenwashing include:
Non-Toxic: Anything can be toxic, even water. The dose makes the poison.
No Chemicals/Chemical-Free: Everything is made up of chemicals, from water to caffeine.
Green/Eco-Friendly/Eco-Conscious: All meaningless without further elaboration on how.
Irrelevant Claims: Making truthful but unnecessary claims to bait eco-conscious consumers. For example, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) have been banned since 2010 under the Montreal Protocol, but many are still marketing “CFC-free” on labels.
There Is Hope!
If the conversation around climate change gets you as depressed as I am, here are a few positive changes happening around the globe.
Germany has cut emissions by around 10 megatons (MT) each year.
Low emission technologies are becoming more affordable.
The Keystone XL oil pipeline permits were revoked.
Nzambi Matee, a material engineer, created plastic waste into blocks stronger than concrete.
The coral reefs of Fiji are vibrant and alive after being destroyed in February of 2016.
Greenland has stopped all future oil exploration due to climate concerns.
Plastic pollution prevention and collection technology are being created and tested.
While this was a very brief glimpse of the issue, the bottom line is that humans caused global warming, but we also have the power to combat it. As citizens of the Earth, we must make dramatic changes required to live in synergy with the environment. From holding large corporations responsible to revisiting our daily habits - every step counts toward a symbiotic & biodiverse future.