America’s Fancy Pet Food Addiction Is a Big Problem for the Environment

American pets have been increasingly served up prime cuts of meat, but this food comes at a cost

The environmental impact of our diet on the planet is well known, but new research shows that the impact of our faithful furry friends and their stomachs is substantial.

Studying the recent trends in pet food, Gregory Okin, a geographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the roughly 163 million pet cats and dogs in the United States eat about a quarter of the meat produced in the country, reports Karin Brulliard for The Washington Post. And all this food comes at a cost. Okin estimates it's responsible for greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide. That's about the same as driving 13.6 million cars around for a year, according to a press release.

“I’m not a vegetarian, but eating meat does come at a cost,” Okin says in a statement. “Those of us in favor of eating or serving meat need to be able to have an informed conversation about our choices, and that includes the choices we make for our pets.”

Getting at this estimate required a slew of calculations, reports Alessandra Potenza of The Verge. After estimating the number of pets in America, a metric not tracked by most cities and states in the country, Okin then calculated the average weight of these pets to estimate how much they eat in a year. He then turned to the ingredient labels of the country's most popular pet food brands to tabulate how much meat our furry friends are consuming annually. Okin published the results of this investigation last week in the journal PLOS One....more