On the surface, it’s difficult to see what renewable diesel has to do with pet food. But pet food makers are facing supply challenges with pet food ingredients due to government mandates and incentives that have increased the demand for renewal diesel.
What is Renewable Diesel?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable diesel is produced from feedstock, including those used for biodiesel production, through processes like hydrotreating, gasification and other technologies. Vegetable oils are the main feedstock used in renewable diesel production, but animal fats are also used. These are the same ingredients used in the production of dog and cat foods.
In the interest of addressing climate change, state and federal lawmakers have enacted policies that mandate the use of plant- and animal-based oils and fats historically used in pet foods for the creation of renewable diesel. The government is providing tax credits that favor these ingredients being used for fuel production instead of food for humans and pets. These state and federal policy mandates and incentives promoting renewable fuel growth have created unintended consequences in supply and demand for plant- and animal-based oils and fats.
These incentives create an unfair government-driven market advantage to the energy sector and a disadvantage to companies purchasing ingredients for pet and human food. Tax credits that favor fuel production over food production create market distortions. While other industries reap tax credits for their commodity’s use in renewable fuel, U.S. pet food and human food makers bear the brunt of this disadvantaged domestic supply.
Renewable diesel demand has recently caused prices for plant- and animal-based oils and fats to double or even triple, drastically increasing the cost of critical ingredients needed for pet food makers to provide dogs and cats with safe, high-quality and complete nutrition. Pet food makers are committed to providing pet owners nutritious food that helps support long healthy lives for pets, but to do this, they rely on access to dozens of plant- and animal-based oil and fat ingredients. In addition to price spikes, increased renewable diesel demand has caused alarming shortages — even rationing — of crucial ingredients that will continue until these market distortions are addressed.
The unfortunate result of these government actions is that consumers could face difficulty finding their pets’ favorite foods, price increases or alterations in pet food recipes.
What Can We Do?
The bottom line is that Congress needs to be told that the mandates and incentives they have enacted are creating unintended consequences in the supply chain, to pet food makers and to their constituents. Congress needs to prioritize food before fuel, as countries in the EU have done. To provide the pet food industry and our allies with resources to educate consumers on the renewable diesel issue, the Pet Food Institute has developed a Renewable Diesel Toolkit.
This toolkit has all the resources companies and organizations need to reach consumers with the #FoodBeforeFuel message including:
- Suggested website/blog content
- Sample email text
- Sample social media posts
- A printable half-page infographic
- Sample letter to the editor of local media
Use the resources to mobilize consumers and your employees.
Working together, the pet industry can disseminate this critical information to consumers and prompt them to contact their members of Congress. Only through our joint efforts can we send Congress a strong message to pause incentives and mandates so that pet food makers have access to necessary animal- and plant-based oils. Download the toolkit here, and encourage your employees to sign the petition, share the social media posts, post the printable infographic at your register and on your website, and use the provided tools to send Congress a strong #FoodBeforeFuel message.
Kelly Kanaras is the director of communications at the Pet Food Institute in Washington, D.C. PFI serves as the voice of the U.S. pet food and treat makers. PFI represents the companies making up 98 percent of U.S. dog and cat food and treat products, an industry achieving more than $50 billion in U.S. retail sales and $2 billion in exports in 2021.