By Maral Cavner//January 1, 2024//
By: Maral Cavner//January 1, 2024//
Like most meat, eggs, and dairy consumed by people in the U.S., almost all pet food containing meat ingredients is made from animals who spend their lives confined in inhumane conditions on factory farms. More than one-fourth of meat produced in America is used in food for dogs and cats, an enormous quantity given that over 10 billion farm animals are slaughtered for food each year. The pet food industry helps keep the factory farming industry profitable—a benefit that comes at the expense of farm animals’ welfare. Thankfully, a growing number of pet food companies are responding to consumers’ demand to provide different, higher welfare options for companion animals.
Animals raised on factory farms endure unimaginable cruelty, including physical alterations like castration and tail docking without pain relief. Most of these animals suffer from abnormally rapid growth rates, experience stress from being housed in barren surroundings, and endure rough handling. The practices employed by industrial animal agriculture also pollute the environment, put public health at risk, and threaten the livelihood of independent farmers. The good news is that more humane husbandry practices exist, sourcing from better farms and ranches is possible, and consumers are motivated to buy in line with their values.
A recent nationwide survey shows that most Americans with companion animals seek pet food from brands prioritizing more humane sourcing of animal-derived ingredients. It comes as no surprise that 82 percent of pet owners are willing to spend more on products that align with their values — or even switch to another brand that treats farm animals more humanely. This parallels 91 percent of surveyed Americans who agree that companies should address animal welfare and the environment in corporate sustainability programs.
Recognizing this imperative, leading food companies are working with the ASPCA to add farm animal welfare to their missions and corporate social responsibility goals. The ASPCA launched a dedicated initiative highlighting more than a dozen pet food brands that already offer welfare-certified products for cats and dogs—and since then, 10 more brands have committed to new sourcing standards. These pet food companies are steering their industry forward by supporting farmers whose animals are never confined in cages or crates and aligning with the better standards of third-party certifications like Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.). As newly committed brands transition their supply chains, the ASPCA provides support from start to finish, including connecting buyers to more humane suppliers.
“Open Farm is committed to prioritizing more humane and sustainable sourcing to fill the major gap realized through our own search for sustainable and ethically sourced pet food,” said Jacqueline Prehogan, founder of Open Farm Pet Food. “We source our meat in a way consistent with our belief that animals deserve compassion through prioritizing welfare-certified suppliers, and the ASPCA has helped us to align with better farm animal welfare standards.”
Businesses listening to today’s consumers know that strong farm animal welfare policies are essential for building a sustainable and trustworthy brand. Since the ASPCA launched its Shop With Your Heart program, the number of animals raised under meaningful welfare certifications has grown by more than 350 percent and counting. As pet food brands continue to opt for higher-welfare ingredients and the market expands, welfare-certified farmers will have more lucrative options rather than having no choice but to sell their excess products into the conventional market, potentially at a loss.
Especially important given the amount of chicken in pet product formulations, some pet food companies are also reporting progress for the Better Chicken Commitment, a comprehensive, multi-faceted animal welfare policy to improve chicken breed, housing, and slaughter welfare standards. The ASPCA and many other animal welfare organizations endorse this commitment and encourage companies to incorporate welfare certifications into their sourcing and marketing strategies.
“We bear a special responsibility to ensure all animals are treated with compassion, and this includes farm animals raised for meat,” said Marko Wittich, president and co-founder of Campfire Treats. “That is why we have prioritized meeting requirements for the Better Chicken Commitment, transitioning from conventional chickens to a healthier and higher welfare breed certified by Global Animal Partnership in a system that gives them access to explore the great outdoors.”
Loving and nourishing your pet shouldn’t come at the expense of animals raised on farms. Independent, third-party certification is one of the only ways to assure certainty of better treatment in contrast to the many misleading and mendacious marketing claims found on food packages. This is an opportune moment to prioritize responsible sourcing that treats farm animals better, and the ASPCA urges pet food companies to reach out for assistance with weaving animal welfare policies and higher welfare procurement into their strategies.
Maral Cavner, Esq. is the senior manager of corporate policy in the ASPCA’s farm animal welfare department. She collaborates with major food companies and producers in this role to adopt and strengthen meaningful farmed animal welfare policies. She has collaboratively developed around 50 corporate policies impacting tens of millions of animals yearly since graduating from the most extensive animal law program in the U.S. at Lewis & Clark Law School in 2018.