The companionship and love a pet provides makes our days brighter and more fun. Caring for and feeding your dog, however, comes with a high environmental price that, with a few changes, can be reduced substantially. Petaluma baked, vegetarian dog food has become a standout in our quest for more sustainable dog foods.
The average 22-pound dog consuming about 534 calories of dry food a day accounts for 1,862 lbs. of CO2 emissions annually, about the same impact as flying economy class from New York to London, according to a 2022 report published in Nature.
Unless your dog has very specialized dietary needs, it’s better for the environment to feed your pet dry food. Feeding your dog wet food mixes, which are primarily made from animal protein raises the impact by as much as 700%. Not only is wet food more emissions and water intensive than dry, the packaging and transportation impacts are significantly higher.
Dogs, unlike cats, can thrive on vegetable-based foods. Petaluma’s Roasted Peanut Butter and Sweet Potato Flavor food, which our dogs have enjoyed, is supplemented with proteins and amino acids that provide all the nutritional benefits of a meat-based diet.
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A Difference Maker For Your Pet
Earth911 reviewed independent lifecycle analyses of Petaluma’s Roasted Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato Flavor and Baked Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Flavor for Senior Dogs dry dog foods. Based on that information and comparisons with other research into pet food impacts, we award Petaluma our Greener Shopping Difference Maker designation to recognize that it achieves a greater than 50% improvement in environmental performance compared to traditional pet foods.
Across their carbon, water, and land impacts, Petaluma’s dog food products consistently perform between 62% and 89% better than traditional dry foods. The one shortcoming, common for many products, is the composite packaging used, which Petaluma’s founder told us they are working to improve.
The company is a Climate Neutral Certified B Corp that contributes 1% for the Planet each year. It reports no Scope 1 CO2 emissions from its operations, 3 tons of Scope 2 emissions created by its energy use, and 309 tons of Scope 3 emissions from its upstream supply and downstream distribution supply chain.
“The majority of our emissions are scope 3 emissions from ingredient production, which are more difficult to reduce and have no path toward net-zero in the current agricultural system,” Petaluma CEO Garrett Wymore said. The company has integrated natural carbon sequestration strategies to further reduce its footprint. “We have opted to participate in carbon offsetting to reduce the impact of our supply chain emissions that we do not have much control over, as well as help create a market for carbon sequestration technologies.”
Petaluma’s Roasted Peanut Butter and Sweet Potato Flavor dry dog food can reduce emissions by 83% and water used to grow and produce the food by 62% while lowering the amount of land needed to grow the ingredients by 88%, according to lifecycle analysis provided by the company.
The Roasted Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato Flavor and Baked Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Flavor for Senior Dogs Flavor can reduce emissions by 84% compared to traditional alternatives. We are pleased to have a product for our older dog that uses 68% less water and 89% less land than the average commercial dog food.
In addition to the dry foods, Petaluma also makes organically grown Sweet Potato Jerky treats for dogs, but has not complete a lifecycle analysis for the product.
Responsible Sourcing of Produce And Energy Carbon Offsets
The dog food at is baked in a solar-powered bakery at Petaluma’s production facility, and account for 65% of the company’s annual energy consumption. Its operations result in no Scope 1 emissions and only 3 tons of Scope 2, roughly the same as one car used to commute to work for a year.
The majority of its carbon emissions fall into the Scope 3 category and 309 tons of Scope 3 emissions associated with growing and transporting the produce and grains used in its products. Ingredients, some of which are low-emissions greenhouses, are selected to reduce their environmental impact. For example, barley replaced brown rice because it is less carbon-intensive to grow and did not require long shipping steps in the supply chain.
Petaluma has offset 312 tons of carbon equivalents, but Wymore said he sees this as a temporary fix. “Carbon offsets have some well-documented problems with accuracy, transparency, and effectiveness and we do not consider them our primary tool in creating more climate-friendly dog foods,” he said.
Petaluma has committed to reducing the impact of its employee commuting, shipping, and packaging.
Packaging, Always The Final Frontier
Like many good things in today’s economy, Petaluma’s packaging is a challenge to recycle because they are shipped in plastic and plastic-and-paper composite bags that are not easily recyclable.
Petaluma initially used a bag that included a Kraft paper layer to reduce virgin plastic use. However, bags with a mix of paper and plastic are often not accepted by recycling programs, so the company recently replaced the paper layer with post-consumer recycled plastic on its 18-pound bags and will soon transition the 5-pound bags as well. The layer of recycled plastic allows the brand to use significantly less packaging material – the bags weigh 50% less without the paper layer – and does not increase demand for virgin plastic.
The company plans to switch to a new mono-material approach to PET (#1) plastic packaging that uses multiple layers of the same type of plastic stretched and treated in different ways to provide the necessary moisture barrier to keep baked dog food fresh. But even that move, which will enable easier recycling, will take time to provide shoppers with benefits because of the lack of new recycling technologies in many American communities.
“These materials already have recycling infrastructure in many European countries, but very few recycling facilities in the United States currently accept them. As a result, they are not supposed to be placed into curbside recycling bins and must be routed through special collection sites,” Wymore told Earth911.
Further compounding a difficult choice, the mono-material technology does not work with recycled plastics, and Waymore added: “We’ve opted to stick with our PCR-inclusive multi-layered bags to limit virgin plastic use while working with our packaging suppliers to ensure we are providing clear (and truthful) instructions to consumers about how to recycle the mono-material bags.”
Taking The Win
Petaluma joins Jiminy’s insect protein-based food and treats as one of two products to show a significant improvement in our research into environmentally responsible pet foods. No pet food has achieved our Transformative Product designation, which represents a 90% or better improvement, primarily do the use of unrecyclable composite packaging.
Few products today are perfectly sustainable, but we can make a lot of progress by choosing better options when available. Petaluma’s foods deliver substantial carbon, water, and land use improvements compared to the grocery and pet store brands that many dogs are fed.
We recommend Petaluma dog foods for pet owners who want to make their dog’s diet more responsible, with a lighter impact on the planet. You can order Petaluma dog foods and snacks online, and don’t neglect to ask for free samples.