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The stakes are far from small potatoes. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own four-legged friends, a paw-dropping 184 million dogs and cats to be precise. To feed this mass of tail-wagging companions, we spend almost $30bn annually. Pet food — predominantly animal-meat products — represents as much as 30 percent of all meat consumption in America.
According to a first-of-its-kind study on how that sweet blond lab on your kitchen floor impacts the environment, UCLA professor Gregory Okin writes that if American pets were to establish a sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption. This nation of pooches and kitties consumes about 19 percent as many calories as humans, but because their diets are higher in protein, their total animal-derived calorie intake amounts to about 33 percent that of humans.
“If you’re feeding your large dog the same as you, your dog is eating more meat than you are,” said Dr. Cailin Heinze, a Tufts faculty member and board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Food consumption by dogs and cats is responsible for releasing up to 64 million tons of greenhouse gases every year. Developing fake meat for pets may help put a dent in that, as well as the use of water and land needed to breed all that livestock. In doing so, the industry might pave the way toward replacing all the real meat in your fridge, too.
As global human population approaches 8 billion, said Ron Shigeta, one of the founders of Wild Earth, “the opportunity here is to create something that is safe and sustainable.”
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