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  • Our Thoughtful Guide To Ethical Pet Food

    Our Thoughtful Guide To Ethical Pet Food

    Being aware of our environmental impact is an ever-growing trend. We recycle where possible, reduce our plastic waste, and generally make decisions that are kinder to the environment. This positive attitude can also be applied to pet food.

    What does it mean to feed your pets ethically? At The Thoughtful Pet Food Store, we believe it can be broken down into three main points; animal welfare, sourcing of ingredients, and environmentally friendly packaging.


    The basis of high-quality pet food is protein, specifically meat. Pet foods are available in many different flavours, with meat sourced from a wide range of locations. The welfare of any animal used for meat production should be considered, and free-range and organically reared animals will be cared for under higher welfare standards compared to barn-raised or caged animals. In the UK, the Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), oversee farms and ensure welfare standards are being met. The UK and other European countries are also regulated by the EU’s European Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.

    Under EU legislation, the farming of free-range birds is defined as follows:

    “…the birds have had during at least half their lifetime continuous daytime access to open-air runs comprising an area mainly covered by vegetation…” 1

    The organic farming of livestock is defined as follows:

    “…farming should ensure that specific behavioural needs of animals are met. In this regard, housing for all species of livestock should satisfy the needs of the animals concerned as regards ventilation, light, space and comfort and sufficient area should accordingly be provided to permit ample freedom of movement for each animal and to develop the animal’s natural social behaviour…” 2

    This definition is highly detailed and goes on to explain that organically-reared animals must be provided with a natural diet, have permanent access to open space, and not be subjected to pain or stress.

    Although there is no legal requirement for pet food manufacturers to state on their packaging where their meat is sourced from, this information is often readily available either online or by contacting the manufacturers directly.

    It is important to note that pet foods containing organic ingredients will often state this on their packaging and may also have certification from organisations such as the RSPCA, The Ethical Company Organisation, Organic Food Federation, and The Good Shopping Guide.


    Pet foods are made up of all sorts of different ingredients including; meat, fruit, vegetables, grains, herbs, and other botanical elements. Where these are sourced from can have an impact on the environment due to the emissions caused by long-distance travel.

    British-made brands are more likely to have a lower environmental footprint. The emissions produced from the process of ingredients being shipped from farm to factory to supplier will be less than those produced and manufactured abroad. If you are feeding your pet a non-UK brand, you can still work towards a lower carbon footprint by feeding brands that source their ingredients local to their factories. These brands will often be supporting local farmers and the transportation of ingredients will be minimal.


    An important aspect of reducing our ecological footprint is a plastic waste. Most types of plastic do not biodegrade and therefore simply end up in landfills. Wet pet food is commonly available in metal cans, and has been for many years. Metal is, of course, commonly recycled and has many reusable properties. Although trays and pouches are plastic based, some companies are starting to use bio-degradable plastic to create a more environmentally friendly product.

    The development of recyclable dry food packaging is something that has only become mainstream in the pet food industry in recent years. Some companies are now choosing to use paper-based packaging as opposed to plastic, allowing for bags of kibble to be recycled or even composted. Environmentally friendly water-based inks are also being used instead of chemical-based inks when printing packaging.

    While it is important to be aware of the ethical and environmental impact of your pet’s food, this does not mean every meal you feed your pet needs to compose of a locally sourced, high welfare, recyclable product. Simply applying any one of our three points on ethical feeding can improve your pet’s environmental footprint. The most important point is to ensure your dog or cat is thriving on their food.

    If you are unsure of any of these aspects of your pet’s food, contact a member of our team and they will be happy to clarify anything for you.

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