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A call to improve sustainability and animal welfare in the pet food industry

January 24 2022 - News


Looking at major current trends in the pet food industry, I see sustainability and animal welfare becoming ever more important. These topics are also at the forefront of our thinking here at IQI. While our product offering still depends quite strongly on traditional animal-based products, we are working hard to make improvements and develop novel, alternative ingredients. My ambition for the coming year is to further strengthen our efforts, particularly on sustainability and animal welfare.

In my opinion, improving animal welfare and improving sustainability are closely related. This is confirmed by an international research study, which shows that working to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is comparable to working to improve animal welfare. The two SDGs for which this mutual reinforcing is strongest are SDG 12 (‘responsible consumption and production’) and SDG 14 (‘life below water’). At IQI, we are dedicated in particular to SDG 12 and SDG 14, as we believe these to be the most relevant to the pet food industry. Most of the targets under these two SDGs are also considered relevant to animal welfare.

Use of side streams

The goal of SDG12 is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. A unique aspect of the pet food industry is that many ingredients are based on side streams and by-products of the human food manufacturing industry. This creates a lot of value from the viewpoint of sustainability, by recovering protein products, fats, and oils and using them as high-quality pet food ingredients. Making an animal welfare claim for these products fully depends on whether the animals have had a ‘better life’.

Labels for animal welfare

The first steps have been taken by the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA), for example with the introduction of the ‘Better Life’ label, which places the highest value on organic and free range farming systems. Similar initiatives have been introduced across Europe by other members of Eurogroup for Animals, the umbrella organization for the leading animal welfare groups in EU member states, as well as in the US. Although the footprint of organic and free-range farming methods is a little bigger than for intensive farming methods, this can be compensated by balancing the use of animal-based products and alternative, non-animal-based proteins across the entire food chain.

Alternative ingredients

The meat and dairy industries have the largest ecological impact of all food production in terms of water, energy, and land use. The carbon footprint for producing, processing, and shipping animals and animal products is also larger than for plant-based foods. Gradually shifting from traditional animal-based to more novel, alternative ingredients benefits both sustainability and animal welfare. To fully develop this approach, I believe we need to create a level playing field by calculating the true costs for all ingredients. At IQI, we have already developed various novel ingredients, such as insects or seaweeds as alternative protein sources, as well as microalgae as a sustainable source of omega-3. Such alternatives to the use of fish-based proteins, fish oil, or salmon oil help to contribute to SDG 14.

Fully traceable supply chain

In general, animal welfare applies more to land-based than marine animals. In order to make an animal welfare label claim for meat-based pet food ingredients, side streams need to be separated at the processing site. Since IQI is a leader in the use of side streams, my ambition is to actively talk to our suppliers to see if they would be willing to separate these different products. This provides the opportunity to make ingredients fully traceable in terms of quality, organic status, sustainability, or animal welfare. At the end of the day, our impact is greatest in cooperation with our partners and suppliers.

Insight into our carbon footprint

I would like to call upon our suppliers and customers to track their greenhouse gas emissions and establish the size of their carbon footprint. This will allow us as an industry to gain greater insight and collaborate, leveraging existing sustainability knowledge, to improve our performance. I consider IQI’s role within the pet food value chain as being to create insight and transparency on the specialty ingredients from our partner-suppliers and the continuous improvement that is being achieved for the benefit of our customers who process these ingredients. The standard for reporting on climate change and creating this insight is the Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Animal welfare as an important theme

Animal welfare is an increasingly important theme for our clients and of course pet parents. In a recent presentation organized by the Pet Sustainability Coalition, Interquell, a premium brand of pet food, showed how the most important sustainability theme for them is health and animal welfare.

Our vision for tomorrow’s pet food industry

At IQI, we are committed to further accelerating sustainability and animal welfare in the pet food industry. To that end, IQI became a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) in 2020. IQI supports PSC’s vision of a thriving and collaborative pet food industry that creates a positive impact on the communities and environments in which we do business. To learn more about IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients’ vision on sustainability, please download our e-paper.

Download our e-paper about possibilities for moving towards a more sustainable pet food industry


About Mark Oostendorp

Mark Oostendorp is IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO), responsible for managing our facilities in the Netherlands and the USA and giving further shape to IQI’s strategic choices and the continuous icrease of added value within the petfood supply chain. Mark has more than 25 years of international leadership experience for different companies in the fields of food, agriculture and biotechnology. 

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