By TIM ALEXANDER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture to crack down on pet food ingredients originating from known foriegn animal disease (FAD) host countries, a new study reveals the economic impact of the pet food industry on American agriculture.
The study, commissioned by the Institute for Feed Education and Research, North American Renderers Association, and Pet Food Institute (PFI), finds that U.S. pet food manufacturers utilize 8.65 million tons of animal and plant-based ingredients for dog and cat food, valued at $6.9 billion annually. Pet food manufacturers use five million tons of farm and farm-product processor ingredients, such as grains, soy products, fruits and vegetables, along with 200,000 tons of seafood products, according to the examination of the $30 billion pet food industry’s impact on U.S. agriculture and rural communities.
“Two-thirds of U.S. households have a pet at home, meaning that the pet food industry not only plays an important role in the lives of more than 100 million families, but also for our country’s agricultural community,” said Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the PFI. “This data is an important step in helping to quantify the economic value this industry brings to our economy and all of U.S. agriculture.”
The top five products the pet food industry purchases that originate from U.S. farms are whole grains, poultry, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal and soybean meal, according to the study. In addition, specialty crops — peas, beet pulp and sweet potatoes — top the list of farm products purchased by pet food manufacturers. Many of these ingredients are purchased from Heartland farmers and ranchers in five states-- Missouri, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Ohio, respectively.
But not all pet food on U.S. supermarket shelves can be ingredient-sourced to Heartland farmers. Many ingredients, including pork and soybean meal, are imported from China and other nations where FAD has been identified. During its recent annual meeting, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPA) resolved to encourage federal regulators to investigate the risks of imported pet food and pet food products containing pork from FAD-positive countries. In addition to China, where African swine fever has been confirmed since 2018,16 countries are identified as FAD-positive.
“ASF coming into China where roughly half the pigs in the world are grown is a very significant event...but it’s also a significant event to us in the U.S.,” said Paul Sundberg, executive director for the Swine Health Information Center, in 2018. “For the U.S., it changes the game, the level of the game for our risk of introduction.”
The possible pathways for ASF’s introduction to the U.S. include pet foods and pet food ingredients, along with soybean meal, soy oil cake, choline and complete feeds, according to Sundberg. To prevent the spread of ASF, in March 2019 the Philippines banned importation of pet food containing processed animal proteins from ASF-positive countries into Singapore.
However, just one to two percent of imported food products that come into our country are physically inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA). Along with the NPPC, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) would like for Congress to compel the USDA to prohibit the importation of organic soy products from ASF-positive countries in order to protect the U.S. pork industry from the virus.
“Coming from a family swine farm, I can fervently say that protecting the health and welfare of the country’s swine population is a number one priority for the feed industry and we are working hand-in-hand with state, federal and international leaders to ensure that any policies or regulations that are put into place are achievable, science-based and minimize trade disruptions,” said Victoria Broehm, director of communications for the AFIA, in an email to Farm World.
“We know that roughly 534,000 tons of soy products were used in dog and cat foods in the U.S. between 2018-19, per the study. Soybean meal represents the third-largest dominant ingredient used in pet food at roughly 427,000 tons. In total, the U.S. imported roughly 593,000 tons of soybean meal in 2020 that was used across human and animal food,” she added.
A top pet website, www.topdogtips.com, has compiled a list of 12facts about dog food made in China. According to topdogtips, the best way to ensure that the pet food you select is sourced and made in the U.S. is to purchase from a brand known for their quality control policies. A list of pet food companies who have publicly pledged to maintain full transparency, when it comes to pet food ingredients and sourcing, is provided on the website.