As we wrote in our last pet food guide, it was reported, in 2011, that a tenth of all the world’s palm kernel meal – a byproduct of palm oil production – is fed to British animals. No certified palm kernel meal was imported to Britain at the time of the report. However, most pet food brands on our table did not appear to use palm oil or its derivatives.
Hi-Life, and Harringtons and Wagg (the latter two are from the same company) listed ingredients which could be derived from palm oil, including vegetable glycerine, vegetable oil and “oils and fats”. We contacted the companies to ask what these ingredients were but did not receive an answer.
As Wagg had previously declared to Ethical Consumer that it used no palm derivatives this was assumed to still stand, but HiLife was marked down for lack of transparency.
The biggest companies on our table, Nestlé, Mars and Colgate, and the supermarkets use palm oil in other products they make.
Even if palm is not an ingredient in most pet food, as most pet food is meat-based, palm kernel meal may have been part of the animal feed used in its production.
Packaging & recycling
Tins and foil can be recycled. Dry food has the advantage that it may be stored in plastic-free paper-based packaging. It also keeps better so you can buy it in bulk to further cut down on packaging needs.
At the other end of the spectrum, it has now become common to find wet cat food individually portioned into separate pouches. These pouches are one of those difficult-to-recycle inventions made by layering thin pieces of plastic together with adhesive and often an added layer of aluminium. The combination of materials and the effectiveness with which they have been sealed means they don’t fit into the normal recycling categories and will not be accepted with your kerbside recycling.
In 2018, TerraCycle, in collaboration with Mars’ brands Whiskas and James Wellbeloved, launched the ‘Pet Food Recycling Programme’. Pet owners can send their used pouches to TerraCycle, drop them off at designated collection points or create their own collection point. It is free, but you do have to become a member.
However, it isn’t the ideal response when there are many ways to avoid plastic packaging altogether.
According to the TerraCycle website, the pouches are recycled into items such as fence-posts and benches. This only really delays the plastic problem as these objects will still be subject to erosion which can lead to microplastics finding their way into the environment.
The real solution, as with all our current packaging problems, comes with radically changing the way we package and purchase products in the first place. See if you can find a local shop that sells pet food without packaging.