As a pet parent, you want to provide your furry friend with the best possible food, but what does that mean for the environment? With growing numbers of people and pet populations, our earth’s natural resources are dwindling. By making environmentally responsible choices, we can reduce our impact on the planet while providing cats and dogs with nutritious meals they love.
What is Sustainability in Pet Food Manufacturing?
Sustainability is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but true sustainability goes much deeper than throwing items in your curbside recycling bin. The UN World Commission on Environment and Development describes sustainability as having 3 pillars: economic, environmental, and social. In pet food manufacturing, it means providing our pets with healthy raw foods in a way that does not compromise future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. Sustainability presumes that the earth’s resources are finite and should be used conservatively. There is a replacement rate where we know we can cut down a tree and plant others to replace it, but when the replacement rate can’t keep up with demand, that is where we run into issues of scarcity and agricultural devastation.
5 Ways Steve’s Real Food Celebrates Earth Day Every Day
Steve’s Real Food is committed to manufacturing high-quality pet foods while minimizing environmental impact. Below we take a closer look at the most obvious of the sustainability pillars, environmental, where we focus our efforts on reducing our carbon footprint, packaging waste, and water usage; but the economic and social pillars as well to get a full circle understanding to sustainability in pet food manufacturing, and how it benefits both pets and their human companions.
Steve’s Real Food only uses human-grade ingredients that are free from pesticides, additives, preservatives, 4D meats, and GMOs. By avoiding things like pesticides, we are keeping those toxins out of our soil and groundwater, plus it helps your pet to enjoy better digestion, higher energy levels, and even reduced allergies. Steve’s also works to solely partner with farmers who share our commitment to preserving the environment. Our fresh fruits and vegetables come from local farms that prioritize regenerative agriculture, efficient water management, and ethical treatment of animals. Our meats are sourced locally, and 100% of fish used in our foods are caught from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fisheries.
Manufacturing & Processing
For many pet food makers, a huge amount of energy is expended to process food with high heat used for making kibble and the canning process, which expels a huge sum of air pollution. Because Steve’s is a minimally-processed raw pet food brand, our food does not require that significant amount of energy to manufacture. The reduced energy that is required to power our manufacturing plant is harvested from the earth’s largest and oldest form of renewable energy - hydroelectric power! Hydroelectric power is reliable and emission-free.
Many people assume that raising cows and pigs contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions but that is not accurate. Per the EPA, agriculture accounts for just 11% of greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation tops the chart accounting for 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to the fact that 90% of all commercial transportation of goods is via fossil fuels. While some of us do drive electric cars here at the office, Steve’s Real Food works to cut down on transportation emissions by buying as many ingredients from local suppliers as possible. 90% of all our ingredients used to make our foods come from California, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest. Less distance to ship the ingredients = fewer emissions.
Most pet foods come in plastic packaging because it is affordable and effective at keeping the food fresh. The problem is that most plastics create waste that doesn’t degrade or degrade very slowly, and even contains additives like phthalates that leach plastic into the food. Steve’s Real Food has evolved its packaging from being composed of biodegradable and post-consumer waste materials, to being fully recyclable! Our packaging is even created in a facility that runs on solar power. Our pet food bags are #4 rated recyclable plastic that can be dropped off at the same place you recycle your grocery bags and in some curbside pickups. We use corrugated boxes for our larger package sizes, not only to make them sturdier but also so they can be put in curbside recycling bins. Our boxes use vegetable-based printing inks so there’s no concern for leaching of inks into soil and groundwater.
Community & Social Initiatives
The social pillar of sustainability relates to the community it operates in, serves, and even its employees. Steve’s Real Food works to create social sustainability with our partnership with several non-profit organizations and pet rescues throughout the United States. We hold educational webinars each month where we donate $5 for each attendee. The webinars give recognition to worthy organizations that help pets and provide them with an economic boost. Our ingredient sourcing has built farming communities that have formed co-ops of local farmers.
The economic pillar relates to a business’s ability to distribute profits to increase sustainability efforts. Steve’s Real Food is fueled by our ambition to help pets, make environmentally conscious choices, and revolutionize the industry to push for better ways of making quality pet food with less. Corporate sustainability allows Steve’s Real Food to make environmental improvement goals, report on our progress, and seek out new possibilities.
As a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition, we have access to emerging trends in environmental initiatives. We attend their annual summit to learn and share with others about what we are doing to lower our carbon footprint. We are the 1st raw pet food company in the industry to earn Interseroh accreditation, and are currently seeking B Corp Certification.
Steve’s Real Food aims to set the benchmark for the future of raw pet food manufacturing in a growing world with finite resources. We hold true to our mission statement imprinted on our logo - Food that is good for your pet and the ground they walk on.
Our company is driven by five core values and accountability is one of them. We are accountable to the distributor, retailer, and customer. The decisions we make must ensure that we have everyone’s best interests in hand while not compromising on our mission of creating a pet food that is convenient, affordable, and of the highest quality.
How Many Times Has This Happened to You When Buying Cat Food?
You’re at your local independent pet retailer to pick up cat food. These days you don’t bother with dry kibble and speed past it straight to the canned food, nothing but the best for your kitty (you’ve heard great things about raw, maybe next time). A new canned food catches your eye and even though it’s a little more expensive than you’re used to, you spring for a few cans in various flavors like “beef wellington” and “chicken a la king” because your cat is going to LOVE it! You bring it home and excitedly crack it open as your cat rubs on your legs in anticipation of dinner. You put the bowl down and watch in awe as kitty gives it a sniff and WALKS AWAY?! Dumbfounded, you put her in front of the bowl, and again, she walks away, now looking at you as if to say, “where’s my dinner?” You give her some time, hoping she’ll eat when she’s hungry, but you don’t wait long before scraping the food into the trash in defeat. Luckily you had a couple of cans of her old food stashed in the cupboard. As you open it, you think to yourself, “What do I do with the other cans? Was it just that flavor? Do I try again? Was it bad food? What if she won’t eat the other cans? What a waste of money. Is my cat just picky?” You err on the side of caution and exchange the remaining cans for her old food the next day, still unsure of what went wrong. You know one thing is for sure-you’re never straying away from her old food again.
What you just experienced wasn’t your fault. You didn’t necessarily pick bad food. You just witnessed one of the feline’s most powerful defense mechanisms at work. It’s known as imprint eating and it affects cat parents across the globe. Like many other species, cats learn from their mother what is safe to eat at a very young age and once they imprint on something, they develop a very strong preference for the taste, texture, and temperature of that food. This develops during weaning age (between 3 and 8 weeks old). If you’ve ever been shunned when offering your cat a piece of your juicy steak, you can thank imprint eating.
You might be thinking “My cat isn’t like that. He loves new food and gets bored if he eats the same thing for too long!” And you’d be right too! This is what’s known as the monotony effect; when a cat has been eating the same thing too frequently or for too long, they suddenly go on strike. Instinctually, they begin to crave something different. And you never know when the mood is going to hit! When hunting for their food, cats naturally vary their diet from day to day. They can get away with that because they are so good at hunting!
Why it Matters
Whether your cat is exhibiting one of these behaviors, or a little of both, you’re likely accepting the fact that these picky behaviors are instinctually derived and you might be feeling like you’re in a lose-lose situation. You’re accepting defeat right now - After all, you have a routine, what’s the big deal? Well, there are a lot of things to consider about your cat’s diet that may motivate you to make changes:
- A current health issue
- Perhaps you’re being advised by your holistic or integrative veterinarian to switch to a particular diet to support a recent diagnosis
- A future health issue
- Health issues in the future can’t always be predicted or ruled out
- If your cat develops a food sensitivity, narrowing down the culprit will be crucial
- The benefit of obtaining a variety of nutrients
- Different proteins offer a variety of amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients, filling nutrient gaps naturally
- Discontinuation of your cat’s food
- What would you do if your local independent pet store suddenly stopped carrying your cat’s favorite food?
- Backorders can’t always be predicted - what will you feed as a backup?
- Worst case scenario, your cat’s favorite food gets discontinued altogether
- Financial reasons
- You find yourself on a tighter budget and need to make some changes
- You find yourself with a bigger budget and are ready to upgrade
- You just want to do better
- New information comes to light every day - you discover that an old favorite may no longer be the best nutritional option
Preventing Picky Eating Behaviors in Cats
The obstacle here is that most cat parents aren’t in a situation to prevent a “picky eater” because most cat parents don’t acquire their cat until post-weaning, post-imprinting. Many cats are rescued later in life so a cat parent often has no idea what their cat imprinted on. For those of you in a position to introduce foods to weaning kittens - or even if you just brought home a young kitten - this is the time to introduce a variety of foods and set kitty up for a successful future of a varied diet. Slowly of course, always introduce a brand new protein a little at a time. Canned food boasts a variety of textures; pate, chunk, stew, sliced, shredded, and don’t forget protein variety! One variety every 2-5 days is a good rule of thumb. This is also the perfect time to introduce raw cat food like Quest! Keep in mind that cats imprint on the taste, texture, and temperature - let this guide you. Try different brands, flavors, and textures and offer it at room temperature and straight from the fridge. You may notice more excitement around some flavors or textures than others and be tempted to offer those favorites more often - avoid doing so! Continue to offer variety as kitty grows, rotate throughout their life, and watch them thrive!
Tips for Introducing New Food to Cats
Now, if you’re trying to introduce new food to your cat, for whatever reason - I’ve got some tips for you. These will aid with any food introduction, but I’ll be referencing raw cat food. Despite it being the healthiest option for cats, it has a very particular taste, texture, and temperature that cat parents often find the most challenging to introduce.
Before you start transitioning your cat to a new food, there are three basic rules to follow
- The smoothest transition for preventing digestive upset will take a minimum of 7-14 days - but remember, cats don’t follow a timeline, your transition may take much longer.
- No fasting allowed! It takes as little as 3 days of little to no eating to put a cat at risk for fatty liver disease which is a life-threatening emergency! So make sure to keep some of the old food on hand throughout the transition as a backup.
- Keep an open mind and be willing to try different techniques.
Below is an example of a cat food transition timeline:
- Day 1-3 - a sprinkle of new food in with the old
- Day 2-4 - replace ¼ of the old food with the new
- Day 3-5 - replace ½ of the old food with the new
- Day 4-6 - replace ¾ of the old food with the new
- Day 5-7 - a sprinkle of the old food in with the old
- Day 6-8 - fully transitioned - food is 100% new
You should be able to transition once you’ve gotten over the hump of that first introduction. Remember taste, temperature, and texture. The combo of these for your cat is up to you to discover. You may have to change just one of the “T’s” - or all of them - before getting it just right.
Start with a protein your cat is used to and loves; this will increase your chances of success and help prevent digestive upset. It’s OK to venture out too, especially if your cat loves a lot of variety. So if your go-to chicken doesn’t work, switch it up and try beef and so on. It’s important to remember that similar species do taste and smell different to a cat. Snubbing chicken doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll snub turkey.
Temperature can be one of the most off-putting parts of raw as it is often coming straight out of the fridge from thawing. Cooking raw is a no-no, but not all is lost! Start by bringing the raw as close to room temperature as possible so they’re not met with a cold shock! This can be done by setting it in lukewarm water or leaving it out on the counter for an hour. If that’s not quite doing the trick, performing a parboil or quick-fry and letting it cool might help, but you’ll need to transition away from these methods, shortening the “quick-cook” time gradually until you get the raw to room temp again.
Just as you start with a familiar flavor, you’ll likely have success with a similar texture. There are many forms of raw cat food on the market; nuggets, bite-size pieces, and smoothie-type consistency are most popular. If your cat is used to canned slices or morsels, start with nuggets or bite-size pieces and smush it or break it up with a fork. Likewise, if your cat is used to a pate or loosely ground canned food, you can still start with the chunkier raw - simply blend it or stir it up, or start with the smoothie-type raw. Another thing to consider is liquid. Raw cat food contains all the naturally occurring intracellular moisture a cat needs, but if kitty is used to liquid in their canned food, you might want to add liquid to the raw for transitional purposes; raw goat’s milk, pet-appropriate bone broth or even water may do the trick.
Where to Start Raw Feeding Your Cat
Now that you’ve selected which raw cat food to try, it's time to introduce it! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, jump in wherever you think is a good fit for you and your cat! Just remember, cats are cats - they’re curious, and they like to feel like they’re winning. They love to outsmart you so you may need to get crafty.
Sneak it in
Cat parents are often tempted to mix or stir the raw into the old food and this almost never works. The trick is preventing their senses from the shock of something new and foreign - blending even the smallest amount throughout the food does the opposite. Instead, place a slight amount of raw food at the bottom of the bowl first and put the old food on top to mask the new food. Another sensory trick is to place a small amount of raw food in its own bowl near their feeding station - leave it there while feeding a meal of the old food so kitty can acquire the smell and associate it with eating. This method is wasteful but can be effective.
Make a game of it
Utilize their prey drive. Turn the raw food into something they want to catch. This works best with freeze-dried raw, but feel free to use your imagination. Putting a few nuggets in a treat ball for kitty to bat around or tying a piece to fishing line and pulling it down the hall - are both games in which kitty can hunt, allowing instinct to kick in. The options are endless; hide pieces of freeze-dried around the house - on a bookshelf, under a chair. Toss it across the floor! Anything to ignite that hunting instinct.
This area is tricky for cat parents because forbidden areas are typically just that - forbidden. Nonetheless, this is one of my favorites. Again, the possibilities are endless, but here are some goodies; go through all of the motions of feeding time, putting raw food in the bowl, and taking it away before they can get to it. Smear raw food onto a spoon and let them sniff it and lick it off - this is especially successful if your cat is the begging type and you pull it off during one of your own meals. Leave raw food out on the table or counter and walk away allowing them to explore. Yes, you may be enabling unwanted behaviors, but if the payoff is kitty eating raw food, is it really the worst thing?
There's Light at the End of the Tunnel
Cats wouldn’t be cats if they weren’t… cats, but isn’t that what makes them so lovable? Remember, the introduction is the hardest part. Keep an open mind, try new things, don’t trap yourself in a timeline, remember the “T’s” and absolutely no fasting! I wish I could tell you exactly which transition combo would work for you, but every cat is unique. Don’t give up! Watching your cat transform into a healthier, thriving being will be worth it!
Cats & Dogs; How Similar Are They, Really?
It’s undeniable; dogs and cats have captured the hearts of millions. Whether you pair ‘em together or think of them as opposites, the two undoubtedly go hand in hand. Or do they? Even though they have many similarities, they have less in common than one might realize. That’s because many of their differences are hiding beneath the surface and these differences impact many things. Today, we’re going to highlight nutritional requirements for cats and dogs. Understanding nutritional differences allow us to make better choices when deciding what to feed our pets. This is important because, despite their differences, their whole health is what matters - inside and out.
A quick overview of their physical appearance shows us similarities between cats and dogs; ears that rotate to pick up sound undetectable by humans, long, sharp teeth designed for ripping and tearing meat, and body structures built to catch live prey. All of these are physical markers of a carnivore. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Dog Nutritional Requirements
Though both species hunt and prefer a fresh kill, how successful they are at hunting has affected their evolution. Dogs are actually known as opportunistic hunters, meaning they’ll scavenge or eat fresh berries and flowers when they are unable to catch fresh prey, which happens often. The plant foods they consume contain carbohydrates, and over time the dog’s pancreas evolved to produce the digestive enzyme amylase which helps break down the carbohydrates into energy. Because of this, some claim that the dog is actually an omnivore and unfortunately, many kibble makers have latched onto this idea.
Even though dogs are equipped to utilize some carbs, the amount is very important. On average a dog can readily digest between 4-14% carbohydrates in their diet, but most kibble on the market today contains between 46-75% carbohydrates. It’s very taxing on a dog’s body to continually process such a high carb load day in and day out and it can actually lead to many ailments, such as obesity because eventually, those extra carbs start getting stored as fat.
Cat Nutritional Requirements
Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores meaning their food and energy requirements are derived solely from animal tissue. They need a diet high in meat, especially because cats are extremely successful at hunting and therefore never developed the need to scavenge like their counterparts. In turn, their pancreas hasn’t developed the ability to produce enough amylase to convert carbohydrates into energy. Instead, carbs are stored as fat, which is why feline obesity is so common in our house cats.
The high meat diet of the cat is absolutely crucial in providing necessary amino acids, fats, and pre-formed vitamins.
Let’s take a look:
- Arginine- A building block for protein, this amino acid is critical for an animal's internal chemical factory functioning
- Dogs: produce enzymes internally that aid in the production of arginine
- Cats: are sensitive to even one meal without arginine. Cats require a lot of protein and arginine aids in the elimination of protein waste products
- Niacin-An essential B Vitamin that must be obtained through diet
- Dogs: can convert the amino acid Tryptophan into Niacin or obtain it by eating it already pre-formed
- Cats: cannot convert Tryptophan into Niacin and must obtain it already pre-formed in their diet
- Taurine- An amino acid that is found throughout most body tissues, necessary for healthy functioning of the heart, retina, reproduction, and bile function
- Dogs: can make their own taurine
- Cats: cannot make their own taurine, it must come from a diet high in meat protein
- Vitamin A- Also called Retinol is required at a cellular level for both cats and dogs
- Dogs: have an enzyme in the lining of their intestine that can convert plant carotenoids into active Vitamin A
- Cats: must obtain theirs pre-formed through a prey animal
Nutritional requirements are just one of many differences between cats and dogs, and we’ve only scratched the surface here. One important takeaway is that both species are classified as carnivores. The amount of meat in their diet plays an important role in their health. Equally important is that their diet be low in carbohydrate content which is exactly what we did at Steve’s Real Food. Our entire original lineup consists of a high meat/low carb ratio and is an ideal diet for the canine. We actually boosted this lineup with extra taurine to satisfy the nutritional needs of cats as well, but we didn’t stop there; our Quest cat food line goes one step further in replicating a feline’s prey, appropriately coined a “prey-model” diet consisting of 95% meat/organ/bone is the optimal diet choice for a feline. Whichever you’re feeding, you can do so with confidence!
Walk into any health food store, or shop the natural food section of your local grocer and you will find many products that contain chia seeds. They are sold in bulk bins, added to yogurts, baked into desserts, included in drinks, and often found in granolas and cereals. With so many products made for humans that include chia seeds, it only makes sense that we would also see them show up in pet foods. But why? What does this little blackish seed have going for it that makes so many people, and pets, want to add it to their diet?
First cultivated around 2.600 BC in Mexico and Central America, the tiny seeds have long been a staple in those cultures and it is said that Mayan warriors were able to sustain their energy and endurance on only a tablespoon a day! Let’s look at how this seed benefits our furry friends.
Chia seeds are very nutrient-dense and contain calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, and magnesium. They also contain Vitamins B-12 and B-6. They certainly deserve the title of “Super Food”. They may be small but pack a big punch, with each seed containing between 19-23% protein, 34% oil, and 25% fiber. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids They can help boost your pet's nutritional intake and support a variety of systems within the body.
Because chia seeds can absorb water, they help keep your pet well hydrated and the absorbed seeds can help to remove toxins from the digestive tract. They assist in balancing electrolytes and are considered an immune system booster. The seeds can be useful for diabetic pets as well because they help to regulate blood sugar and lose excess weight.
The chia seeds we use at Steve’s Real Food come from Argentina and are certified Organic. We seek out suppliers who grow responsibly and provide superior products. We use these chia seeds in our ChiaFreeze Frozen Goat Yogurt. The yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, fiber, Omega 3 and increases the hydration level in your pet, which can be especially helpful for our feline friends. We also include the chia seeds in our pork formulas, which is a highly digestible, palatable option for both your cats and dogs.
Benefits of Bones for Dogs
Dogs have both a physical and psychological need to chew. If not provided with a safe, approved chewing option, they will seek out and find things that we may not want them to!
Puppies start exploring their world with their mouths and will chew on almost anything they can find. As they grow, chewing can help with pain caused by incoming teeth. The action of chewing is also a great exercise for the jaw and helps the teeth grow in proper alignment.
As puppies become adult dogs, chewing is no less important. It keeps the jaw strong and the teeth clean. In fact, chewing on raw bones is one of the best ways to keep your dog's teeth bright and the gums healthy. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions out there that a dog needs to eat a food that is crunchy to keep the teeth clean, and certainly there are a lot of kibble companies that market to that belief, but let’s think on that for a minute. Try chewing on crunchy pretzels, or crackers, or cereal, and see how afterward your teeth feel a bit sticky and starchy. This is what contributes to dental plaque and decay. Now try chewing on a crunchy apple and feel the difference in how your teeth feel.
Raw bones not only have dental benefits but also provide calcium and minerals for your dog. They are rich in healthy essential fatty acids, amino acids, and raw enzymes.
Besides the physical benefits of raw bones, there are also psychological benefits. Chewing and licking on the bone can help alleviate anxiety by releasing endorphins that can calm and soothe your pet, and also can help to alleviate boredom. Also, giving a frozen raw bone on a hot summer day can help cool down and entertain your pup.
At Steve’s Real Food, we have three different raw bone choices. We have a 2” marrow bone, a 4” marrow bone, and a 4” split marrow bone. The bone is split lengthways so even small dogs can get to the tasty marrow.
***We recommend getting to know your dog’s chewing style. Recreational bones may not be appropriate for extreme chewers with strong jaws, as tooth fracture is a possibility. Always supervise your dogs while they chew.***
Cat Drinking a Lot of Water
“My cat is fine, he drinks a lot of water”. I have heard this so many times when I bring up cats and their unique need for moisture in their diet. If a cat is constantly at the water bowl, that is a pretty good indicator he is dehydrated!
Our modern house cat is a direct descendent of the African Wildcat. In fact, they have indistinguishable DNA, so we know our cats developed in a very arid climate where freshwater wasn’t easy to come by. They evolved to get their moisture needs met through diet rather than by drinking water.
How Cats Drink Water
Cats do drink and need to have fresh water available at all times, but they are not highly efficient at drinking. Unlike a dog, whose tongue curls backward to lap water into its mouth, a cat's tongue dips relatively straight down into the water and is pulled up quickly. The rough spike-like papillae on the tongue fling tiny droplets of water into the air and the cat catches them as they fall. It takes between 2200-2400 dips of the tongue for the cat to get a quarter cup of water!
Hydrate Your Cat Through Their Food
Part of the reason they didn’t evolve to be more efficient at drinking water is because they are such successful hunters. They have always been able to hunt and kill fresh prey and utilize the intracellular moisture within the prey animal. This is the most effective way of hydrating the cat, and it also balances electrolytes and aids the digestion process.
Though our house cats no longer rely on their hunting skills to secure their meals, they can still rely on the moisture of raw meat to stay well hydrated. Our Quest line of cat diets is full of the intracellular moisture cats need. Steve’s original formulas are also an excellent choice for keeping cats (and dogs) naturally hydrated. If you are primarily a kibble feeder and would like to continue being one, we have something for you as well! Our ChiaFreeze yogurt and our PurrGurt are both goat milk-based products that are sold frozen, thawed at home, and then poured over the kibble at feeding time.
Summer is hot, make sure your favorite feline is well hydrated, healthy, and happy!
You may have heard a lot of buzz about goat milk and why it is so good for you and your pet. It seems that everywhere we look there is a pet product calling out goat milk, but what is so good about it? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits, and why we should include it in our pet’s diet.
- Dense bioavailable nutrition and highly digestible
- The small curds make it easier for the gut to break down and utilize
- Contains intracellular moisture which is the most natural way for your pet to stay hydrated
- Rich in natural probiotics and full of beneficial bacteria
- Contains high amounts of short and medium-chain fatty acids which provide an energy boost without storing as fat
- Reduces inflammation of the gut due to the oligosaccharides which act as prebiotics and help soothe and settle the irritation
- Works as an antacid thanks to the very high amounts of potassium which is alkaline-forming and helps to maintain a proper pH balance in the body.
- Improves insulin sensitivity due to the high fat, but low sugar content
Goat milk is an excellent addition to any pet’s diet and especially beneficial for supporting leaky gut repair, diabetes, and working/ sporting dogs.
For more information on the benefits of goat milk, please check out this article:
As a company whose logo states clearly that we care about not only our pets but also about the ground they walk on, we have made many innovative changes to move more in the direction of sustainability.
Sustainably marketed products have been driving growth and did not stall during COVID but instead saw a steady increase with no signs of slowing. Much of this growth has focused on a younger generation that puts an emphasis on sustainable, reusable, and recyclable materials.
With a growing interest from consumers to purchase from companies that are sustainably sourced and who utilize sustainable packaging, a new term has been created. “Greenwashing” is used by companies wanting to appear to consumers as operating by sustainable guidelines and is used in marketing but has no real value in practice.
Currently, there are over 300 million pet food bags ending up in landfills. The Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) partnered with Pet Food Experts and ran a pilot program called Flex Forward that encouraged consumers to return their pet food packaging to a collection site at the retail location. The collections began in August 2020 and a whopping 8,000 lbs or 35,500 total used pet food and treat bags were returned. This shows a willingness from consumers to recycle, even when there is an added burden of washing the empty bags to prepare them for recycling. The collection portion of the program went better than expected, but the recycling itself was more challenging.
The first 3,200 lbs of packaging were sent to Engineered Packaging Inc, in Erie, PA to begin the sorting and test recycling process. Out of the total amount of packaging sent in, 1,600 lbs were able to be recycled and of that 300 pounds of pellets were created. The pellets will then be melted and made into new products.
One of the main challenges that hindered the success of the recycling efforts was the materials used for the packaging. Much of the packaging used several layers of different material that had to go through multiple runs of the process as each layer had a different degree of recyclability. Some companies who are touting their packaging as recyclable or compostable at the landfill, are currently using materials that can not be easily recycled and will take decades to break down and compost.
Steve’s Real Food has made an investment in the future of our planet by working with a company that creates strong, attractive packaging that is also easily recyclable.
We use Velo-Flex, which is a mono-layer, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) material that allows for strength and flexibility. The PE material is also able to withstand printing inks without having to rely on multiple layers of unrecyclable materials. The velcro closure on the bags are also made of the same material and is completely recyclable. The bags are a #4 rated, recyclable plastic that can be dropped off at facilities that collect other plastic bags, such as grocery and retail bags.
We are sincere in our commitment to sustainability and hope to see this expand to packaging from other pet food brands.
At Steve's, we are adapting quickly to keep up with demand and stay safe. We hope that everyone practices their social distancing and remembers to keep laughing. We will get through this even if the end result is a new norm.