Feeding your dog has come a long way since they lived off the leftover scraps from around the campfire.
The dog food market, and indeed pet food in general, has become a billion pound industry in the UK alone. As you know, big growth can bring with it questionable and unsustainable production practices to get there.
Many of the large, recognised dog food producers in the UK have poor ethical and environmental records. These aren’t particularly well-known to the everyday dog owner looking to buy pet food in the supermarket.
Until you start to think about it, the majority of people would probably assume that dog food is just dog food. When we first got Murphy, although I realised this would add somewhat to our collective carbon emissions (which is why I offset Murphy’s as well with Ecologi), it didn’t really cross my mind to source ethical dog food.
With more information coming to light, many people are now turning to ethical dog food that’s more eco-friendly and sustainably produced.
Dog owners like yourself want to know how their pet’s food has been produced, where the raw ingredients have come from and if all this is having a negative impact on the environment.
So, let’s take a look at eco friendly dog food and list out the 5 best ethical dog food available in the UK.
Disclaimer: Please note this blog does contain a few affiliate links. This means I may receive a small percentage for any subsequent purchases made. This comes at no cost to you and has not impacted the balanced and informational approach to this blog. Thank you.
Why buying ethical dog food is important?
The UK loves dogs. The latest statistics tell us that around a third of all households own a pet dog, equating to roughly 12.5 million dogs.
No matter what the size, shape and breed, all of these dogs require feeding at least twice a day. Multiply this by 12.5 million and that’s a lot of food!
And make no mistake, the UK dog food market is a lucrative one – it’s now valued at £1.4 billion.
With so much dog food needed to be produced to keep up with demand, you can start to imagine the negative impacts this could have on other animals, single use packaging and associated carbon emissions – your dog’s so called carbon pawprint.
Are you buying eco friendly dog food?
The vast majority of dog food contains meat. But have you ever thought about where this meat comes from?
Generally speaking, the meat for dog food was mainly sourced from the leftovers of the human food industry. Although this is making use of an existing resource, is it also promoting unsustainable, unethical and low-standard animal welfare practices?
Dog food also contains fillers to bulk it out. Common fillers include wheat, corn and our old enemy, palm oil. Are these sustainably grown and organic or are they contributing to deforestation and habitat loss?
As more and more dog food is manufactured, it’s becoming ever more important to make eco-friendly and ethical choices.
It’s quite easy to be tricked when buying certain brands of dog food.
Two of the biggest suppliers of pet food to supermarkets in the UK are Nestle and Mars.
Although these companies aren’t generally associated with dog food, they have been quietly buying out popular brands over the last few decades to add under their ever-expanding umbrellas.
Brands such as Pedigree, Purina, Winalot, Bakers and Lily’s Kitchen are now owned by Nestle or Mars.
And you may (or may not) be surprised to find out that Nestle and Mars have very poor environmental and ethical records. The knock on effects on brands with previously good records, is to bring them down.
What makes dog food ethical?
Ultimately, ethical dog food is producing a high quality feed that doesn’t come at the expense of other animals via testing or factory farming. Ethical and eco friendly dog food also shouldn’t support unsustainable production and the companies behind the practices.
The Ethical Consumer magazine does a great job of listing what to look out for, and what not to look out for when buying ethical dog food.
Ethical dog food means:
- Organic ingredients – certified organic means that the produce has not been treated with artificial chemicals, which helps protect the environment, ecosystems and health. It also raises the standards where animals are involved.
- No factory farmed meat – if it’s not organic, there’s a chance the meat in your dog food may be factory farmed. This is a terrible practice that leads to animal suffering, cruelty and escalates climate emissions.
- Fish ingredients are MSC certified – fishing can be a highly damaging and unsustainable exercise. MSC is a label that should promote better standards (although if you’ve watched the Seaspiracy documentary you may beg to differ)
- No palm oil – this may not be directly listed in the ingredients, but palm oil derivatives are often used in the form of vegetable glycerine, vegetable oil and fats.
- No animal testing – many dog food companies still use captive animals to test how the dog food tastes.
- Recyclable packaging – does your dog food come in plastic packaging? Are you going through a lot of packaging in the case of cans and tins? Paper-based, bulk bags with dry food may be your best choice, although this does depend on the type of food your dog eats.
There’s also an argument for vegan dog food, which obviously contains no animal products whatsoever.
This is a controversial issue as, biologically speaking, dogs are omnivores and derive their nutrition from both plant and animal sources. This is true but it’s is a whole new complicated area, so I will leave the vegan dog food debate there for now.
5 best ethical dog food UK brands
With all that said, let’s take a look at some of the best and most ethical dog food brands in the UK.
Benevo are an independent UK company and have been producing ethical pet foods since 2005. They produce meat-free alternative food for dogs and have numerous certifications, including PETA Not Tested on Animals, Organic Food Federation, Vegetarian Society and Vegan Society.
They make a small range of veggie foods for dogs and also have an organic version. Despite being meat-free, their adult recipes contain at least 20% protein, mainly coming from soya, corn and white rice. All recipes have no artificial flavours or colours.
The Benevo website is very basic but you can buy their dog food from Ethical Superstore online shop*
Yarrah are a Dutch company that offer organic, healthy and sustainable dog food for the conscious pet owner. In fact, all the Yarrah pet food products are certified organic, which has numerous benefits for the health of your dog.
Yarrah use sustainably caught MSC fish, their food is not tested on animals and their relevant products are certified by the Vegan and Vegetarian Societies respectively.
Even better, Yarrah are a certified B Corporation, showing they truly care about the planet, environment and life within – very much an eco friendly dog food provider!
Based in London, Beco have been producing sustainable pet products since 2009.
Beco are a company who care about sourcing ethical and sustainable ingredients and materials. Included in Beco’s ingredient range include MSC caught fish, wild boar, free range chicken and turkey both from the UK. All the vegetables and other ingredients that are used are fully traceable.
As they are a pet company, Beco also supply other products, such as fully compostable dog poo bags, accessories and toys. The bulk bags for dry dog food are also compostable.
Alongside its all-natural food and fully recyclable packaging, Yora offering something a little different for your pooches – insect protein.
Yora’s founder, Tom Neish, created the company with the help of energy efficient farms producing edible grubs that offer the main protein component of their dog food. Insect protein is said to be one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable animal protein sources around.
Other common ingredients they include in their dog food are oats (grown next to their premises), potato, peas, seaweed and other vegetables.
You can buy Yora dog food from their website
Burns are a family-owned dog food company founded by veterinary surgeon John Burns back in 1993 when the natural pet food movement was very much in its infancy.
Burns dog food aims to use well-sourced, ethical ingredients in their recipes, such as seasonal vegetables, free-range meat and from local producers. It’s worth saying that their ingredients and claims haven’t been independently verified.
As well as ethical dog food, Burns like to do their bit for the planet. They have put in place initiatives such as using sheep wool for insulation at their new buildings, growing their own vegetables and producing free-range eggs, they’ve installed solar panels and a biomass plant to provide heating and hot water. They also donate regularly to charity and take part in community schemes.
You can buy Burns dog food from their website
Is Harringtons dog food ethical?
I personally, well Murphy, has used Harringtons Grain Free Range. I must say that Murphy loves it and it really helped his dodgy stomach out.
According to Ethical Consumer, Harringtons come around the middle of the road for their ethics.
I contacted Harringtons to ask about their policies and they told me that they don’t use palm oil in any of their products and that they don’t use captive animals for testing. They stated that ‘most of our tests are done by staff and voluntary customers’.
In answer to my question on where their meat is sourced from, Harringtons said they ‘use meats from butchers’ offcuts and slaughterhouses. We are unaware of the provenance of the meats, but these are declared fit for human consumption.’
Finally, they told me that they have no plans to release any organic ranges in the near future. This, to be honest, is a little disappointing.
Is your dog food ethical?
There are lots of other dog food manufacturers that are hitting the middle ground in terms of their ethics.
Dog food makers including Simpsons, Scrumbles, Acana and Wagg all come around middle of the road in terms of ethics.
These can be described as fairly eco friendly but not quite their yet.
There are certainly some unethical dog food providers who you should generally avoid if you want you and your dog to living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Scoring very poorly on ethics were Winalot, Purina, Bakers and Lily’s Kitchen who are all owned by Nestle.
Pedigree, Cesar, Chappie, Nutro and Royal Canin are all owned by Mars and also scored very poorly.
Also doing badly on the ethics were the supermarket branded dog food, including that from Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, M&S, Lidl and Aldi dog food. You can take a closer look at the ethical ratings on the Ethical Consumer website.
There’s no doubt it can be a bit of a minefield trying to source truly ethical products that benefit people, the planet and the companies that make them. But it is possible.
The top 5 dog food makers all demonstrate good ethics and eco friendly credentials that don’t cause unnecessary harm to other animals, don’t adversely impact the environment and have a good deal of sustainability behind them.
If there are any ethical dog food makers that you think deserve to be on the list, drop me a message and I’ll look into them.