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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00170

Consumer attitude toward the environmental sustainability of grain-free pet foods

Korinn Saker1* and  Danielle M. Conway2
  • 1Small Animal Clinical Science, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, United States
  • 2Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, United States

For this study, we investigated consumer knowledge and attitude towards environmental sustainability, grain-free diets, and the influence of on-site environmental sustainability education on pet owner diet choices. A two-part questionnaire was designed, bracketing an educational brochure on environmental sustainability and grain-free diets. The study consisted of an informational brochure and two questionnaire sections, Q1and Q2. Preliminary information regarding current diets, diet choice(s), views of environmental sustainability, the definition of grain-free diets, and the likelihood of feeding grain-free diets were gathered via Q1. Participants then read a factual brochure regarding pet food trends and environmental sustainability. After reading the brochure, participants completed Q2. Pet ownership of the survey population indicated 12/78 cared exclusively for at least one cat, 48/78 cared exclusively for at least one dog, and 18 cared exclusively for at least one dog and one cat. The majority (70/78) of survey responders fed a dry commercial product, 25/78 fed a canned commercial product, and 1/78 fed a commercial raw product. Prior to reading the brochure, 44.9% of participants were able to partially identify a grain-free diet, 47.4% partially defined environmental sustainability, and 19.2% reported feeding a grain-free diet. After reading the brochure, 67.6% of participants were able to identify a more environmentally sustainable diet vs. 55.9% prior to reading the brochure. A paired T-test demonstrated that after reading the brochure, people were significantly less likely to feed a grain-free diet (p < 0.001). When participants already feeding a grain-free diet were isolated, they demonstrated a higher likelihood to feed a grain-free diet both before and after reading the pamphlet than the remaining population; however, the likelihood decreased from 8.4 2.7 to 7.8 2.7. The informational brochure was effective; participants were less likely to feed a grain-free diet after reading the brochure. Although participants considered environmental sustainability important, factors independent of environmental sustainability influenced the likelihood of diet change. Participants already feeding a grain-free diet also ranked environmental sustainability highly but were less likely to consider changing their pet’s diet. These preliminary findings identify a need for public education regarding pet food choices that can have environmental consequences.

Keywords: environment, sustainability, canine nutrition, Owner perception, grain-free diets

Received: 21 Feb 2018; Accepted: 04 Jul 2018.

Edited by:

Mary M. Christopher, University of California, Davis, United States

Reviewed by:

Malathi Raghavan, Purdue University, United States
Kelly Swanson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Saker and Conway. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: DVM, PhD. Korinn Saker, SAKER., North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Small Animal Clinical Science, Raleigh, 27606, NC, United States, kesaker@ncsu.edu