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Elk, bison may reduce environmental impact of pet food


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updated from 2017

Elk and Bison Ranch provide healthy novel proteins for dog and cat food, while allowing pet food brands to make sustainability claims because the animals cause less ecological damage than cattle. By using organ meats and by-products from bison and elk, the pet food industry helps increase the market for the entire animal, and increases efficiency and sustainability. What’s more, elk (cervus canadensis) and bison (bison bison) Still relatively rare in pet foods, including them as a novel protein can help a brand stand out.

“As more people discover the great taste and nutritional qualities of sustainably raised bison, they want their companion animals to enjoy the experience as well,” said Dave Carter of the National Bison Association in 2017.

elk and bison in pet food

Sustainable agriculture, forest protection and growing interest in alternative meats could drive demand for bison and elk meat and other products. However, while elk and bison populations are increasing in North America, they are uncommon in pet food. In the Petfood Industry’s Pet Food Product Database, 36 pet foods, treats and supplements contain American bison (bison bison) in their description. Only seven products mention elk, most of them antlers chews for dogs.

Two decades ago, bison ranchers marketed mostly tenderloin, ribeye and strip steak, which resulted in freezers filled with unsold chuck, roast, trim and by-products, Carter said, but now demand for every part of the animal has increased. has been

“The demand for bison in pet food is driving strong demand for heart and liver as well,” Carter said.

Similarly with elk, butcher pigs use everything but bugles (elks call) to convince farmers to use everything but squeak.

“Large carcasses of elk yield hundreds of pounds of meat that is highly desired in North America,” Brenda Hartkopf of the Elk Breeders Association said in 2017. From the storm In addition to its delicious taste, meat is high in protein and low in both fat and cholesterol.

Ecological Benefits of Elk and Bison Farms

Some scientists and sustainability advocates have pointed to pollution and resource use from domesticated animals, especially cattle. For example, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that reducing the consumption of beef more than any other meat would reduce the environmental damage caused by the human diet.

However, North American elk and bison ranchers may have little negative impact, as the animals have evolved to suit the American ecosystem. Elk and bison were once widespread throughout the United States, Canada, and even northern Mexico in the case of bison. Hunting and habitat loss dramatically reduced the range and population of both species.

Elk and bison farms help wildlife conservation

“By the 1880s, with an estimated 750 remaining in North America, bison was on the verge of extinction,” Carter said. “Today, the North American population is estimated at 400,000 heads, with more than 90 percent on farms and ranches.” Over the past few decades, efforts by conservationists and others have restored both species to fragments of their former range. With reintroduction into the wild, ranchers now raise bison and elk to supply the human and pet food industry with meat.

“To be clear, domestic elk ranching is different from free-ranging elk,” Hartkopf said. “It is illegal for an elk rancher to keep wild elk or release farmed elk into the wild. However, elk ranching has helped the elk world in general because it has provided the continent with a steady supply of elk meat and elk products. This allows for less reliance on wild elk herds, which preserves their numbers.”


The reintroduction of elk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 2001. These elk live in the Cataluchi Valley, North Carolina, United States. March 26, 2017 | photo by Tim Wall

In addition, elk ranchers and their veterinary staff learn about elk health, which in turn informs the management of wild elk, she said. For example, elk and deer ranching associations spend millions of dollars researching pathologies such as chronic wasting disease.

Sustainability of elk and bison husbandry

While elk and bison can live on the farm, they require less help from pastoralists than cattle. As well as requiring little assistance from humans, both bison and elk can thrive on land where cattle would be harmed.

“An advantage for elk ranchers is that elk can be raised on marginal land that might not otherwise be useful for farming or animal husbandry,” Hartkopf said. “North America’s grassland ecosystem (comprising more than 30 percent of the role) evolved in concert with bison and other grazing animals,” Carter said. “Those grasslands are important in helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere and mix it into the soil. [Bison] The pastoralists are managing their herds to maintain healthy grasslands and create healthy soils.”

He said that as undeclared livestock, bison retain many of their natural behaviours. For example, they cause less damage to waterways than cattle. Historically, hunters hunted around rivers, ponds and other water sources, so bison went away after drinking. On the other hand, cattle are more likely to live on the banks, resulting in erosion and other damage to river ecosystems.


Although kept in farms, bison retain many of their instinctive behaviours. , Photo by dmphoto | bigstock photo

The sustainable use of elk, bison and other non-pet animals in pet food can help people connect with wildlife in general by encouraging awareness of conservation issues. Primatologist Jane Goodall has remarked that her first experience with animal personalities was with her pet dog. As people increasingly recognize the personalities of dogs and cats by humanizing their pets, wildlife may also receive a higher esteem.

Pet Lifestyle writer and consultant Sandy Robbins said, “From my experience, people who love animals love all animals and are passionate about wildlife and conservation efforts to help preserve both species and their habitats. Much respect.” “It’s also about being a voice for the voiceless. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a domestic cat that meows or a big cat that roars.”



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