Petfood Industry - February 2018 - 26
26 | www.PetfoodIndustry.com
➥ELK, BISON COULD REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF PET FOOD
to possess a wild elk or release a farmed elk into the wild.
However, elk ranching has helped the elk world in general as it
has provided the continent with a steady supply of elk meat and
elk products. This allows there to be less reliance on wild elk
herds, which preserves their numbers."
Also, elk ranchers and their veterinary staff have learned
about elk health, which in turn informs management of wild
elk, she said. For example, elk and deer ranching associations
have spent millions of dollars researching maladies such as
chronic wasting disease.
Sustainability of elk and bison ranching
While elk and bison may live on ranches, they require
less help from the ranchers than cattle. Along with needing
less assistance from humans, bison and elk can thrive on
land where cattle would suffer.
"An advantage for elk ranchers is elk can be raised on
marginal land that may not otherwise be useful for farming
or cattle ranching," said Hartkopf.
"The grassland ecosystems of North America (comprising
more than 30 percent of the landmass) evolved in concert
with bison and other grazing animals," said Carter. "Those
grasslands are vital in helping to remove carbon from the
atmosphere and sequestering it in the soil. [Bison] ranchers
are managing their herds to maintain healthy grasslands,
and to build healthy soil."
As undomesticated livestock, bison retain many of their
natural behaviors, he said. For example, they tend to cause
less damage to waterways than cattle. Historically, predators
prowled around streams, ponds and other water sources,
so bison tend to drink then move away. On the other hand,
cattle are more likely to linger on the banks, resulting in
erosion and other damages to riparian ecosystems.
The sustainable use of elk, bison and other undomesticated animals in pet food may help people to connect to
wildlife in general, by encouraging awareness of conservation issues. Primatologist Jane Goodall has commented
that her first experience with the personalities of animals
was with her pet dog. As people increasingly recognize the
personhood of dogs and cats by humanizing their pets,
wildlife may also receive higher regard.
"From my experience, people who love animals, love all
animals and have great respect for wildlife and conservation
efforts to help preserve both species and their habitats," said
Sandy Robins, pet lifestyle author and consultant. "It's also
about being a voice for the voiceless. And it doesn't matter if
it's a domestic cat that meows or a big cat that roars."
Elk and bison in pet food compared
An increasing interest in sustainable agriculture, wilderness conservation and alternative meats may be boosting
demand for bison and elk meat and other products.
However, while elk and bison populations are increasing
in North America, they remain uncommon in pet foods.
In Petfood Industry's Dog and Cat Food Ingredient Center
database, only seven pet foods included elk, five dry dog
foods, and one each dog and cat treats. For bison, 58 dry or
wet dog and cat foods and treats use the shaggy mammals.
In comparison, beef appears in 789 dry or canned dog
foods and treats. Two hundred and three dry or canned cat
foods and treats feature beef. ■