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Farmers benefit from a robust pet food industry

While farmers are hard at work putting food on our tables, they’re also helping fill the bowls of our furry companions.

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households own at least one pet, contributing to a lot of food bowls to fill. And with owners spending more than $30 billion each year feeding their four-legged friends, the pet food industry must keep up.

In a first-of-its kind study, the Institute for Feed Education and Research, the North American Renderers Association and the Pet Food Institute teamed up to examine the impact pet food manufacturing has on U.S. agriculture. Focusing on food produced for the two most popular companions—cats and dogs—the analysis revealed pet food manufacturers purchase $6.9 billion of ingredients each year from farmers and farm-product processors.

Virginia is one of several states identified as having more than $100 million in pet food ingredient purchases. The study found Virginia’s 12 pet food processors spent $129.6 million on ingredients from farms and farm product processors in 2018.

“Pet food processing is a significant component of Virginia’s agricultural portfolio and benefits Virginia farmers,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Two of the larger pet food ingredient categories are animal protein and animal fat. Chicken is the top animal protein ingredient, which benefits Virginia’s chicken industry and growers,” Banks said. “Beef, turkey, lamb, dairy whey and fish protein and fats also are major ingredient sources that we produce here in Virginia.”

Those ingredient purchases also generated upstream economic activity, including $86.2 million by farmers and $68.3 million by farm product processors for items used to produce the ingredients like seeds, labor and machinery.

Additionally, pet food manufacturing has a significant impact on corn. Corn and corn gluten are the dominant plant-based ingredients used in pet food, with almost 1.3 million tons of corn and 476,649 tons of corn gluten meal used nationally, valued at more than $438 billion.

“In general, corn being used in pet food drums up higher demand and increases the over basis in the state,” explained Josey Moore, a VFBF commodity specialist. “Pet food sells at an inflated price compared to other corn end users who feed it to birds, process it or export it.”