Campus Queries is a series in which Daily Bruin readers and staff present science-related questions for UCLA professors and experts to answer.
Q: How much turkey do dogs and cats eat in a year?
A: About 20 percent of premium dog and cat foods in the U.S. contain turkey as one of the main ingredients, according to research by UCLA geography professor Gregory Okin.
In a paper published in the scientific journal PLOS One in August, Okin examined the environmental impacts of pet foods and found the energy from food that pet dogs and cats consume is equivalent to the dietary energy of 62 million Americans, roughly one-fifth of the national population. Okin used the protein, fat and carbohydrate composition of various pet food brands to calculate the energy pets obtain from eating them.
Animal-based food production, including pet foods, leaves a large carbon footprint because it requires land, water, fossil fuels and other resources. The study showed that dog and cat animal product consumption releases up to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two greenhouse gases.
Okin also estimated that animal-derived energy constitutes 33 percent of the diets of dogs and cats in the U.S., higher than the 19 percent in humans’ diets.
According to the study, premium brands of pet food tend to have higher animal-derived content – such as poultry, beef, lamb, pork and fish – compared to nonpremium brands, which contain higher proportions of vegetables and grain. About one-third of dog and cat owners prefer to feed their pets premium brands, according to the study.
Of the 102 premium dog foods Okin analyzed, about half contained poultry as a main ingredient, and roughly a quarter of those contained turkey, while 70 percent of 163 premium cat foods analyzed contained poultry, 30 percent of which contained turkey.