Pets are Huge Consumers of Agricultural Production

by Greg Guse
February 4, 2015

After attending the day-long Pet Food Conference as part of the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta last week, it was amazing to see how pet foods significantly impact agricultural products produced in the U.S. each year.

The statistics are surprising and proof of just what a huge ag consumer the pet food industry really is:

  • Over 65 million households have pets of any type, accounting for over 200 million pets, with the U.S. population of dogs at 80 million compared to 61.5 million cats
  • Pet owners make up nearly 55 percent of households with 45 million households having dogs and 30 million with cats
  • Americans spent more than $58 billion on pets in 2014—mostly dogs and cats
  • $22.6 billion went to pet foods, double the figure of just 12 years ago
  • Trends indicate total expenditures in 2015 could be $2 billion to $3 billion higher when vet fees, grooming and other care is taken into account

No doubt about it, the pet food industry is a sizable consumer of agricultural production including grains, poultry, livestock and fish from aquaculture.

What’s driving this demand? A number of factors come into play, with our country’s demographics having a big influence in the growth of the pet industry. For example, American women are waiting longer to have their first baby (average age is 27), and increasingly, pets are their “children.” Plus there is a huge increase in Baby Boomers that are empty nesters entering retirement and adopting pets for companionship. These factors have resulted in a nine percent increase in U.S. households with dogs in the past five years and a five percent increase for cats.

The Humanization of Our Pets

According to several presenters at the Pet Food Conference, the biggest driver of increased spending on pets is pampering—what the industry calls “humanization of pets,” or the mutual benefits of the animal-human bond and relationship. One speaker shared recent research that more than 80 percent of Americans view their pets as family members and nearly as many say their pets’ nutrition is as important to them as their own.

In fact, just today as I was watching the day-long Super Bowl TV extravaganza, one name-brand pet food commercial opened with, “We consider our dog a member of our family, so we feed him like a member of our family.”

Further evidence of this trend was indicated by key presentation topics addressing food safety, premium quality ingredients, pet food manufacturing quality and control standards and the treats category as a source of supplemental nutrition.

By the way, Americans will spend about $3.4 billion on dog and cat treats this year, an increase of nearly 30 percent over the past five years. This is further proof of the way we pamper our pets and see them as members of the family.

Super Bowl Advertiser Learns We Take Our Pets Seriously

Just this past week, perennial Super Bowl advertiser GoDaddy, well known for its racy and questionable taste in 30-second TV commercials, learned firsthand the love and devotion Americans have for their pets.

The proposed Super Bowl ad featured a golden retriever puppy finding its way home after falling out of a truck, only to find the owner has used GoDaddy to set up a website that enables her to promptly sell the dog to a new owner.

Thousands of dog lovers quickly lit up social media outlets to protest the ad, pointing out that dogs purchased online often come from puppy mills, with many of them using inhumane breeding practices. GoDaddy’s CEO, Blake Irving, quickly responded to the furor by saying, “Thank you for the candid feedback. What should have been a fun and funny ad clearly missed the mark, and we will not air it.”

This is just one of many examples of the social and economic impact the humanization of our pets has on American society.

So our farmers and livestock producers should not only take pride in feeding a growing world population, but also should be recognized for producing high quality, affordable nutrition for our four-legged friends as well.

Meet Cujo, newest member of our family who was a rescue dog adopted from Ruff Start, an organization that does a wonderful job of bringing families seeking a pet together with animals in need of a good home.

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