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Open Farm tracks carbon 'pawprint' of pet food products

IMAGE: A dog looking to the left, with a beach background
Courtesy Open Farm Inc.

Toronto-based pet food company Open Farm Inc. has launched an online carbon footprint tool – the first of its kind in the industry. It gives pet owners transparency over the carbon emissions of the food they feed their furry friends.

The tool, known as ‘Know Your Footprint,’ is available both online and via scanning a QR code on an Open Farm product in-store.

“Since the beginning, Open Farm has been very open about our ingredients and where they're sourced from. You can see that on our website, you can go in and look at any of our products and you can see the list of ingredients and where those ingredients are sourced from, which is pretty unique in the pet food industry,” Gwen Cottle, Open Farm’s director of impact, said.

“So what we wanted to do is take that commitment to transparency to the next level, and be able to share carbon related information about our products.”

The tool, which is based on one pound of product, currently lists 58 items. Of those, 23 considered low-carbon options because they emit less than one pound of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of product.

Open Farm’s carbon footprint tool

Open Farm partnered with an independent third-party consultant to complete a screening-level life cycle assessment. Cottle did not disclose the name of the consultant.

That consultant considered ingredient production, product manufacturing, transportation and packaging, as well as greenhouse gas information for over 100 ingredients used across more than 50 recipes.

“Ingredients in Scope 3 are something that's definitely on our radar, because like many products, the supply chain attached to the ingredients in your product have a large impact on your emissions as a company,” Cottle said.

The company specifically offers dog and cat food. New products will be added to the tool as they are launched.

“Any new innovation that's launched will also receive the same level of detail, the same level of rigor as we move forward,” she explained.

“We’re also going to be looking at reviewing the data on an annual basis to make sure that if you've made changes, whether it's the ingredients (that) have changed . . . the procurement has changed and sourcing locations have changed, that that information is reflected in the numbers that we're reporting.”

Open Farm’s products are manufactured in facilities across the U.S.

Open Farm’s other sustainability measures

In 2020, Open Farm committed to a Science Based Target initiative goal to reduce the direct emissions from its manufacturing and operations by 42 per cent by 2030. Cottle states the company is still “very much in the discovery phase” in terms of figuring out how far it still has to go to reach its 2030 goal.

“We're a business that's growing very fast. So making a carbon commitment at the same time as having strong growth is inherently a challenge because your ambitions grow as you grow as a company,” Cottle said. 

“But we are as we make decisions about manufacturing and about our product mix, that target is something that is always considered and will be reported on.”

According to Cottle, the company is currently just under 100 employees strong.

Outside of its own operations, Open Farm purchased carbon and renewable energy credits (REC) in 2021. They are in forest conservation projects in Georgia and Minnesota, and wind projects in the northern central U.S. The company states the latter REC purchase has allowed it to eliminate its Scope 2 electricity-related emissions.

In 2021, the company launched its own low-carbon products: the Kind Earth plant- and insect-based kibble. The plant-based kibble is listed as having 0.84 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per pound. The insect-based kibble is not listed on the footprint because of how one of the ingredients, the black soldier fly larvae are euthanatized with a quick, high heat process.

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