Meat & Livestock News

UK’s Natural Pet Food Trend: A Boon for New Zealand’s Sustainable Products

TL;DR: Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) reports a growing UK demand for natural pet food, mirroring human health trends. This shift towards clean, sustainable pet food presents a prime opportunity for New Zealand’s sheep and beef products, known for their high sustainability attributes. Amid this trend, controversies surrounding the UK’s Red Tractor Assurance Scheme and the introduction of carbon emissions labelling in food services underscore the importance of transparent, environmentally conscious production and certification programs like the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP).

In a significant shift within the UK market, consumer preferences are increasingly leaning towards natural pet food options that not only promise health benefits but also adhere to sustainable production practices. 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) latest insights into UK consumer trends reveal a substantial opportunity for New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector to capitalise on this demand, given its strong sustainability credentials.

Nearly 57% of UK households are pet owners, with spending on pet food and related products nearing a staggering £10 billion in 2022. The trend towards ‘natural’ pet food with health benefits, paralleling the human nutrition trend, has sparked interest in products with clean labels, such as those with low allergenic properties and added prebiotics.

Moreover, the emphasis on sustainability, as highlighted by Mars Pet Foods research showing 57% of pet owners’ willingness to switch to more sustainable pet food, aligns well with New Zealand’s environmental stewardship and high-quality meat production standards.

However, the backdrop of this opportunity is marked by challenges within the UK’s assurance schemes. The Red Tractor Assurance Scheme, a cornerstone certification program in the UK, has faced criticism from local farmers, particularly sheep farmers, over its Greener Farms Commitment (GFC).

Concerns have been raised about the scheme imposing additional costs on farmers without delivering clear benefits, alongside historical issues related to animal welfare and pollution. This discontent highlights the necessity for assurance programs to balance environmental goals with the realities and challenges faced by farmers.

In contrast, the support within New Zealand for farm assurance programs like NZFAP and NZFAP Plus is notable. These programs, developed collaboratively by the sector and government, offer a robust framework for traceability, food safety, and animal welfare, ensuring that New Zealand’s red meat is produced to high standards recognized by independent third-party auditors.

Additionally, the growing trend of carbon emissions labelling by food and restaurant brands in the UK, such as Just Eat and Wahaca, underscores the importance of communicating the environmental impact of food products to consumers.

This development is particularly relevant for New Zealand, where grass-fed beef and lamb boast a smaller environmental footprint compared to global grain-fed averages.

The rise in consumer demand for natural, sustainable pet food, coupled with the evolving landscape of food certification and emissions labelling, presents New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector with both challenges and opportunities.

As global trends towards sustainability and health consciousness continue to shape consumer preferences, New Zealand’s commitment to high-quality, environmentally responsible production stands to offer a competitive edge in the international market.