By Diane Herndon, Senior Sustainability Manager, Nestlé Purina
Did you know that there are more living organisms in a tablespoon of healthy soil than there are people living on the planet?
That boggles my mind. There is a whole universe of life beneath our feet, invisible except with a microscope. Those organisms are hard at work nourishing and protecting the plants that grow our food, filter our water, and store carbon. It’s easy to take soil for granted; I know I have. At times, I’ve even seen it as a nuisance when it sticks to my shoes and hands, or when my dog tracks it through the house on her paws. But I’ve learned that we couldn’t live without healthy soil.
As I’ve dug deeply (pun intended!) into how to continually improve the impact that Purina pet food has on the environment, soil has risen to the top. A life cycle assessment of Nestlé Purina US showed that our biggest environmental impact happens before the ingredients even reach our production facilities. Since we don’t own the farms or fisheries where our quality ingredients are grown or raised, we partner with growers and organizations along the supply chain to address challenges together.
Over the years, soils have lost a lot of their fertility through overuse — in the US and around the world. Growers today understand soil health better than ever before. They’re doing good things to improve their soils. Many farmers are tilling less and rotating different crops to help build the nutrient and organic matter profile of the soil. But how can we help them accelerate this work?
At Nestlé Purina, we make high-quality pet foods that end up in the bowls of millions of dogs and cats each year. We take pride in the health and nutrition of the ingredients we use in these pet food recipes. Our ingredients come from family farms across the United States.
I’ve even gotten the chance to ride along with some of these growers as they plant and harvest their crops. Every time I step on a farm, the first thing I notice is the serious sense of responsibility these folks have for their land. They’re driven everyday to be good stewards. The second thing that stands out is the amount of technology used on their farms. Sensors, drones, computers, better seeds, and improved agronomic practices are all helping farmers treat natural resources with care. That’s good for the environment, good for the farmer’s bottom line, and good for us at Purina and the pets that enjoy our healthy recipes.
Luckily, we’ve got some soil heroes in our midst. Earlier this year, The Nature Conservancy, joined forces with the Soil Health Partnership and the Soil Health Institute to help invigorate the soil protection efforts that farmers are working on. The team uses demonstration farms to show the impact of soil health practices on a farm’s profitability and on the environment. They also lead landowner outreach showing how soil health can improve the value of their land, as well as encouraging government policies to provide more incentives to help farmers get started using soil health practices.
We at Purina have joined this movement by supporting The Nature Conservancy’s reThink Soil initiative with a USD 1 million commitment. Purina believes that by investing in soil health, we are also investing in our own future. Strong soil health investments will help us to have continued access to the best pet food ingredients grown from US farms.
It’s been a privilege to join with experts, from The Nature Conservancy to farmers, policymakers, and more through our support of this work. I know that with these incredible partners working together, we’ll help enrich healthy soil that will ultimately bring the best ingredients to our plates and our pets’ food bowls.
Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s reThink Soil Initiative.