Empty bowls for dogs and cats? Agathe Heim, managing director of cat and dog food manufacturer Bosch Tiernahrung from Blaufelden-Wiesenbach in the Schwäbisch Hall district, is concerned that pet food may run out.
Because in the worst case – if there is an interruption of gas supply – the production of animal feed would also stop for the most part.
“The main energy requirement in our industry is met by natural gas,” says Heim, whose family business has been around since 1960 and today produces around 20,000 tonnes of dog and cat food per month, most of which is sold through specialist retailers.
Animal feed production is energy intensive
Due to the animal ingredients, the dry food must be steamed to at least 90 degrees according to EU regulation and then dried to preserve. Gas is used as an energy source for cooking and drying. Years ago, the industry switched from heating oil to natural gas at great expense, Heim says, “because gas is much cheaper in terms of CO2 emissions.”
Now, of all things, this is becoming a problem because there is still concern that Russian energy supplies will fail. Despite the resumption of natural gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the Greens still consider a complete cessation of deliveries from Russia feasible.
Profitable fields, deficit pigs
“If gas stopped flowing tomorrow, 75 percent of our production would collapse,” Heim says. In addition, at Bosch Tiernahrung you still have access to biogas and a photovoltaic system, but otherwise you depend on classic natural gas. “We use over 90 million kilowatt-hours of natural gas a year,” says Heim.
The company is working on alternatives, but many solutions can only be implemented in the long term and not as quickly as is currently necessary, explains the CEO. “The more time we get, the better.”
The situation in the industry “is dramatic”, Georg Müller, head of the Industry Association for Pet Supplies (IVH), tells Bild. “If there is a gas outage in the industry, we will have to stop production.” The situation could be bridged for two to three months with the stocks produced so far, “since it looks bad”, Georg Müller assesses the situation.
Supplies last only four weeks
Agathe Heim says that in her company there are only about four weeks that can be bridged. After that it tightens. In an interview with the Funke media group, Fressnapf boss Johannes Steegmann takes on “unforeseen consequences for pets and customers”.
Even Fressnapf would only have a month’s supply of feed. As a result, several industry representatives wrote an open letter to the federal government to draw attention to their plight.
Farmers expect lower crop yields due to the drought
Because in addition to the possible interruption of natural gas supply, it is also the rising energy prices that are weighing on the sector: “Continued price increases in the sectors of raw materials, packaging and logistics as well as the deterioration of delivery routes are already presenting the pet industry with unprecedented challenges. Due to the impending gas supply bottleneck, we see it as our mission to provide species-appropriate care to pets at particular risk,” the fire department’s letter reads.
Saving energy is easier said than done, according to the North Rhine-Westphalian feed manufacturer Mera in the Funke media group. “Due to legal requirements, pet food must be heated to a high temperature,” says boss Martin Spengler.
The government must first supply the industry with natural gas if rationing becomes necessary, IVH chief Müller demands. “The federal government needs to do everything it can to make sure that disaster doesn’t happen and that we can continue to produce.”
Do not feed kitchen scraps to pets
However, Spengler advises against feeding kitchen scraps to pets as an alternative to pet food. “Such a replacement diet would put the animals at risk of not being fed a healthy and balanced diet – potentially resulting in long-term health problems,” he says.
According to a survey by the market research institute Skopos, Germans live with 34.7 million dogs, cats, small mammals and ornamental birds. There are also many decorative fish and terrarium animals.
69 percent of all families with children have a pet, and 15 percent of all households have at least two types of pets. Sales in the entire pet supply market last year amounted to approximately six billion euros.
Especially during the pandemic, many people bought a pet out of boredom or loneliness. And of course all these animal lovers now also want to take care of them.