Baker, Carly

Baker, Carly
Start date:
October 2022
Research Topic:
Geography - food and animal geographies
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Mara Miele and Chris Bear
Supervising school:
School of Planning and Geography,
Primary funding source:

Hi there, my name is Carly and I am a first year post graduate researcher. I have spent the past ten years working in veterinary medicine and on farms. While working in those fields, I discovered that our food and health systems were incredibly unjust, and that animal agriculture was severely damaging the environment, which is what led me to university.

I planned to research food geographies and justice and I had no intention of bringing veterinary medicine into my research. But, after spending countless hours trying to find the most nutritious and ethical food for my two dogs, I connected my interest in environmental and food justice to veterinary medicine. It turns out that pet food has a significant social and environmental impact. And, despite this impact and enormous profitability of pet food industry, I also discovered that not many people in the social sciences nor geography were paying much attention to it, which left a nice gap for me to fill.

Of course, the pet food industry has taken notice of consumers like myself hoping the find the most ethical way to feed their pets. And this, combined with massive pet food recalls in the United States in 2007, has led to the development of alternative pet food movements, which are the focus of my project. I will be researching how the alternative protein sector of the industry understands, practices, and markets nutrition and sustainability. I also want to know the direct or indirect role of caring for non-humans.

I am studying the use of alternative proteins in dog food. On one end, there are arguments that feeding by-products from the human supply chain is humane and sustainable. Next, and currently the most interesting to me, is dog food made from invasive species, such as silver carp or wild boar. These are followed by insect-based dog food, food made from cultured meat, plant or yeast based protein, and finally dog food produced from ‘waste’, or upcycled food.

The objective of this research is to learn about how the pet food industry is attempting to balance the four factors through protein production and development, and what types of competing ethical concerns arise from this.