Petaluma earned our top spot for the best sustainable dog food, largely based on the company’s superior credentials and approach to business. Naturally, we wanted to put this dog food to the (taste) test as well, so we enlisted a Leaf Score senior team member – Kali the border collie – to try it out for a few weeks.
Table of Contents
- Petaluma Dog Kibble [Staff dog tried and tested]
- Getting to know Petaluma
- What’s in Petaluma dog kibble?
- Digestibility and taste
- A more sustainable dog food
- Any downsides to Petaluma dog kibble?
- Petaluma Sweet Potato Jerky [Staff dog tried and tested]
- Petaluma Senior Dog Kibble Formula
- Final thoughts on Petaluma dog food
Petaluma Dog Kibble [Staff dog tried and tested]
Highlights: Totally vegan dog food made in Illinois using solar power by a B Corp that is Climate Neutral Certified. Suitable for all adult dogs and contains 50% organic ingredients. Free samples available!
Petaluma at a glance:
- B Corp, 1% for the Planet member, and Climate Neutral Certified
- Baked plant-based kibble made using solar power in Illinois
- More than 50% organic ingredients
- Suitable for all breeds of adult dog
- 33 grams of protein in every scoop
- Excellent digestibility (similar to meaty formulas!)
- Meets AAFCO guidelines and formulated by veterinarians
- Saves water, emissions, and land, compared to meat formulas.
UPDATE: In 2023, Petaluma launched a Senior Dog Kibble (view here) – perfect for older pups like mine!
Getting to know Petaluma
- Plant based vegan dog food made using solar power
- Saves water
- Organic ingredients
- formulated by veterinary nutritionists and meets AAFCO guidelines
- Tested for digestibility and nutrient absorption
- Kibble bags are not easily recyclable
As a longtime vegan with a senior plant-based pooch, I was very excited to see Petaluma launch its vegan-friendly dog kibble. Pickings are slim for vegan dogs, and what is available tends to be hard to find, pricey, or made by bigger brands looking to cash in on a product they can greenwash.
See also: The best sustainable dog foods
Petaluma is the real deal for eco-friendlier, sustainable sustenance for your pup. The company launched in 2021 and is already a Benefit Corporation (B Corp), in addition to being a 1% for the Planet member and Climate Neutral Certified. That means Petaluma takes the time to measure its greenhouse gas emissions, reduce those where possible, and offset 100% of what remains.
Petaluma offers two products currently: baked kibble and sweet potato jerky. My pup has tried both and gives Petaluma a high-five for making delicious, irresistible dog food and treats. As a pup who loves to bask in the sun, Kali would also approve, I’m sure, of Petaluma’s use of solar power to bake the kibble in Illinois (the sweet potatoes are air-dried, also saving energy!).
What’s in Petaluma dog kibble?
Petaluma’s kibble is a baked, plant-based formula suitable for adult dogs of all breeds. This dry food can also be used for small breed puppies from nine months onward, and from 12 and 18 months onward for medium and large breeds respectively.
The kibble was formulated by veterinary nutritionists and meets AAFCO guidelines. Each scoop provides more than 33 grams of protein from whole foods including:
- Organic chickpeas
- Organic peas
- Organic oats
- Dried brewer’s yeast
- Organic peanut peanuts
- Organic sweet potato.
As for nutrition, Petaluma’s kibble provides a minimum of 28% crude protein and 13% crude fat, and a maximum of 6% crude fiber and 9% moisture.
Digestibility and taste
Sceptics of plant-based dog food often raise concerns about the digestibility of these foods compared to meat. Happily, Petaluma tests its food using both a (cruelty-free) model of dog digestion and using volunteer dogs who are family members rather than lab dogs.
Results from these tests show that the pups digested around 80% of the nutrients in Petaluma. This includes protein-specific digestibility of 80%, which is similar to meaty formulas.
Having fed this kibble to my pup for several weeks, including about a quarter scoop to replace part of her regular kibble, I can say that there’s been no obvious change in her bowel habits, suggesting good digestibility and tolerance.
Kali has been eating a plant-based diet for more than eleven years though, so the change wouldn’t be all that major for her system. If your pup is still eating a meaty diet, you might want to go slow when introducing a plant-based kibble, to give their digestion time to adjust. As with any change in kibble, it’s best to switch over gradually anyway.
As for taste, I admit I took a nibble of a kibble (who hasn’t!?) and it’s actually pretty good! Kali will definitely be getting the rest of this bag, though, don’t worry. She’s quite clear in her preference for Petaluma over her current kibble (Natural Balance vegan – one of the only ones available in Canada, alas). Sadly, I won’t be able to switch her to Petaluma entirely until the company gets a Canadian distributor.
Kali’s experience is just anecdata, of course. The more robust testing, per Petaluma, found that two out of three dogs also preferred Petaluma Roasted Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato Flavor food to their standard food.
Still concerned your dog will turn up their snout at new food? Petaluma offers free samples, so you don’t have to commit to a big bag only to donate it to the shelter if your pup is that one of three to like the status quo.
A more sustainable dog food
In years gone by, most plant-based dogs were on such a diet for health reasons or because their human companions were vegan themselves. More recently, the plant-based kibble crowd has come to include folks with concerns over the massive environmental footprint of meaty dog food and treats.
Petaluma commissioned a lifecycle assessment to get a clearer picture of how its kibble stands up to a standard meat-inclusive formula. The results show that compared to a conventional 18 lb. bag of kibble, Petaluma’s food:
- Uses 54% less fresh water (saving 2,200 gallons)
- Produces 75% fewer greenhouse gas emissions
- Saves 185 lbs. of CO2, or around 200 miles of driving
- Uses 89% less land (the equivalent of 5,300 square feet of conserved farmland).
Any downsides to Petaluma dog kibble?
There are very few downsides to Petaluma that I can see. To be nitpicky, I’d note that the kibble bags are not easily recyclable. This is absolutely no different from every other kibble bag out there though, and at least Petaluma has tried and continues to try to make things better.
For now, the kibble bags are made of kraft paper with an inner plastic laminate to keep the food fresh. This approach helps to reduce plastic use compared to a full plastic bag, however. The bags are a bit stiff because of the materials, so you’ll want to either transfer the kibble to a large, airtight container after opening, or find a big clip to reseal the top of the bag.
Petaluma is working on developing a fully recyclable or compostable bag made with renewable materials and has already achieved this for its Sweet Potato Jerky, though the bags aren’t perfect.
One other downside to Petaluma is that the food is a little more expensive than what you’ll typically find at the pet store. The good news is that the company offers a discount with subscriptions, so once your pup is on the Petaluma train, you can set it and forget it, while also saving money. Petaluma also offers free shipping for subscriptions or orders over $45. Petaluma currently only delivers to the U.S., unless you’re a Canadian who asks very nicely and is prepared to deal with the utter confusion around importing dog food (even when it’s vegan!).
Ingredients (Roasted Peanut Butter & Sweet Potato Flavor):
Organic chickpeas, potato protein, organic oats, dried brewer’s yeast, pea protein, organic peanut butter (organic peanuts), organic sweet potato, organic barley, organic flaxseeds, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), peanut oil, organic brown rice syrup, carrots, miscanthus grass, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulphate), dried parsley, calcium carbonate, marine microalgae, organic kelp meal, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D2 supplement, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid), minerals (zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite), turmeric, choline chloride, dl-methionine, cinnamon, allspice, taurine, salt, potassium chloride, ginger, L-carnitine, and rosemary extract.
Petaluma Sweet Potato Jerky [Staff dog tried and tested]
Highlights: Jerky for dogs, made with organic, air-fried sweet potatoes from North Carolina!
Petaluma’s plant-based jerky for dogs is made from organic, air-dried sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina. Tried and tested by my lucky pup, this jerky goes down a treat!
The generously sized bag contains pieces of jerky of different sizes, which has proven handy for ‘training’ treats during walks and when the mail arrives. Because it’s made from nothing but air-dried organic sweet potatoes, these treats won’t leave smelly, gross, oily stains on your carpets or furniture, unlike meatier treats.
My one slight issue with this jerky, though, is the bag it comes in. I love that Petaluma has opted for a biodegradable bag made with materials that you can actually compost at home. However, the bag feels a little stiff and can tear easily if you don’t handle it with care. I ended up decanting the jerky into two large Mason jars to keep it air tight.
If your pup tends to snack on more meaty treats, try some jerky to reduce their environmental pawprint. Compared to chicken, this organic sweet potato jerky reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 90%, freshwater use by 99%, and land use impact by 90%, according to Petaluma’s third-party commissioned lifecycle analysis. Per bag, compared to chicken, this amounts to:
- 185 gallons of freshwater saved
- 8 pounds fewer greenhouse gas emissions
- 120 square feet of land retained for growing more food (or other purposes).
All in all, Petaluma’s sweet potato jerky is a tasty, convenient, long-lasting, stain-free, super sustainable dog treat your pup (and your carpets) will love.
Petaluma Senior Dog Kibble Formula
Highlights: Plant-based (vegan) formula specially designed with older pups in mind. Features DHA, curcumin, and glucosamine to support joints, cardiovascular, and cognitive health in older dogs.
My pup hasn’t had a chance to try it yet (it’s incredibly hard to ship dog food across the U.S./Canada border!), but I’m certain she’d love Petaluma’s new Senior Kibble Formula.
With a formula put together by veterinarians, the senior kibble contains:
- Fewer calories overall
- Quality sources of dietary fiber.
- Glucosamine for joints
- Algae-derived DHA (omega-3) for cognitive and cardiovascular health
- Anti-inflammatory curcumin.
Given that I already supplement my pup’s daily diet with curcumin, glucosamine, and DHA, this senior kibble formula would make life so much simpler.
As with the original Petaluma kibble, the senior version also features plant-based protein from chickpeas and organic whole grains, as well as peanut butter. The kibble is oven-baked to preserve nutrients and flavor, so your pup will love it as much as you love not having to mess around with five different supplements and medications on the daily.
For the launch of the Senior Formula, Petaluma is offering 25% off your first subscription order and 5% off all future bags. Use code GOLDENYEARS at checkout, following the link below.
Final thoughts on Petaluma dog food
Petaluma has definitely shaken up the dog food industry since its launch in 2021. The company has shown that it’s entirely possible to do things differently and help all animals lead healthier, happier lives.
Petaluma regularly offers sales and discounts, including a discount if you schedule your delivery. Not only does that save you money, it also means you’ll never run out of tasty kibble again!
You can also use code GIVEBACK at checkout for 30% off your first subscription order, and Petaluma will donate a meal through its partner Farming Hope. This charitable organization provides garden-to-table job training for formerly incarcerated or homeless San Franciscans and creates nutritious meals for food-insecure folks using food that would otherwise have gone to waste! I call that a win-win-win-win… win?