Insect protein isn’t a completely new topic. It’s been edging its way into conversations around the globe for a few years. In fact, back in 2019, the British Veterinary Association came out in support of insect protein for pets.
It stated: “Due to the smaller environmental footprint, use of fewer resources, space and production of high-quality protein, insect farming is increasingly seen as a viable source of protein in the modern human diet and for livestock and pet food.”
Aha, so the growing interest in insect protein for pets (and us humans) centres on sustainability and the environmental impact of animal farming. Well, that makes sense. However, it’s becoming apparent that insect protein isn’t just environmentally friendlier than traditional pet food; it might actually be healthier too.
Insect protein — good for the planet
There are many reasons why insect protein is a sensible choice when it comes to sustainable pet food. Here are just a few.
- Compared to beef, insect-based food uses less land and water to produce.
- No fertilisers or pesticides are required for insects, which means lower greenhouse gas emissions—good news for the environment.
- It is estimated that pets consume between 12-20% of all meat globally, which accounts for a large proportion of the demand.
- The humanisation of pets is seeing more owners feeding their animals high-grade meat. This is putting pressure on the human food chain—particularly as populations are also growing.
However, in spite of these positives, many pet owners are reluctant to jump on the insect-based pet food bandwagon!
A study conducted by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) revealed that 36% of pet owners would not be keen to feed their four-legged friend pet food containing insect powder—even if it was of nutritional benefit.
The emerging health benefits of insect protein for pets
According to the PFMA, the most common insects used in the production of pet food include house crickets, yellow mealworms and black soldier fly. What’s more, a key factor in the use of insects for protein is that they are fed on human by-products, which they can effectively convert into rich proteins and fats.
The PFMA states: “Insects such as the black soldier fly are rich in protein and have clear potential in animal nutrition. The well-balanced amino acid profiles of certain insect ingredients are shown to be comparable to meat- and fishmeal (Spranghers et al., 2017). Due to their novel protein structure, there is a lot of interest for use of insects in diets that are intended for pets diagnosed with food intolerance or allergies.
“Additionally, insects can have high fats/oils, mineral and vitamin levels, depending on what they are fed on.”
Another source reveals that cricket powder provides three times more iron, five times more magnesium and double the protein of ground beef.
So not only does the production and farming of insects reduce the pressure on our oceans and livestock, it can effectively meet the nutritional needs of our pets.
Insect protein: in summary
As a pet professional, it’s likely a client or custom will ask your thoughts on insect protein for pets. The PFMA has a really handy fact sheet on Insect-Based Ingredients in Pet Food. You can direct pet owners here or provide them with the following summarised points.
- Insect protein places far less pressure on the environment than traditional pet food
- Insect protein is a more sustainable source of protein compared to meat
- Eating insects is much closer to an animal’s traditional diet
- Insects are rich in nutrients, minerals and amino acids
- There is no animal suffering in the creation of insect protein
- Substituting part of a pet’s diet with insect protein is a good way to transition and do your bit for the environment
What are your thoughts on insect protein for pets? Is it a topic you get asked about?
British Veterinary Association. Grubs up! Can UK pet lovers get to grips with insects in pet food? Accessed online via: https://www.bva.co.uk/news-and-blog/blog-article/grubs-up-can-uk-pet-lovers-get-to-grips-with-insects-in-pet-food/
The Woof Club. 5 reasons to feed insect-based food/snacks as part of your pet’s diet. Accessed online via: https://thewoofclub.ch/5-reasons-to-feed-insect-based-food-snacks-as-part-of-your-pets-diet/
Image source: Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash