Did you know that insects are packed with protein? They are also low in cholesterol and fat, yet bursting with nutrients such as Omega 3 and 6. So it’s no wonder that insect-based pet food and treats are rising in popularity, right?
But wait. What exactly is insect-based pet food?
It’s pet food containing edible bugs, like black soldier flies for example, which are a rich source of protein. What’s more, insects are just as nutritious as the finest free-range chicken or line-caught cod.
However, what’s also great about insect-based pet food is that it’s sustainable. As the human and pet populations grow, so too does the demand for food. Traditional sources of protein, like lamb, chicken and beef, require land and water, which are decreasing resources.
Insect production, on the other hand, relies upon far fewer resources. RSPCA Vet and founder of Anipal Steph Stubbe explains, “Insect production requires only 2% of land, 4% of the water and less energy. It also produces significantly less waste than traditional livestock production. Need more convincing? Insects are 12-25 more efficient than cattle in converting their feed, to produce the same amount of protein. That’s pretty incredible!”
In fact, Anipal (which is dedicated to sustainable and recyclable pet products) goes one step further. Its insects are sourced from a farming system that feeds off wasted food produce that would otherwise end up in landfill. It is estimated that 1/3 of food produced is wasted. In Australia, this is over 7.3 million tonnes of food wasted — which equates to nearly 300kgs of food per person per year.
“So our insects are helping reduce the harmful impacts of food waste-related emissions, which is all part and parcel of reducing your pet’s carbon pawprint,” says Steph.
Is Insect-Based Pet Food Really Good For my Fur Pal?
“Surprisingly, dogs don’t need to eat as much meat as you’d think. While cats are obligate carnivores, dogs have evolved with humans, adapting to a diet requiring less meat. Their amylase genes allow them to digest plant starch – an adaptation believed to have developed during prehistoric times when they were companion animals fed off campsite food scraps, which were often plant based,” explains Steph.
“Secondly, one of the most common health conditions for dogs include food allergens from proteins, especially those from dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy or gluten (from wheat). Alternatives such as insects and seaweed, both of which we use in the AniPal treat range, offer a complete, hypoallergenic protein that provides equal nutritional value as meats such as chicken and fish.”
Will Insects Provide My Pet With Enough Nutrients?
We all love our four-pawed pals, so switching up their food can be daunting – especially when bugs are concerned! Well, you can put your mind as ease because, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, ‘the nutritional value of insects does not differ from the nutritional value of other meat sources such as chicken, beef, pork and fish.’ Alrighty then, that’s good news!
Want to know more about the benefits of insect-based pet food? Let’s take a look at their nutritional profile. The most common species of insects farmed for use in pet food include crickets, yellow mealworms and black soldier flies. According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association UK, ‘Insects such as black soldier flies are rich in protein and have a 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.’
Steph adds, “AniPal Earth Bites’ main ingredient is the black soldier fly, a source of highly digestible insect protein. They are rich in fatty acids including lauric acid and omega 3 & 6. These essential fatty acids are important for your pet’s cardiovascular, brain, joint and skin health. Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals including calcium, zinc and phosphorus, these grubs are great for bone and eye health. They are also delicate on your furry friend’s stomach, meaning they are perfect for dogs who err on the sensitive side.”
At a Glance: 5 Key Benefits of Insect Protein
Still unsure about insect-based pet food and treats? Here’s a run down of some of the main benefits.
- Compared to traditional farming, insects can be produced more efficiently, with fewer resources.
- Insect farming produces far less methane than livestock, making it more environmentally friendly.
- Insects are an awesome hypoallergenic alternative to meat proteins for pets.
- Insects are not only high in protein, but also other essential vitamins and minerals.
- An insect-based diet can help reduce your fur pal’s carbon pawprint.
Globally pet cats and dogs consume up to 12-20% of meat and fish, which is a rather significant pawprint. Cluing up on the eco and health benefits of insect-based pet food is a worthwhile step towards supporting your fur pal’s health, but also protecting the planet.
What are your thoughts? Would you try out insect protein on your furry friend?