Crickets, grasshoppers, spiders and even dragonflies… Whatever you think of them, insects are quickly becoming one of the most promising and popular sources of protein around the world, especially in food cultures that aren’t typically used to eating them. And, as it turns out, insect-based pet food might be the solution for low-carbon, high-protein food for our dogs and cats too!
Of course, it’s little secret that the current food system – monocrop cultures and widespread factory farming – isn’t sustainable. These practices which have become widespread over the past 100 years as the human population has rapidly grown have placed an enormous burden on our environment and natural resources. It’s causing huge issues such as the erosion of topsoil, deforestation as huge swathes of land are used for pasture or growing animal feed, and suffering for billions of animals every year. What’s more, animals such as cows produce significant quantities of methane – an extremely dangerous greenhouse gas – that is quickening the rate of global warming.
Keeping on as usual means things are only going to get worse. The UN predicts that the global population will hit 9.8 billion in 2050 and a whopping 11.2 billion by 2100. Faced with the urgent need to create sustainable and more efficient food systems, insects (and insect-based pet food!) could offer one effective solution available right now, for both us humans and our beloved cats and dogs.
But do insects taste better than meat – and what do they consist of?
Eating insects may have a bit of a ‘yuck’ factor, but across most of the globe, it’s nothing new! In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2.5 billion people already consume insects as part of their regular diet. Roast tarantula and gravy, anyone?
But, as is often the case, not all insects are equal! Certain insects such as crickets, black soldier flies and mealworms are all popular alternative foodstuffs for food, including dog and cat food. These species are a great option for humans, but also for insect-based pet food for our dogs and cats, since they’re high in protein, omega-3, fatty acids, vitamins and much more. They also contain the important amino acid known as ‘taurine’ which is essential for a cat’s nutritional wellbeing.
So, how do insect-based pet foods compare with traditional meats? Pretty well. Insect-based pet foods can certainly meet the natural nutrient requirements of cats and dogs, though we always recommend getting a vet’s advice if you’re switching up your pet’s food. Recently, the British Veterinary Association suggested that ‘some insect-based foods may be better for pets than prime steak’. We wonder if that’s only the case if you serve your insects medium rare?
Which brings up a good point: what do dogs and cats have to say about insect-based pet food? The answer is, invariably, everyone’s different. But why not give it a go? Chances are your dog or cat will love it just as much as their existing diet of traditional chicken, fish, pork or beef.
What about the environment – Is insect-based pet food more sustainable?
But let’s go back to where we started. With a climate emergency on our hands, why are we even recommending insect-based foods? As we’ve said, many traditional food systems require an awful lot of space, water and feed. All this puts pressure on the land and on local ecosystems. Insect farming is a great alternative since they need much less of all these. Less space. Less water. And less food. A Dutch insect farm – the largest in the world – estimates that compared to beef, insects use just 2% of the land, 4% of the water for each kilogram of protein produced. What’s more, insects can typically be raised on human food waste. This offers the possibility of creating a closed-loop food system where leftover food is reinvested in feeding insects grown for insect-based pet food for our tables or dog and cat bowls.
Last but not least, insects also reproduce much faster than other animals, further reducing price and efficiency. Such a resource-efficient process makes it a much more sustainable way of producing food for the 1.5 billion cats and dogs on Planet Earth.
And what about the ethics behind insect-based food?
Does it all sound too good to be true? Well, perhaps one consideration is the ethics behind insect-based pet food. This is a difficult question that everyone has to answer for themselves. Insects are a great option to cut your carbon pawprint, but certain groups have raised legitimate concerns over the ethics of insect farming. If you’re vegan, it’s quite likely you’ll try to avoid animal products in forms, including insects. For ideas of avoiding animals altogether, stay tuned for our blogs of vegan dog and cat food!
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