“I would definitely consider feeding my dogs insects as a treat or training reward,” says Laurie Dunbar, veterinarian at the Pierrefonds Veterinary Hospital in Montreal.
Sally Anscombe | Digital vision | Getty Images
What does black soldier fly larvae taste like? Stilton and cheese cookies. At least that’s how British start-up Yora Pet Foods describes its insect-based dog food.
Founded in 2019, Yora launched the first insect protein pet food sold in the UK. Targeting environmentally conscious pet owners, it expects to have shipped over 200 tonnes of product to over 200 countries and generate sales of over $ 2.8 million. Its business is part of a movement in which manufacturers in North America, Europe and beyond are trying to make pet food more sustainable and environmentally friendly by using insect protein from the insects. place of animals.
“We expect that as consumers become more aware of their own carbon footprints – and their pets’ carbon ‘paw prints’ – insect protein will be adopted by more and more owners. animals as a viable and marketable alternative to traditional meat, ”says Yora, executive director Glenn Rankin, adding that pets consume around 20% of the meat and fish in their country.
Despite concerns of some scientists About the many unknowns associated with their cultivation on a large scale, insects are already an emerging trend in sustainable food for humans.
According to a Dutch revision study 2017, compared to animal production, the advantages of insect breeding are as follows: requiring less land and water, emitting less greenhouse gases, having high feed conversion efficiency and being useful as animal feed or aqua. A 2020 study by researchers from the UK and Germany, presenting what they called the first such analysis, concluded that the impacts of pet food “equate to an environmental footprint of roughly twice the size of the land. UK and would cause greenhouse gas emissions from pet food around the 60th highest emitting country, or the equivalent of total emissions from countries like Mozambique or the Philippines. “
In this context, a panel of the European Commission recently approved law Project This would certify that the mealworm beetle larvae, aka the yellow mealworm, are safe for consumption – the first insect approved in the bloc of 27 countries. The larvae can be eaten whole and dried or as an ingredient. “The use of insects as an alternative source of protein is not new and insects are regularly eaten in many parts of the world,” noted the commission.
Backed by Footprint Coalition, the investment group of Robert Downey Jr., the French insect feed company Ynsect, which specializes in yellow mealworms, announced in April the acquisition of its Dutch rival. Protifarm, a manufacturer of mealworm ingredients for human applications. Ynsect will now have a total capacity of over 230,000 tonnes of ingredients per year.
For many people, however, the bugs are less than appetizing. By comparison, getting our furry friends to feast on bugs might be a walk in the park. Startups and Long-Established Businesses Introduce Bugs to Change the Pet Food Market, Which Was Worth It $ 42 billion in the United States in 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association.
“I would definitely consider feeding my dogs insects as a treat or as a training reward,” says Laurie Dunbar, a veterinarian at Pierrefonds Veterinary Hospital in Montreal who doesn’t like to eat insects herself, but thinks that they make sense to dogs and other animals that naturally consume them. “I would also have no problem with bugs as a source of protein in a well balanced formula for the dog’s age and lifestyle. … I would feel comfortable recommending it to customers looking for eco-friendly alternatives to meat-based diets, and for pets with allergies to traditional protein sources. “
Demand for insect protein as an ingredient in pet food and feed could reach half a million metric tonnes in 2030, up from around 10,000 metric tonnes currently, according to a report released in 2021. through RaboResearch, a Dutch research group on food and agribusiness. “The insect industry is on a path to scale up, supported by investments and partnerships. Efficiency gains from increasing technology, automation, genetic improvements and legislative changes will also reduce costs, “the report notes, adding that doubling or quadruple production volume will take much less time once the half-million mark is reached.
“While aspects of sustainability and functional advantages support the growth in demand, costs and high prices, the current limited production capacity and legislation are the main factors limiting the growth of insect proteins,” said RaboResearch by presenting the report.
In March, Mars Petcare, part of confectionery giant Mars, announced Lovebug, a dry cat food without traditional beef or poultry protein. It is created from insect meal of black soldier fly larvae and sold in the UK. The food is aimed at “pet parents” who care about sustainability because insects take up 80% less land than beef per kilogram of protein, according to Mars. In addition, the larvae are fed on surplus vegetables and plants and come from a farm supplied with 100% renewable electricity.
Last November, Nestlé launched a Purina pet food containing fly larvae, plant and animal protein. Launched in Switzerland, Purina Beyond Nature’s Protein for dogs and cats is available in two formulations: one based on chicken, pork liver and millet, and the other based on protein from black soldier fly larvae, chicken and beans.
“We have carefully balanced the contribution of different protein sources, including insects, in our recipes for cats and dogs to meet their specific nutritional needs,” says Dan Smith, Head of Nestlé’s Global Strategic Business Unit for pet care. “Consumer acceptance is promising. We researched in December 2020 and found that a significant majority of Swiss consumers who tried the range confirmed that their pet liked the product and would repurchase the product. product.”
U.S. Pet Food Market
The pet industry has exploded during the pandemic, with the increase in the purchase and adoption of pets, spending on pets hitting an all-time high in 2020 and the trend so intense that vets have struggled to respond to the request. With the introduction of cricket-based pet treats in recent years, more insect pet foods may arrive in North America during this peak period for pets.
HOPE Pet Foods is a University of Toronto spinoff company launched in 2020. This summer, it plans to launch treats and foods made with alternative proteins such as algae and black soldier fly larvae.
“We know dogs love the nutty taste of our products, which is characteristic of the insect ingredients we use,” says HOPE co-founder and CEO Sofia Bonilla, who discovered alternative proteins while working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Netherlands. “Alternative proteins can offer equal if not better nutrient profiles to the foods we currently consume, and they are much less costly for the environment to produce.”
Phillip Cooper, a California-based pet industry expert, says U.S. insect food sales are less than 2% of sales, but pet food manufacturers are still on the hunt. researching new and better sources of protein.
“I expect this trend to continue to grow and it looks like cricket protein appears to be the most popular and abundant,” Cooper says. “Dogs are going to eat it, but the biggest obstacle is getting consumers to accept it with open arms.”
He says the “healthy crowd” – consumers concerned about sustainability and the environment – will support new ideas, but most large retailers are generally expecting wider adoption and price-conscious. “Until big investors invest in the supply chain, packaging and advertising, I expect this segment to see single-digit year-over-year growth,” Cooper said.
U.S. regulations may soon change to allow more insects in pet foods. In general, the ingredients used in animal feed should be either approved food additives or be generally recognized as safe (BOLD), according to the Food and Drug Administration. In coordination with state feed control officials, the FDA recognizes the ingredients in the Official publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as acceptable for animal feed.
The AAFCO Ingredient Definition Committee voted to accept dried black soldier fly larvae for use in adult dog foods. However, the ingredient has yet to be released by AAFCO because it hasn’t gone through all the necessary steps, an FDA spokesperson said. AAFCO did not respond to a request for comment.
“The use of insects in pet foods would require an assessment of the safety and usefulness through a food additive petition, unless the ingredient is GRAS intended for use in pet food in order to be marketed legally, ”the spokesperson said. “It is important to note that insect protein, like animal or plant protein, can come from a wide variety of sources, so each type of insect protein (eg, crickets, flies, worms, various types larvae) should be assessed and approved separately. In addition, the manner in which insects are reared may have an impact on safety and should be considered. “