There is a lot of talk at the moment about the environmental and nutritional benefits of insect-based food and insect-based pet foods/ snacks are readily available in pet shops. But is this just a fashionable trend or is this shift in protein source for our pets a sustainable option set to change the face of our pets’ diets for the future?
Insects are revolting!
In western cultures the idea of eating creepy crawly insects is frankly unpalatable and distasteful for the majority. This reticence towards insects as a source of food is in many cases transferred to our pets and we avoid the idea of feeding them insects because we project our disgust onto our animal.
However, across the world right now, there are a whole host of human cultures happily consuming close to 2000 different species of insects on a daily basis. To add to this, wild forms of both cats and dogs commonly eat insects as part of their daily diet.
Our beloved fur ball actually has no qualms about eating many things that we would consider to be disgusting such as dead animals, poop and yes……creepy crawlies!
Are insects good for my pet to eat?
There are currently a dozen or so potential sources of insect protein including housefly pupae, crickets, mealworm larvae, black soldier fly larvae and cockroaches. They are all easy, quick, and relatively inexpensive to produce in large quantities. as yet not all countries have approved insects as a food source, even for our pets. Here in Switzerland however certain species are already approved for pet foods…. Such as locust, black soldier fly larvae and meal worm.
Research has confirmed that insects are a valuable source of protein, fat, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are an important part of our pets’ diet.
- cricket flours provide all 10 essential amino acids and weight for weight provide three times the iron, five times more magnesium and twice as much protein as ground beef.
- The larvae of the black soldier fly, which now is the most commonly used insect in dog foods due to its cheapness, provides dog food with important fats: Mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which strengthen the immune system, but also saturated fatty acids that provide energy.
Meat and the environment
More of us than ever before are using our cars less, using reusable cloth bags for our shopping instead of single use plastic ones and cutting back on meat in our own diet. We mainly do this because we know that these things are an important part of being environmentally friendly.
But did you realise that pet dogs have an enormous carbon footprint which is very harmful for the environment? There are an estimated 300million pet dogs globally and one year of a domestic dog’s life results in the same amount of emissions as a round trip by car from Munich to Athens! Wow!
According to a study in 2019, It is dog food alone that accounts for almost two thirds of these emissions. The remainder comes from dog walking, buying equipment, grooming & waste disposal.
Whilst we humans are eating less and less meat, dog foods are experiencing the reverse trend. An increasing number of pet owners are convinced that their dogs should be fed a diet consistently high in meat and this is also reflected in the increase in BARF feeding amongst dog owners.
But this high meat content diet has a direct and extremely negative impact on the environment. Why?
Because meat production is very demanding in its requirement for natural resources.
Meat production requires vast amounts of space, animal feeds and water and the use of pesticides and emits large amounts of methane plus other harmful gases.
Over one third of harmful environmental effects caused by the meat industry can be traced back to cat and dog foods.
Insects as a sustainable source of protein
Insects are very economical producers of protein. They are much more efficient at converting the food they eat into body weight than vertebrates such as cows, chickens etc. This is because they are cold blooded and so don’t need to use any energy they convert from their food to maintain their body temperature.
For example: To gain 1 kilo in weight, the larvae of the black soldier fly need to eat 1.5 kilos of food. A cow, on the other hand, needs 7 kilos of food for the same weight gain.
The entire life cycle from larvae to fly takes less than 2 months. This is much shorter than for beef, chicken etc. One tonne of fly larvae can be cultivated in only 2 weeks – on a surface that is about the size of an average bedroom. Hardly any emissions are produced. Cattle, however, need much more space for breeding and rearing and emit a great deal of greenhouse gas.
Why is insect protein resource-friendly?
Breeding insects also conserves our water resources. To produce 1 kilo of protein, the larvae of the black soldier fly only uses 4 per cent of the water that would be necessary for producing the same amount of protein from cattle. That is all the more impressive if we consider that more than two thirds of freshwater worldwide is used for agriculture.
Last but not least, processing insects is very uncomplicated. Most larvae and creepy-crawlies are ground and consumed whole. However, only half of the cow or chicken is edible.
Since insects have much less contact with their keepers than “classic” livestock, there is no need for the anti-biotics that we feed to our cattle today. Research has shown that many edible species of insect do not generally transmit diseases and they are themselves very resistant to disease. That is why there is scarcely any risk of with transmitting infectious diseases to humans – as we experienced with farming cattle during the BSE outbreak.
To summarise, 5 reasons to feed insect-based food as part of your pet’s diet are;
- Insect protein is environmentally friendly
- Insect protein is a more sustainable form of protein than meat
- Insect protein is species appropriate – it is naturally part of a pet’s wild diet
- There is no suffering to create insect protein – insect breeding involves no cruelty in the process as they are kept in a species appropriate way
- Insect protein is especially appropriate for dogs with allergies or intolerances as it is a single source protein
Dogs are such an important part of our life that many of us would do anything for our furry companions. For instance, studies have shown that more than 33% of dog owners would give up a job opportunity for their pet, and a massive 61% said the same about ending a relationship.
So, we have seen that insect protein food is actually very good for dogs and for the environment at the same time. shouldn’t more dog owners be willing to do their bit for the environment by substituting at least part of their dog’s diet with insect-based snacks and foods?
How can The Woof Club help you?
We hope that you will find this blog useful. Please let us know your thoughts and experiences on this important, creepy crawly topic. You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on this page
At the Woof Club we are convinced about the benefits of feeding insect protein foods and snacks to our dogs and we also want to do our bit for the environment. Our April box theme is built around insects- We are offering you the opportunity to have some fun with your dog and to receive some useful items too– you will find themed toys and accessories in the box and also some very tasty insect protein snacks for your four-legged friend to try – We think they will love them