Insect-based pet and human foods marketed together

The popularity of insect-based ingredients in Mexico may stem from a mix of ancient culinary traditions and modern trends. While Mexican culture has long embraced edible arthropods, insect farms are now producing food and supplements for dogs and other pets.

For example, based in Guanajuato Insect nutrition sells edible insect products for humans and pets. On the pet side, items range from dog treats and protein-rich dog supplements to conventional dried insects for reptiles, birds and fish. The majority of Insect Nutrition’s products are marketed for human consumption, illustrating the convergence of human and pet foods.

Demand has continued to grow from both the human and pet side, Barbara Vela Maldonado told Petfood Industry from her company’s booth in Forum Mascotas 2022 on June 17 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The marketing of their products has broken down barriers in the food industry. Two major consumer demand trends, health and sustainability, are driving the growing popularity of crickets, black soldier fly larvae and other insects in food and feed.

On the health side, insects can provide complete protein as well as fiber and a range of vitamins. People have eaten insects throughout history, and Mexico maintains this tradition. These insect delights include gusanos de maguey (cactus worms), huevos de hormiga (ant eggs), and chapulines (crickets/grasshoppers). For example, La Tequila, a restaurant in Guadalajara, serves quesadillas made with chapulines. In this dish, the morita chili sauce overpowers the sweet nutty flavor of the insects.

The fiber and other components of insect-based ingredients may benefit guy bacteria, Alma Vela Maldonado said. People are more aware of their own gut microbiota as well as that of their pets. The gut-brain axis has become a topic of discussion, and insects fit into that conversation. Insect Nutrition markets cricket and black soldier fly larvae as superfoods.

Sustainability of insect farms

Environmentally, the resources used to produce animal protein affect both the environment and the economy. Insects potentially have much lower resource requirements than mammals and poultry. Insects such as crickets and black soldier fly larvae can live on vertical farms that use less land than livestock or agriculture. Arthropod farming requires an initial investment in infrastructure, but over the life of the farm, costs can become lower than cattle or poultry. As the pandemic has taught us, animals can transmit diseases to humans. However, the species used in insect farms do not carry diseases that can spread to humans or wildlife. Similarly, if they escape into surrounding ecosystems, insects cause less damage than feral pigs or other invasive species. With insects, the whole animal is used, so no leftover hooves and guts. Insects can also survive on foods that mammals and fish could not. Overall, compared to other animals, insect farms can tend to produce a greater amount of food from a given amount of resources.

Concerns about sustainability are rooted in people’s realization that we all share a habitat, called planet Earth. We breathe the air expelled by the Amazonian trees and drink the water that circulates in the kidneys of the dinosaurs. People have to manage their consumption since the capacity of the planet is limited. If pet owners want to continue to pamper their fur babies in the future, there must still be enough resources to provide this lifestyle. Protecting natural environments can also protect human civilization.

Although the precise route remains uncertain, wildlife likely harbored the original source of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. COVID-19 was not the first disease to break through this barrier, and it is unlikely to be the last as people encroach more on natural areas where unknown diseases lurk. From bubonic plague to leprosy, zoonotic diseases have ravaged Homo sapiens since prehistoric times. The sword cuts both ways, and human diseases can also be transmitted to other animals.

One Food Approach to Insect-Based Pet Food Ingredients

Recognizing this connection, the Centers for Disease Control, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Program and other agencies are collaborating on the One Health program. This initiative links human health to that of other animals, examining common threats such as zoonotic diseases.

“One Health’s issues include everything from zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance to food safety and security, and food for people and animals,” said Tom Skinner, senior business manager from the CDC to Petfood Industry. “Changes in our interactions with animals, through changes in the environment, travel and trade, and the increase in the number of animals kept as pets, have led to the spread of existing zoonotic diseases and new.

While disease is one aspect of health, so is nutrition. The human and pet food streams are already converged, with many ingredients appearing in both. So much so that you could write a book about it. For example, Nestlé Purina released a cookbook for people, inspired by the ingredients used in a new line of cat recipes, Fancy Feast Petite Feasts.

The links between diseases and food for humans, pets and livestock have been established. However, health is not just about avoiding disease. Eating habits and nutrition also play a role in health. The food and feed worlds seem to be converging. The growing popularity of insect-based pet food in Mexico is one example.