Insect proteins in pet food: fad or solution?

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, Managing Editor of Petfood Industry, provided her expertise on all things pet food, including market trends, news and developments in pet nutrition, food safety and other industry hot topics.

For several years, insect proteins have been making waves in the animal and human food industries.

Although still a new category of pet food ingredients, its potential to serve as an alternative source of protein, alleviating shortages of other protein ingredients while promising to be more sustainable, has generated a lot of interest, curiosity, research, investment and media attention.

According to Mintel data, insect protein claims account for less than 1% of global pet food launches.

insect protein

Insect protein ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to sustainability.

Most commercially raised insects are fed recycled materials from the human food supply chain, in addition to using far less land, water and other resources than traditional animal protein.

For example, produce that has passed its expiration date, as well as parts of fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are not generally sold or eaten by humans are used to breed insects.

According to study results presented by Brad Ewankiw, Product Line Manager for Enterra, at Petfood Forum 2022, research into the nutritional benefits and safety levels of insect protein for pets is growing. , with good results in terms of digestibility, palatability and safety.

These findings were specific to black soldier fly (BSFL) larvae, but similar research on cricket and mealworm proteins is currently underway and in publication.

After receiving a brief training on insect protein, 55% of US pet owners were very or somewhat interested in purchasing pet food containing it, compared to 42% before the training.

Kate Vlietstra, Associate Director for Mintel food and drinksaid at Petfood Forum Europe 2022 that 36% of UK pet food shoppers now say they would be interested in food containing insect protein, up from 21% three years ago.

Is it just a fad?

Insect proteins are being explored by researchers as livestock feed, in addition to pet food and human food, and experts in this field are skeptical.

For example, Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., animal nutritionist and director of Aniston Nutrition Consulting Internationalrecently wrote that although it’s a good idea, he thought insect farming would fail in the long run.

He went on to say that some experts believe insect farming is just a fad that will fade into the background because it has been driven primarily by political and social interests rather than genuine support for the world. ‘agriculture.

Some go even further by comparing insect farming to lab-grown meat or even a plant-based meat substitute.

The idea is that all of these concepts are fleeting and will fade, like so many other great ideas.

Also Read: Some Pet Foods Contain DNA From Endangered Shark Species, Alarming Report Reveals

Encouragement for the future

Phillips-Donaldson wrote that Mavromichalis, along with the other animal and pet food experts, might have the right idea.

She pointed out that insect protein, on the other hand, is more likely to succeed, including in the hearts and minds of consumers, than lab-grown meat, in part because the term “lab-grown” is more off-putting than the idea of ​​eating bugs.

Plant-based proteins have been around for a while, at least as a niche category, long before their recent surge in popularity, whether incorporated into products with other ingredients or used as imitation meat products. .

According to Phillips-Donaldson, all of these alternative protein sources, including insects, lab-grown plants, algae, fungi and many more, deserve a chance with research, funding and attention.

The bottom lineaccording to the editor, is that the world’s population needs more sources of protein for humans and animals, as well as relief from climate change.

She concluded her statement by encouraging people to keep looking for ways to meet those needs.

Related article: High consumption of insects can have positive impacts on the environment

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