Would you feed your pet crickets? Why insect-based pet food could be all the buzz

First there was recycling, then there was reduced theft, now feeding your pets with insects is the latest lifestyle choice to help fight climate degradation.

Environmentally conscious pet owners choose to feed their animals meals made with crickets, mealworms and black soldier flies in an effort to reduce the huge carbon emissions produced by raising livestock for a traditional meat-based diet.

Experts say pets can be fed insects because they are high in protein, and farmed species can also contain high levels of fats, oils, minerals, and vitamins. Preliminary research also suggests that when insects are cultivated commercially, emissions, water, and land use are lower than with raising livestock.

Nicole Paley, Deputy CEO of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, said, “When made into a nutritionally complete pet food, insect protein can contribute to nutritious and palatable products that can also be respectful of the environment. Insect products offer an alternative for owners who prefer to feed their pets a diet based on ingredients other than traditional farm animals.

Forecasts from Rabobank, a Dutch multinational, estimate that the insect-based pet food market could grow 50-fold by 2030, when half a million tonnes are expected to be produced.

Andrew Knight, professor of veterinary science at the University of Winchester, said it would reflect growing consumer interest in alternative pet foods, which included vegan diets, for sustainability reasons.

This is in part due to owner concerns about the high carbon footprint associated with the pet food industry, which, according to a UCLA study, accounts for about 25% of the environmental damage associated with the pet food industry. meat and is equivalent to 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. per year – the same impact on the climate as 13.6 million cars driving in a year.

Experts say that pets can be fed insects because they are high in protein, but consult your vet before any change in diet.

However, Knight added that “many consumers’ aversion to insect-based diets” may be a barrier to wider adoption.

Insect-based animal feed is also generally more expensive than traditional ranges. For example, a bag of Lovefood insect-based dry kibble costs £ 12 per kg, compared to £ 9.75 for a 2kg bag of Iams Chicken Dry Cat Food.

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of Futerra, which is working with Mars Petcare to produce Lovebug, its first line of insect-based cat food, said their market research suggests that nearly half (47%) of pet owners would consider feeding their pets. insects, with 87% of those surveyed noting that sustainability was an important factor in choosing pet food.

Townsend said that as a vegetarian for climatic reasons, she wanted a “for my cat and my conscience” option. She added, “Cats aren’t reluctant to eat insects, but some people can. Of course, millions of people around the world eat insects as usual in their diets. Maybe in the UK it might sound a bit unusual, but I’m old enough to remember when sushi, and even pasta, was the same way. She said owners need to be aware that pets can be sensitive to sudden changes in their diet and recommended a one-week transition, starting with a ratio of 75% old food to 25%. new foods and slowly changing the balance.

Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, said owners need to ensure that insect-based pet foods meet the nutritional needs of their pets, and more research is needed.

“At the moment, there is not enough evidence to support that insect-based protein completely replaces current complete pet diets, but this is another option that could be considered at the to come up. Owners should always ensure that any change in an animal’s diet is supervised by a veterinarian with extensive nutritional knowledge, ”she said.

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, seven insects are approved by the EU for use as ingredients in pet food. Farmed insects feed on spent grains, palm kernels, fruits and vegetable by-products, and while most farms were originally located in the tropics, there are now over 100 in Europe.