It’s often said that if we want to save the planet, eating insects is a good place to start. Most likely because insect production requires far less space, food and water,compared to livestock. Its carbon footprint is also much lower.
Not everyone has yet embraced the idea of sinking their teeth into an insect burger just yet, but how workable is it for pets?
Palatability trials with dogs have so far shown that they favour food containing oil and black soldier fly protein every time. And it’s healthy for them too.
Hermetia illucens, also known as black soldier fly (BSF), is the only insect species currently commercially viable for pet food applications. It’s believed that BSF-derived ingredients can help make the pet food industry more sustainable while meeting the increasing animal protein demand in future. The pet food industry simply can’t continue relying on huge amounts of conventional animal protein from side streams of meat production.
So, how exactly will these bugs change the future of pet food?
Traditional meat production is known to be one of the leading causes of climate change. The industry itself leave s behind a large carbon footprint. Cows, for example,produce methane, which is among the strongest greenhouse gasses.
Insects suitable for pet food produce no methane. Growing them also requires a fraction of the land, food and water compared to traditional farming. BSF larvae, for example, can grow in their natural habitat using controlled vertical farming systems. The result? A high protein yield per square centimeter.
BSF isn't only a more sustainable alternative. It is said to be more nutritious and healthier than mainstream animal protein sources such as pork, beef, chicken, or fish.
They contain essential amino acids, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins. Dried and frozen BSF larvae can be used in pet food applications directly. They can also be further processed into BSF oil and BSFmeal.
Health benefits of black soldier fly
Preliminary research shows that BSF meal and BSF larvae have excellent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and hypoallergenic properties. It’s also packed with collagen, which makes up 30 % of the protein in the body.
The high-quality protein in BSF larvae is supposed to offer specific health benefits to cats and dogs. BSF larvae-derived ingredients also contain large amounts of chitin, which is the main polysaccharide component of a developing exoskeleton.
As the fraction of the larvae that is indigestible, chitin functions as prebiotic dietary fiber, supporting good gut health by acting as an effective reinforcement to combat digestive disorders.
The black soldier fly species is safe for use in pet food. For a number of years now, BSF meal, larvae and oil have been approved in Europe for use in pet food. This trend is quickly growing in other continents. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) voted to include adult dogs among the animals for which whole dried BSF larvae, BSF meal, and BSF oil are suitable. AAFCO approval of BSF ingredients for use in cat food is expected in 2022.
So what is the future of BSF in pet food?
A recent report pointed out that due to the sustainability aspects and functional benefits, there’s a huge potential to develop specialized products and ingredients not only from BSF, but from insect protein for a variety of applications.
Pet food is predicted to become the second largest consumer of insect protein production by 2030, surpassed only by aquaculture.