The ginger cat recklessly licks her lips, scraping every last bite of food from her curly whiskers, and is clearly not afraid of the unusual staple of dinner – the silkworm pupae.
The 15 cat residents of the Mao Thai Thai Cat Café in Taiwan are among the taste-testing volunteers who sampled a new cat food developed by silkworm experts.
In addition to benefiting from what was once just a byproduct of silk production, scientists say the food eliminates harmful intestinal bacteria — with the added benefit of reducing cat by-product odor.
“They have more energy and a less unpleasant smell, which is more than I expected,” says cafe manager Rosa Sue.
The food comes in various natural flavors – tuna, buttermilk, beef, and chicken – but the main protein component of pink globs are insects.
This doesn’t seem to bother Su’s cats, who are stumbling around, impatient for dinner.
The research team says that a lot of the feedback from other owners involved in the trial has also been positive.
More than just a canvas
At the century-old Miaoli Agricultural Research and Extension Station, where food was made, hundreds of caterpillars wriggle into trays while gnawing at berry leaves.
The facility houses 136 different species of silkworms from all over the world.
The pupa is the middle stage in its life cycle, when it forms cocoons to pass from larva to adult.
“When we see silkworms, we think of silk fabrics,” researcher Liao Chiu-hsun told AFP, carefully cutting the top of a silk cocoon to extract a brown, volatile flavour.
“But these highly domesticated insects have a lot to offer.”
Virgins are already rich in proteins, fats and minerals, but Miaoli’s team has also developed a technique to boost their content of immune proteins that kill harmful bacteria within the host.
Stressing the silkworms into thinking they are in danger means they produce more of these proteins in the cocoon, after which they are harvested and made into cat food.
This innovative use of what was once a waste product could also be a potential lifeline for Taiwan’s last silkworm farmers.
They numbered in the hundreds once, but nowadays only two are still operating.
It is no longer economically feasible to grow insects for fabrics alone, says Hsu Wei-chun, 30, a third-generation farmer.
Mulberry leaves are already used to make tea, for example, and cocoons can be used in cosmetics.
“Our competitiveness stems from our ability to use everything,” Hsu explains. “We take advantage of every part to cut costs.”
The pet food market in Taiwan presents a lucrative opportunity – animal ownership is on the rise, and the economy around them is valued at more than one billion US dollars.
A box of silkworm cat food sells for NT$68 (US$2.43), which is just over the average canned wet food.
says Lee Wei-ting, Head of Cultural Creativity and Digital Marketing at National United University.
Pet stores in Korea, Japan, Thailand and the United States have already shown interest in the product as well.
The CEO of the company that began mass-producing the new food a month ago says the response has been overwhelming.
“I feel like pet owners nowadays are focusing more on ingredients,” says Eva Liu.
“We initially used crowdfunding as a pre-sale. On day one, within 24 hours we reached our initial goal.”
Changing the silkworm’s diet to recycle stronger silk
© 2021 AFP
the quote: A silkworm cat grub smells of success (2021, November 10) Retrieved on November 25, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-silkworm-cat-grub-success.html
This document is subject to copyright. Notwithstanding any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.