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

First there was recycling, then flight cuts, and now feeding your pet bugs is the latest lifestyle choice to help tackle climate collapse.

Environmentally conscious pet owners are choosing to feed their animals meals made with crickets, mealworms and black soldier flies in an effort to reduce the massive carbon emissions from livestock raising traditional meat-based diets.

Experts say that pets can feed on insects because they are rich in protein, and that farmed species can also contain high levels of fats, oils, minerals, and vitamins. Preliminary research also indicates that when insects are grown commercially, emissions, water, and land use are lower than when livestock are raised.

“When transformed into nutritionally complete pet foods, insect proteins can contribute to nutritious and palatable products that can also be environmentally sustainable,” said Nicole Paley, Executive Vice President of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association. Insect-based products offer an alternative for owners who prefer Feed their pets a diet sourced from ingredients other than traditional livestock.”

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

This will reflect growing consumer interest in alternative pet foods, which includes plant-based diets, for reasons of sustainability, said Andrew Knight, professor of veterinary sciences at the University of Winchester.

This is partly due to owners’ 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 meat industry, equating to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide. per year – the same climate impact as driving 13.6 million cars for a year.

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

However, Knight added that “consumer disgust with insect-based diets” may act as a barrier to their wider intake.

Insect-based pet foods are usually more expensive than traditional ranges. For example, a bag of insect-based Lovefood Dry kibble costs £12 a kg, compared to £9.75 for a 2 kg bag of Iams dry cat food with chicken.

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

Townsend said that as a vegetarian for climate reasons, she wanted an option “for my cat and my conscience.” She added: “Cats are not allergic to eating insects, but some people can be. Of course, millions of people eat insects as normal in their diet. It may be unusual in the UK, but I am old enough to remember when sushi was, and even Pasta, the same way.” She said owners should be aware that pets can be sensitive to sudden changes in their diet, and recommended a week-long transition, starting from 75% of old foods to 25% of new foods and slowly changing the balance.

Justin Shutton, president of the British Veterinary Association, said owners should exercise caution to ensure that insect-based pet food meets the nutritional needs of their pets, and more research is needed.

“Currently, there is not enough evidence to support an insect-based protein to completely replace current pet diets, but it is another option that can be considered in the future. Owners should always ensure that any changes to a pet’s diet are supervised by a veterinarian with in-depth nutritional knowledge.”

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, there are seven insects that are authorized by the European Union for use as pet food ingredients. Farmed insects feed on spent grains, palm kernel, fruits and vegetable crop products, and while most farms were originally located in the tropics, there are now more than 100 farms in Europe.

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