Bugs in the Pet Food Bowl

One of the more surprising things that happened while I was on hiatus is the insect based pet food trend. Developed in response to concerns about the deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainability associated with the use of protein obtained from livestock, insect based pet foods purport to offer a reduced carbon footprint.

But Swedish researchers asked a lot of important questions in a 2019 paper published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution:

How do you produce the feed they eat, where do you produce it, what do you use?


Are we going to use fossil fuels for heating and cooling the facilities (where insects are grown)? What about transportation?


One of the biggest threats to both natural systems and production systems the world over is invasive species. What happens if insects are accidentally released in a country to which they are imported?


Other outstanding questions include whether reared insects who fall sick risk transmitting diseases to consumers, how their wastes are disposed of and how animal welfare should be measured in insects, the researchers said.


That same year, scientists at the University of Guelph also published a paper on the consumption of insects as a food source for the planet and they raised some issues as well. The protein content of insects is highly variable and species specific. Studies are lacking in the areas of allergens and toxicity as well as how consuming whole insects, including their gut microflora, might alter the microbiological quality of food. Many studies have been done regarding the prevention of insects from entering the food chain but if insects were to be farmed on a large scale as food, the potential for the spread of disease to consumers, plants and the ecosystem would have to be examined.

The use of black soldier fly larvae as a food ingredient seems to provide a solution to at least some of these challenges:

The insects likely are native to the tropics of the western hemisphere, but are found on every continent except Antarctica. Hence, they aren’t likely to become an invasive species. The larvae require warm temperatures, so if they do escape in the US, winter temperatures will kill them off.

Black soldier flies aren’t a threat to local ecosystems, nor to human health. [Liz Koutsos, PhD, president of EnviroFlight] said that the insects don’t carry zoonotic diseases (those that animals transmit to humans)[.]

Black soldier fly larvae, image via Feedipedia

While insect based dog and cat foods are already available to some consumers in Europe, the US market has lagged. That looks to be changing:

In coordination with state feed control officials, the FDA recognizes ingredients in the Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as being acceptable for animal food.

The AAFCO’s ingredient definition committee has voted to accept dried black soldier fly larvae for use in adult dog food. However, the ingredient has not yet been published by AAFCO because it has not gone through all of the necessary steps, an FDA spokesperson said. 


And so we come to the $64,000 question: Have you fed (or would you feed) an insect based food to your pets?

3 thoughts on “Bugs in the Pet Food Bowl

  1. not a fan as I do not believe cattle and other livestock are hurting the “ecosystem”. We should worry more about the gasses produced by every other thing than livestock.. We eat meat. I dont see that changing no matter what bill gates says we use every single part of that animal. .. all of it right down to bone meal. cattle fertilize out ground. keep the soil rom being packed down and spread seeds only the animal rights people want to see livestock production fail and we know what they want in the ned. no more pets

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