Insect protein for pets is being recommended by vets – but is it really better for animals and the environment?

The BVA has said that pets should be fed using insect proteins, in order to move towards a more sustainable future, but are insects really better for pets than steak?

The British Veterinarian Association (BVA) has called this week for pet owners to consider buying insect protein pet foods, as a vital step towards reducing pollution, water use and preserving our natural environment. ‘

Due to the smaller environmental footprint, use of less resources, space and production of high-quality protein, insect farming is increasingly seen as a viable source of protein in the modern human diet and for livestock and pet food,’ the Association reports, saying it wants to educate vets on helping pet owners make better choices for the environment. It also points out that eating steak every day is bad for our health, as well as the environment, making insects a healthier choice for people and their pets.

A number of cultures across the globe, including Mexico and China, are accustomed to eating insect protein. However, a lack of insects in Western diets to date means that consumers in Europe are less happy about the idea of their pets munching unfamiliar snacks: a recent study conducted by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) showed that 36% of consumers would not be happy to feed pet food containing insect powder to their pets.

In truth, insects are already commonly used in aquaculture and poultry feedstock with black-soldier flies, common house fly larvae and yellow meal worms among the most common in production; some UK pet foods already contain insect protein.

‘It’s safe to say that working towards a more sustainable future for our planet and future generations is a defining issue of our time,’ said a spokesperson for the BVA.  ‘In a landscape where the expected growth of the global human population and rising standards of living in developing countries is predicted to see meat consumption double by 2050, addressing the call for sustainable animal food has never been more important.’

Can my pet survive on insect pet food?

But are insects enough to give pets everything they require in their food?

Simba, the young lion in The Lion King, survives on grubs as he grows up under the watchful eye of Timon and Pumbaa, but most experts say in real life the growing lion would have perished without meat. Simba would require nearly 9,000 calories a day, and since crickets provide 121 calories per 100 grams, the youngster would need to catch and eat over 24,000 crickets a day to survive (and if we are talking about realism, why doesn’t he just eat Pumbaa anyway).

But what of our smaller, more domesticated animals – are these foods really good for them? The reality is that the pet foods coming to the market aren’t just made up of crushed insects: they combine insect protein with a lot of other healthy ingredients which do combine to produce a balanced diet. Early market leader YORA say they use sustainably sourced whole grubs from Holland combined with with superfoods like oats, beetroot, potato, parsley and seaweed to produce a healthy and tasty meal for the animals they cater for.

The real sticking point may not even be whether your pup is getting his daily RDA, but the fact that these products aren’t cheap– a 1.5kg bag of Yora for dogs costs £13.99. Although manufacturers say prices will come down, one solution might be to cut out the chopped steak, and instead persuade your pets to help out with hoovering up the odd house spider at home.

 


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