Vets are urging pet owners to consider insect-based food for their pets, saying that it’s healthier than any prime steak.
As the world population continues to increase, food demand is becoming an increasingly pressing issue — particularly as the global demand for meat also continues to surge. Raising conventional livestock requires massive land and water resources, while also consuming more energy and generating more emissions. Considering all of this, insects have emerged as an interesting (and controversial) alternative.
But while most people would be reluctant to feast on insect protein, would they be more willing to feed insects to their pets?
Insects are already used in fish and poultry farms, and some companies have started to add insect protein to pet food. However, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) says it’s time to take things even further — not just because it’s more sustainable, but also because it’s healthier.
Simon Doherty, the BVA president, told BBC News:
“There’s a really exciting future for the use of insect protein for companion animals. It’s a fantastic opportunity – looking at insects to provide alternative sources of some of the nutrient ingredients we use in pet food diets.”
While Doherty expects some reluctance from pet owners, it’s possible that people are more likely to feed insects to their pets than they are to eat insects themselves. For one, the ‘ick’ factor is lower, and Doherty says many owners might actually see this as a more humane alternative to conventional meat in pet food.
“You’d still be killing insects but some vegetarians might find that more palatable than killing cows or chickens,” he said.
This isn’t a trivial issue, as pets are estimated to be consuming up to 20% of all meat globally.
Pets play an important role in society, providing substantial health benefits to owners. Owning pets has been linked to reduced incidence of cardiovascular diseases, better overall health, and improved mental health. The popularity of pet ownership is increasing, and this is a good thing. People are also starting to be more invested in the health of their pets, and that’s also a good thing. However, producing sufficient healthy pet food requires quite a lot of resources.
Producing insect protein through other agricultural practices requires considerably fewer resources than traditional livestock, while also generating lower greenhouse gases and ammonia than traditional livestock species. Insects also have the ability to feed on organic waste products such as vegetable, restaurant, and animal waste, therefore reducing the impact of food waste. They are also very efficient at converting feed into protein and also require less water.
However, there are also challenges to insect growing. The technology is still developing, and the infrastructure is also lacking. Insects also tend to accumulate more contaminants and pesticides, which needs to be considered.
Considering all this, would you feed your pet insect-based food?