Environmentally conscious pet owners are turning to an unconventional food source for their furry friends: insects.
Meals made of crickets, mealworms and black soldier flies have been growing in popularity as pet owners seek alternatives to meat-based foods which generate large amounts of carbon emissions. Experts have said that even when insects are farmed commercially, emissions, water, and land usage are lower than that of livestock farming.
Most insect-based foods are also perfectly safe for animals to eat and are high in protein, fats, oils and vitamins and minerals.
“When made into a nutritionally complete pet food, insect proteins can contribute to nutritious and palatable products that can also be environmentally sustainable. Insect-based products offer an alternative for owners who prefer to feed their pets a diet that is sourced from ingredients other than traditional livestock animals,” Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, told the Guardian.
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A 2016 report by PROteINSECT, a European organization researching insects as a novel source of protein for animal feed, found that consumers were mostly accepting of insect-based foods for pets and livestock.
Roughly 70 percent of the 2,400 respondents surveyed said they found feeding farmed animals insect protein either “totally acceptable” or “acceptable,” according to the report.
Additional research suggests that insect-based foods are likely to grow in popularity as modern consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability.
Recent forecasts by Rabobank, a Dutch multinational banking and financial services company, estimate that the insect-based pet food market could increase 50-fold by 2030, when half-a-million metric tons are projected to be produced.
Today’s market produces about 10,000 metric tons, according to Rabobank.
Still, insect-based pet foods are typically more expensive than meat-based diets, making it difficult for some pet owners to purchase them even if they are environmentally conscious. An 11-pound bag of insect-based cat food from the brand Catit costs $54.99, while a bag of its meat-based food goes for $39.99.
The pet food industry has a large carbon footprint, representing 25 percent to 30 percent of environmental damages tied to the U.S. meat industry, according to a 2017 UCLA study. That equates to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide produced per year, equivalent to that of 13.6 million cars driving for a year.
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