Buzzing: Should we feed insects to pets?
Howdy friends, how are you this week?
No housekeeping this week, so let’s dive straight in. This week in Buzzing:
Shall we feed insects to pets when we live in a food security crisis?
In Other News: Valala Farms goes big & Queen’s Birthday honours
Test Corner: Cricket Dukkah
This week, I would like to talk about a topic that’s troubled me recently: the use of insects in pet food. The fact that insects are used in pet food is not news to me. What’s prompted me to revisit the topic is the realisation that the pet food market buys the bulk of insect protein production at a time when we face a global food security crisis.
I am not naïve: insect protein produced in Europe or North America is not the answer to the looming famine in the Horn of Africa, but the idea that we’re producing this amazing protein and then feeding it to cats and dogs is troubling me.
I talked about this with a number of people at IFW and a few interesting arguments came out. The first is that selling to pet food is a business decision for most insect producers. In many markets, it was the sector that faced the least regulatory barriers, and therefore the first one to commit to buying bulk volumes. When you’re spending millions building a large facility, this is a make-or-break factor.
The second is that pet food does have a big environmental impact and insect protein could help reduce its footprint. I agree, but my issue here is with the pet food industry in the first place, and perhaps pet owners too, for jumping on this mad trend of feeding cats and dogs human-grade food. By-products of the meat industry (basically the stuff we don’t want to eat) should be good enough.
I do think there is a sweet spot where insects could fit in pet food and really achieve sustainability gains: if insects destined for pet food were reared on low-value substrates regulators are too scared to allow for insects as food or feed (eg catering or post-consumer waste). I have written about this idea of a protein hierarchy before. You would obviously want the protein to be safe but I genuinely think there is a huge opportunity here to maximise circularity and sustainability benefits.
Many people argue that using insects in pet food is a way to introduce consumers to the idea of eating insects. The thinking goes: “if it’s good enough for my dog, it’s good enough for me”. I really don’t buy that argument: I would not eat what my dog eats (as well as her dry food, fox poo, grass etc), and I am fairly confident I am not alone in thinking this, so the idea that it is somehow a pathway to acceptance is flawed.
Forecasts show that as other animal feed markets mature and consumer acceptance improves, the dominance of the pet food segment will decrease, but it’s set to remain a major consumer of the insect protein produced in North America and Europe. I’d love to know what you think about this – and my insect protein hierarchy. Are pets the way forward? What considerations have I missed?
In Other News
This week’s graphic story comes from Madagascar: last month, Valala Farms opened its new full-scale cricket farm in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. This is a very special project for me because Valala Farms’ pilot was the first insect farm I ever visited and because Madagascar has such a special place in my heart. Arahabaina Valala Farms!
🥉 Long-term subscriber and friend of Buzzing David Allan of Spectrum was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his Myanmar work in the Queen’s Birthday honours. Congratulations David!
🐟 Multi X becomes the first company in Chile to raise salmon exclusively on insect protein; first harvest is expected in spring 2023. (salmonbusiness.com)
🎓 Fancy a career in insect farming? The world’s first insect school opened in the Netherlands this week. (thefishsite.com)
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Test Corner: Cricket Dukkah
As you’ve probably worked out by now, I love my breakfast, and I always love trying new things for breakfast, especially when they involve bread. So this week, I made myself cricket dukkah.
Dukkah is an Egyptian nut and spice condiment that can be eaten on its own with flatbread and olive oil (usually for breakfast) or to spice up dishes (eggs, salads, soups etc). I thought crickets would make a delicious addition to a dukkah, so I made my own.
I used hazelnuts and the traditional base of coriander, cumin, fennel and sesame (I followed the BBC Good Food recipe). Once I’d toasted the nuts and spices, I added one generous tablespoon of whole cricket (and a pinch of salt) and then blitzed the lot.
I only had sourdough bread (flatbread would have been more “authentic” but who’s judging?!) but it was delicious all the same: flavoursome, rich and nutritious. I love savoury for breakfast and this is going to become a firm favourite. I’m looking forward to experimenting with different nuts (I’d like to try pistachios and pine nuts next time), seeds and spices (paprika and peppercorns in particular). Also, I would have loved to try the same with mealworms but I can’t get hold of them in the UK so I may experiment in France this summer!