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Pet Food Challenges – And Why We Need to Change

Have you ever seriously thought about what goes into pet food?

No? Until I was in my late teens, neither had I.  It was then that I became a veterinarian assistant which gave me the opportunity to discover some unfortunate, and sometimes wretched things that are an integral part of the pet food industry. If you don’t like learning hard truths about what your pet is probably eating, then stop reading here…

The Current Dangers of Pet Foods

For many of us, we go about our daily lives and don’t really investigate how things are produced. And pet food is no exception.

Of course, we have to be careful not to generalize, but unfortunately many of the following facts about the content of our pet food are undeniably true:

  • They contain mysterious “meat byproducts”
  • They can also contain any of the 4-D (dead, diseased, disabled, dying livestock parts)
  • Dangerous chemical are often inside like: sodium pentobarbital, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides
  • Hormones used for animal growth are not destroyed by high temperatures or pressure cooking

You can read even more disturbing dog food facts here. However, I think you start to see how your pets are not eating as well as you might think. And that is quite scary.

The Excessive Amount of Fish We Harvest

Pet food in some cases also contains fishmeal which is known to be a great source of protein and healthy fats.

However, how this fishmeal is actually produced, using fish harvested from our oceans, is really the main issue. Many of the developing countries we source our fish from are not under the same pressure to comply with legislation as we are.

The result: wild fish are being over-farmed, which is causing havoc in various regions around the world (such as in Asia and South America). Not to mention some of the other by-products of the process and the human rights violations that often go with it.

You can see many such horrifying examples in the video below (beware: you may never eat fish again):

 

Some Pet Foods Are Ok, But…

On the other hand, some companies aim to provide somewhat higher quality pet food. They promote or claim to be using “real” meat (or fish/chicken), which is great, but this then raises the question of world protein production as a whole. And we all know this is something that is causing us problems already.

Should we then pay closer attention to the facts and figures surrounding worldwide pet populations? Of course, because their food has to be added to the overall food production costs that we as humans incur.

 

So how many pets are there in the world?

In the EU alone there are quite a staggering number, so we when you talk about food production numbers, we are talking serious amounts of protein for pet foods too.

Pet Numbers in the European Union

Please click here for the FEDIAF Facts & Figures 2012.

 

 

If the rough figure of the world population of pet dogs is 300 million that is almost equal to the human population of USA. That’s a lot of dogs to feed!

 Top Ten Dog Populations

After learning all the above facts, starting to consider the addition of controlled and certified insect-based protein in your pet’s food would be a relief, rather than awkward, right?

Insect Protein: Is it a Viable Alternative?

Perhaps insects are far more acceptable food for our pets? I know I personally would not mind feeding them to my pets. After all, insects have long been a part of animal diets and pets can often be seen hunting and then eating insects when they are outdoors.

Insects and their larvae are very high in protein, offering a complete amino acid in many cases (especially crickets), which is not the case for all protein alternatives like soy. And on top of this, they are also high in omega fats, which can also have great benefits for your pet.

You also need to consider the resource savings that can be had when using insects instead of fish or meat too.

By using insects we:

  • save our ever-diminishing fish stock for future generations
  • use less water (unlike that needed to produce wasteful products like beef)
  • produce less green house gases
  • farm less crops to feed the animals we need for meat

And the benefit list goes on and on.

Insect-based feed is not only sustainable, but it is also helps with reusing wasted or discarded food (we have covered this in detail in my last post).

I also invite you to read this article written by Dr Ken Tudor for Petfood 2.0 where you can learn about the efficiency, sustainability and regulatory costs of insect production.

It is time we started considering the alternatives, right?

Would Insects in Pet Food Make Sense as a Business?

You might be surprised to learn that many companies out there are already producing feed products that include insects. The following companies are mostly using  black soldier flies to produce protein and fat from their larvae, which is a great source of nutrients for animals.

Enviroflight are selling insect-based meal to zoos and pet food producers. And Glen Courtright, their President, is confident their processes will work anywhere in the world now, as he stated in an interview on Inc in October 2014.

In Canada, Enterra Feed is also expanding in this industry and produces “protein meal and feed oil can be used as ingredients in sustainable feed for aquaculture, livestock and pets.”

Another entrepreneur Jason Drew, this time in South Africa,  estimates that there is a market for some 2,500 fly farming factories around the world of the size his company has.

And I am also happy to inform you of the official launch of the IPIFF a non-profit organization that gathers the main EU private players in the insect industry together.

Then there are companies producing insect based pet products like EntoBento in the USA,  who are using mealworm to create some tasty dog treats or Jonker Petfood who are offering a new pet food containing insect protein.

Last, but certainly not least, there is DeliBugs, who will be launching their premium adult dog food (Bugs for Pets) in August 2015.

As you can see, things are just starting to happen in this industry, but the implications are huge.

But what can you do?

You Should Sit Back And Do Nothing, Right?

So far, we have covered what it is being currently use in pet food, and why it is a concern.

We know how unsustainable fishmeal will become.

We have discovered the mind blowing figures of how many mouths are being fed each and every day, including our pets.

Now, try to imagine the impact this has on our planet, and ask yourself:

Am I going to ignore all of this and continue on as if nothing is happening?

I know it is not easy. You are probably thinking:

  • I am just a pet owner
  • I am not a farmer
  • I live in the city
  • Insects give me the creeps
  • I have all my money invested on traditional farming
  • It is a conflict of interest for me

and so forth and so on.

But perhaps the simplest thing you can do is to start supporting companies producing these products or buy sustainable insect-based pet food.

The choice is in your hands!

Insectpreneurs Series: The Team at Ento Bento

Today you are in for a treat, but not your standard kind. We are interviewing the Ento Bento team about dog treats!

Most of our interviewees in this series are either creating products for human consumption or industry. So this will make for an interesting take on the insects as food challenge!

The Ento Bento team are currently rallying support with their kickstarter campaign, so please take a moment to pop over and take a look (either before or after reading the interview :>)

The Ento Bento Team

The Ento Bento Team

What Sparked Your Interest in Dog Treats?

We started out as complete strangers in a Startup Competition with the idea to create automated insect grow kits. When we did our market research, we found consumers were not quite ready to harvest insects in their home, restaurant, or garden. We talked to random people at the farmer’s market and asked questions about what insect products they would consider using. The most popular answer was that they were comfortable feeding insects to their dogs because their dogs ate them already.

We discussed the findings amongst our team and found we all love dogs! We kept the idea going with a mission to promote insect protein starting with man’s best friend!

What Prompted You to Look Further Into Cricket Powder As Source of Protein for the Dog Treats?

entobento-infographic-sustainability
First we were looking at harvesting mealworms as our protein source. Then we realized, with our San Diego, California city living situation, we didn’t have the resources to produce insects at scale.

We looked out for other insect protein in the market and found Aaron Dossey at All Things Bugs who was really cool and sent us a one pound (about .45kg) sample to get started!! There was more cricket powder out there and suppliers ramping up, so we knew crickets were our best starting point.

What Are the First Steps You Are Taking to Start This New Activity?

Our first steps have been researching as much as we could about the pet industry and dog nutrition. We knew we had to set ourselves apart with a healthy and sustainable treat. We worked with industry experts to create an awesome and delicious treat! We know we have to adapt to insect protein in the future.

We think the path to change can be through joy and wagging tails!

What Early Lessons Did You Learn?

We learned dogs are picky! They are used to processed, low quality meat based treats so we had difficulty at first with our healthy treats. We learned a ton from local chefs on how to get the right flavors and texture.

Tell Us About Finding Your First Client

We have a lot of happy sample testers, and we will have our first client really soon!

Our Kickstarter is launching 11/3/2015 so anyone within the US and Europe can pre-order our treats.

What Are Your Current Aims in the Pet Food Industry?

Ento Bento Feeding Dog TreatsOur goal is to create a healthy, high protein treat that dogs love, and owners appreciate for its eco-friendly properties.

What do you see as the main challenges for mainstream adaptation of insect-based for dog food/treats ?

I think our biggest challenge is education. Some people have an instinct to reject cricket protein. Our goal is to overcome that with expert analysis, bioavailability trials and constant comparison between the superior nutrition and sustainability aspects of insects versus traditional meat protein.

What Is Your Advice for Other Students Considering Entering the Insect-based Industry?

Do it!

It is a young industry and it almost seems like everyone is on the same team. I hope we see some phenomenal ideas and social business ventures in the industry.

Share a few recommendations for readers who are interested in exploring products containing cricket powder for their pet/dog product or diet!

Our inspiration is the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Especially their paper in 2013.

Cricket powder is just breaking into the pet industry as an alternative protein source. I think we will see a lot of advancement soon with treats and even food – we are really excited to be a part of it!!

If you like the idea too, please share our message!

Want To Meet More Insectpreneurs?

Here at 4Ento we are interviewing some of the up and coming stars, as well as industry leaders in our Insectpreneur Series.

So go check those out if you want more inspiration and insect eating goodness!

And don’t forget to check out Ento Bento’s Kickstarter campaign.