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When you think of pet food ingredients what comes to mind? Probably beef or chicken, maybe “white fish” for cats? These have been staple ingredients for most pet foods brands in recent memory. However, health-conscious pet parents and the super-premium brands they support have become increasingly interested in unique, sustainable proteins, such as, tilapia, green beans, millet and more recently, insect meal.
The growth of popularity in unique ingredients is partially due to the humanization of pets. Health-conscious pet parents want their pets’ diet to mimic their own lifestyle and nutrition choices.
Sustainability is another factor that’s driving the popularity of new ingredients options, including insects. Sustainable agriculture can be defined as low-carbon food production, with reduced raising or growing time, less water and space requirements, and a lower emission of greenhouse gases. Many pet food brands are now making sustainable ingredients part of their value statement to consumers.
Food sensitivities and allergies are another reason pet parents are seeking out unique (or novel) protein formulas. Dogs and cats can develop food sensitivity after eating the same food or protein for a long time, which could result in itching, scratching, dry skin, or gastrointestinal issues. Switching a pet’s diet to include a new protein can help reduce or eliminate these symptoms.
By providing more protein with less fat, unique proteins are typically healthier than mainstream proteins and are less likely to trigger an allergic response. For example, rabbit has less fat than chicken or pork.
Rabbit, duck, salmon, and lamb have gained enough popularity to now be considered mainstream proteins. Many brands have started using these ingredients along with wild board, buffalo, and the resurgence of grass-fed beef.
Specificity when it comes to marine proteins is another developing trend. Expect to see less use of vague terms like “whitefish” on labels and expect more precise marine ingredient listings, such as, pollock, halibut, sea bass, catfish, mussels, and tilapia. While marine proteins have been more common in cat food formulations, brands are now using them in dog food as well. This trend is being driven by pet parents and their desire to understand the health benefits of ingredients, as well as their impact on the ecosystem.
The nutritional benefits of ancient grains can vary; however, they are all less processed than mainstream ingredients like corn. It’s becoming more common to see rains like, millet, oats, pearl barley and sorghum rather than, peas, chickpeas, and potatoes.
Sweet potatoes have remained popular, while rice is getting another look as it’s readily available worldwide and is easily digestible.
Emerging vegetables like, broccoli, kale, and green beans, have gained in popularity due to their natural vitamins, as opposed to using artificial vitamins.
We have all seen a dog or cat gulp down an insect. If pet parents can get over the “yuk” factor with insects, they are a good source of protein for pets and are very sustainable. “Crops” of crickets and mealworms are raised more quickly than chicken or steer. They use less water and take up less space.
Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) have made headlines recently as it’s been approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for use in adult dog food and treats. More approvals are anticipated for BSFL in 2022 for use in cat food as well. BSFL can add nutritional value to a pet’s diet through its antimicrobial and prebiotic qualities, it can also be used as an alternate protein in hypoallergenic foods.
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