Insect-protein dog food plans growth in U.K. and abroad

Since black soldier fly larvae are fair game in the U.K., and pet owners seem up for it, Yora plans to expand their pet food line.

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Dried black soldier fly larvae (Photo courtesy of EnviroFlight)
Dried black soldier fly larvae (Photo courtesy of EnviroFlight)

Insects ranked the most searched for pet food ingredient on Petfood Industry’s website in 2018. Interest in insects seems to remain strong in 2019, as the year started with the introduction of a new dog food from Yora made with black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) meal. Yora is sold in the United Kingdom.

Yora markets their dog food as a sustainable alternative to conventional dog foods. Insect farms may use fewer resources than other protein sources, such as cows and pigs, while insect protein provides a balanced amino acid profile, and other nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids.

Securing a steady supply of insect protein for pet food

In launching their new insect protein dog food, Yora addressed some of the issues that face all pet food companies looking to use six-legged animals to feed four-legged ones. For one, insects aren’t produced on the massive scale of cattle, pigs or chickens. That can mean a lack of a dependable source of insect protein. To ensure their own supply, Yora works with Netherlands-based Protix, an insect protein company.

Protix uses an automated insect breeding and rearing process. Their products are used in more that 12 countries, in feed applications ranging from pig and poultry to pet food specialties.

“We've worked with Protix for a few years to develop this product, and have a close relationship with them. Now that they have their new multi million euro facility coming online we don't think we'll be short of supply moving forward,” Tom Neish, founder of Yora, told Petfood Industry in an email.

Overcoming pet owner trepidations about insect protein

A steady supply of insect protein won’t do any good if people are disgusted by the feeding bugs to their pets. However, many pet owners have witnessed their dogs and cats hunting insects. Knowing that dogs and cats instinctively dine on insects may lead to pet owners not having taboos about insects as novel protein sources in dog and cat food, even if they are squeamish about eating insects themselves. When cultural barriers don’t stand in the way, pet owners may accept insect-based ingredients in dog and cat foods.

“There's sometimes an initial squeamish reaction, but when they listen to our messaging we've been pleasantly surprised how many people have given it a go,” Neish said. â€śThere are a number of reasons why people are trying it, a large number are vegetarian and vegan pet owners who want to get their pets away from the traditional meat industry. Yora’s grubs offer a nutritious alternative protein and are packed with essential amino acids and minerals to benefit pets. As a novel protein, they also boast hypoallergenic properties for sensitive stomachs.”

Regulatory issues around insect protein

While pet owners may accept insects in pet food, some regulatory bodies may not. In the United States, officials decided that new Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) definitions would be needed for each insect and type of insect-based ingredient, such as flour, meal or protein concentrate. Additionally, the definitions would need to consider the species to which the insect-based ingredient would be fed. To date, only one insect, black solder fly larvae (AAFCO #T60.117) has been defined by AAFCO, and that is limited to use in salmonid feeds.

However, in the U.K. black soldier fly larvae meal has been fully approved for animal feed, Neish said.

“There may be some challenges with exporting to some countries though,” he said.

Plans for future insect protein pet foods

Since black soldier fly larvae are fair game in the U.K., and pet owners seem up for it, Yora plans to expand their pet food line.

“We have a number of exciting products in the pipeline including wet food, a range of treats and a cat food arriving this summer,” Neish said. â€śWe're exploring other insect options too, and there are a number of global customers who have expressed interest so watch this space!”

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