Ingredient of the month: squid

In this series of posts I thought we could take a closer look at some interesting ingredients that can be used in home-prepared diets for dogs and cats (or people!)

Squid is a great example of an under-utilised protein. There are over 500 species of squid worldwide (including the intriguing giant squid), and many of them are short-lived, fast-growing and reproduce rapidly in large numbers. In Australia, there is Gould's squid, and the southern calamari squid, both of which are rated as not overfished, and are labelled as a "better choice" by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. Bycatch from squid fishing (caught using jigs) is minimal, and there is little impact on the surrounding marine environment.

Southern calamari squid
The southern calamari squid, similar to other squid species, has thousands of color-changing cells called chromatophores just below the surface of its skin, meaning it can change its colour almost instantly.

In New Zealand, it's a bit more complex. Arrow squid is caught locally, off the South Island and the Auckland Islands, with most taken by midwater trawling and the rest caught by bottom trawling and jigging. Squid caught via trawling should be avoided, if possible. Trawl-caught squid result in a high number of threatened New Zealand sea lions, seabirds, fur seals and non-target fish killed as bycatch. There is also damage done to the seabed and associated species by bottom trawling. However, for jig-caught squid, there is no reported capture of New Zealand sea lions, seabirds or any other marine mammal. Jigs also do not impact on habitat and benthic species.

What is squid jigging? Jigs (pictured above) of various types, makes and colour are attached to the handline at 70 to 90 cm intervals. Often as many as 8 to 12 jigs are on one line, and many more are used on automated squid reeling systems. The lines are lowered to 30 to 100 m depth depending on the strength of the lights used, but less deep on a small boat with one or two lamps.

In addition to being a sustainable choice, squid are also nutritious. They have a respectable amount of protein (approximately 16 g/100 g), are low in fat, and are a rich source of zinc, copper and selenium. Squid are also higher in niacin and vitamin E, compared with many other fish species. Finally, they do contain a decent amount of the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - not as much as fatty fish like salmon, but more than many white fish species, like snapper. In 100 grams of raw squid, there's about 0.15 g of EPA and 0.35 g of DHA. Similar to some other deep sea fish, like Hoki, squid is richer in DHA, which is a major fatty acid in brain phospholipids and the retina. Squid can also be a really useful novel protein for pets needing a diet trial, as it's not commonly found in commercial pet foods.

Arrow squid can be purchased in New Zealand for around $12-13 per kilogram, as can Gould's squid in Australia. This is similar to chicken and beef, and much cheaper than most other fresh or frozen fish or seafood. Cleaned squid tubes typically cost a little more than whole squid, however they are very convenient - simple chop or slice, and grill, bake or pan-fry the squid. Some people are discouraged from cooking squid due to its tendency to be a tad chewy if over- or undercooked. The great news is, not many dogs are put off by chewy foods, in fact, they seem to love it!

If you would like to try squid as part of your dog or cat's homemade diet, just let us know:

Maggie Beer's salt and pepper squid - a bit spicy for the Labrador, but some dinner inspiration perhaps? Try out the recipe here.