Updated: Feb 10, 2019
In recent years the popularity of insects as a protein source has exploded. It's now easy to order cricket powder in New Zealand and Australia, and whip up a batch of chocolate chirp cookies. Fancy some dark chocolate-covered crickets? Some chilli-garlic mealworms? It's all out there.
Don Bugito's Spicy Bugitos contain toasted mealworms, toasted Cancha corn, tomato paste, chile powder, fresh lime juice, and salt.
$6.50 USD for 42 grams.
Available from: https://www.donbugito.com/
It's easy to see why too. Insects emit low levels of greenhouse gases, need little water, and require limited agricultural land. Their protein content is similar to conventional meat, the level of unsaturated fatty acids is high, and they are a good source of B vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron. Black soldier fly larvae are an excellent source of calcium as well, while crickets are relatively high in taurine. Aquatic insects may be a rich and sustainable source of the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (Martin-Creuzburg et al., 2017). Insect proteins could also be useful novel proteins, for dogs and cats with adverse food reactions. They have huge potential as an alternative protein source, not only for people, but for livestock and pets as well.
So what's holding us back?
Unfortunately, but not unusually, it's a lack of enthusiasm by the general public, as well as a lack of research. There is a lot we don’t yet know about feeding insects to dogs and cats. Logically, it should be safe, given that there are many species of wild canids and felids that include insects in their diets. I know on many occasions I've watched (somewhat aghast) as one of my cats enjoyed crunching up a fat moth, a butterfly, or an unfortunate cricket that's ended up inside.
Perhaps a more fundamental problem to overcome is that many people are disgusted by the idea of insects as food, either for themselves, or for their pet. A 2018 study by Berger et al. published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that, rather than promoting insects as healthy or environmentally friendly, it was more effective to promote them as tasty, or as a luxurious and exotic delicacy.
Cost is another hurdle at the moment, with insect powders and products still quite expensive, compared with traditional proteins. Hopefully that changes in the future. Most companies currently selling insect-based products for dogs or cats appear to have avoided these concerns by combining insect protein with other proteins, and/or by making treats, rather than complete diets. If you are feeling adventurous, here's a few insect-based products currently on the market for dogs and cats:
Jiminy's Original Cricket Cookies
$11.79 USD (Amazon)
Jiminy's have a range of other appealing flavours available, including peanut butter and blueberry, and sweet potato and apple.
Wilder Harrier cricket banana peanut dog treat
$10.99 CDN (on Amazon)
Available from: https://en.wilderharrier.com/
Wilder Harrier also has a range of vegan seaweed-based dog treats available, which could be useful for dogs with food allergies.