Would you like to feed your dog insect-based pet food? -Quartz

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Whether your favorite four-legged friend is a yellow lab, a pug, or a tuxedo tabby, you’ve probably seen them chase, then devour — with relish — the butterfly or the occasional cricket. This, says Haley Russell, founder of Chippin, a startup that makes dog food from planet-friendly proteins like insects, silver carp and algae, makes insect-based pet food easy. for sale to pet owners.

“People [are] want to try because they saw their dog chasing crickets in the yard,” she says. “There is not this psychological barrier for a pet.”

A number of insect-based pet food startups promise to feed dogs and cats more sustainably. In the United States, pet food is estimated to be responsible for 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat production in terms of land, water, fossil fuel use , phosphate and biocides, according to a 2017 study. According to the study, the increasing number of pets and higher protein pet foods both contribute to higher meat consumption in the USA. Americans own an estimated 163 million pets – furry friends live in 60% of all households – and pet ownership is also increasing in countries like China.

Earlier this month, Petgood, a Swedish company founded in 2020, announced that it had raised $2.1 million from investors to expand its international presence. Big pet food companies are also getting in on the action. French biotech company InnovaFeed recently announced a partnership with food processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland to produce dog food made from black soldier flies. In 2020, Purina launched a line of insect and bean protein-based dog and cat food, as well as chicken, in the European market. Last April, Mars Petcare launched an all-insect-based cat food formula in the UK.

It comes as regulations on which insects can be incorporated into food and feed have eased. In the EU, house crickets and yellow mealworms have been approved for human consumption, and new regulations are in place for the breeding of insects. Available frozen, dried, or powdered, most farmed crickets and mealworms will end up in snacks and drinks as extra protein, rather than a crunchy or squishy bite of buggy goodness. Or they will end up in croquettes.

Global insect-based pet food sales are expected to reach $7 billion in 2021, according to data from Future Market Insights, a market research firm. By comparison, the total global pet food market reached $110 billion in 2021, up 39% from 2016, according to data from research firm Euromonitor.

How to Convince Pet Owners to Feed Their Fur Babies Insects

Insect-based pet food companies are quick to say that the benefits outweigh the ick factor. Insects are rich in protein and they are relatively efficient at converting their diet to this protein. Many insect species require far less water and land than conventional livestock like cows, chickens and pigs, and produce fewer greenhouse gases.

Still, not everyone is keen on eating bugs or giving them to Rover or Mittens.

Making treats that people like is as important as making delicious pet food, says Russell. Chippin’ treats are designed so bugs aren’t visible and are made to smell like something a human wouldn’t mind snacking on.

Founded in 2019, the Arlington, The Virginia-based company entered into partnerships with Petco and Grove Collaborative last year. The company declined to disclose the amount of funding, but said it raised money from investors including Azure Capital Partners and General Catalyst’s Rough Draft Ventures.

Meanwhile, Wesley Cooper, co-founder of Neo Bites, an Austin-based startup that sells cricket protein-based nutritional supplements for dogs that launched in late 2021, says he’s hooking potential customers by making the promoting the protein benefits of insects. The company has raised half a million dollars to date.

Cooper and Russell both say that a dog’s or cat’s diet can consist entirely of insects, although neither of them feed their pets an all-insect diet.

Pets deserve fad diets too

Affluent millennials and pet owners who “pay a lot of attention to making their dog’s meal an experience rather than just a scoop and run,” are Neo Bites’ primary customers, Cooper says. And whether it’s insect protein or just more expensive brands, premium pet foods are a growing trend.

Between 2015 and 2020, the price of premium pet food rose 7.5%, faster than economy or mid-tier pet food prices, according to data from Euromonitor. Although there is no quick and precise Food and Drug Administration definition of “premium”, in the industry it is generally considered to be foods that are free of artificial colors and flavors. , made from higher quality protein.

Consumers will pay more for pet food that they perceive to be healthier. They also place a high value on foods that fit their own eating habits and reflect their values, such as being aware of the climate impact of a specific product. At the same time, today’s highly committed pet owners are aware that cats and dogs tend to need more protein in their diets than humans. Bugs, Chippin’s Russell says, are seen as common ground. They are proteins but with a lower climate impact than beef or chicken. So people can feel comfortable buying cricket food rather than transitioning their pet to an all-vegan diet.

Yet the absorption of insect-based foods for humans and their best friends remains limited. Insect-based pet food accounts for less than 2% of all sales in the United States, Phillip Cooper, a California-based pet industry expert, told CNBC. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, some 2 billion people, more than a quarter of the world’s population, consume insects as part of their diet. There has been a steady stream of articles and activists advocating for Westerners, the main group that does not typically include insects in their diet, to embrace insect eating. But even the hippest cricket fare hasn’t moved the needle in terms of the widespread consumption of insect protein.

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