The global population is expected to rise to 9 billion people by 2050. This will put a lot of pressure on our global food supply.
In particular, the amount of animal products people eat is predicted to go up 60-70% by 2050. As people eat more animal protein, it adds more stress to farms and the food industry. Commonly eaten animal foods are often high in unhealthy fats and linked to health problems like obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Feeding everyone healthy food in the future will be a big challenge.
At the same time, we're also feeding our dogs and cats diets with an increasing proportion of meat protein. Cat and dog food already accounts for about 25% of the total environmental impact of meat production. This is only going to get worse.
While we have a growing problem with food availability, we also have a growing problem with food waste.
Right now, about a third of all food produced worldwide gets thrown away, which costs a lot of money and harms the environment. In Australia alone, food waste costs around $20 billion each year. About 25% of food grown in Australia, never makes it from the farm to the table.
Using food waste to grow edible insects is one way to solve two problems at once. Certain insects, like black soldier fly larvae (BSFL), can be fed with different types of low-cost food scraps. This turns the food waste into high-quality protein that can be used in animal feed or as human food. Things like leftover fruits and veggies from farms or food that gets thrown out can all be used to grow BSFL.
We use BSFL protein powder from an Australian manufacturer - Viridian Renewable Tech - that is not so much a waste processor as a protein manufacturer. It's the tightly controlled use of clean, pre-consumer food by-products (like bread!) as inputs to their insect protein manufacturing process, that we really like.
BSFL is very nutritious for people...and it's great for dogs. It contains important amino acids and more of certain ones that are limited in grains. BSFL protein is comparable to foods like fish and coconut oil which are healthy. The oil from BSFL especially contains an acid called lauric acid that has many health benefits like preventing heart disease.
Studies have shown that:
- BSFL meal and oil are well tolerated by dogs and do not impact their general health (Freel, 2021)
- A 20% inclusion of BSFL had no effect on serum biochemistry in adult dogs (Jian, 2022)
- BSFL meal may possess excellent anti-inflammatory properties. However, it's worth noting that further research is needed to fully understand these potential benefits and their long-term effects.
There's not just food by fertiliser as well! After harvesting the BSFL, the leftover waste called "frass" makes excellent natural fertiliser for farms. So growing edible insects can create a cycle where food waste becomes nutritious food and fertiliser with less pollution.
In fact, 1 tonne of Viridian’s insect protein powder creates 2.5 tonnes of insect fertiliser and utilises 14 tonnes of food by-products. That prevents an estimated 28 tonnes of greenhouse emissions, resulting in a net offset of over 25 tonnes of carbon emissions per tonne of protein powder.
Freel TA, McComb A, Koutsos EA. Digestibility and safety of dry black soldier fly larvae meal and black soldier fly larvae oil in dogs. J Anim Sci. 2021 Mar 1;99(3):skab047. doi: 10.1093/jas/skab047. PMID: 33585915; PMCID: PMC7999617.
Jian S, Zhang L, Ding N, Yang K, Xin Z, Hu M, Zhou Z, Zhao Z, Deng B, Deng J. Effects of black soldier fly larvae as protein or fat sources on apparent nutrient digestibility, fecal microbiota, and metabolic profiles in beagle dogs. Front Microbiol. 2022 Nov 25;13:1044986. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.1044986. PMID: 36504773; PMCID: PMC9733673.
Geert van der Velden, IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients’ Innovation Manager,