Flies for dinner to animals : Purina to offer insect-based cat and dog food
In a move towards greener protein sources, the world's largest food conglomerate offers Swiss pet owners a new kind of kibble for Fluffy and Fido. The secret ingredient? Black soldier fly larvae.
Nestlé's Purina Beyond Nature's Protein line launches in Coop stores in Switzerland this month, Reuters reported for the first time, with plans to expand to other European markets. One option uses chicken, lima beans, and the larval fly protein. The other uses liver from pork, millet, and chicken.
Nestlé's Purina brand is embracing what the company sees as a growing trend among consumers seeking protein alternatives for their cats and dogs, company representatives told NPR. The desire to be more environmentally conscious drives consumer change, as does a perceived health benefit of a meat-replacing diet.
Purina also plans to offer US consumers an insect-based dry dog formula in January online, said Lorie Westhoff, a Purina spokeswoman. It will be implemented alongside several other formulas that use protein alternatives, such as invasive Asian carp, she said.
Meat production is responsible for releasing a large amount of methane which is a greenhouse gas. The United Nations says the world must alter food production to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming. Some companies in recent years have developed plant-based substitutes such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in the hopes of stopping meat eaters from eating so much of the real meat by offering a product that mirrors the beef or sausage in taste and appearance.
Insects, which are rich in protein, are also considered a possible solution to global food insecurity. The UN predicts that by 2050 there will be more than 9 billion people at the plant. To feed them all, the UN estimates that insects will need to be a critical source of protein.
Nestlé for animal foods
Nestlé does not yet have an estimate of the potential environmental impact of switching pets to an insect-based diet, the company told NPR. But they said that "in general, they see the need to diversify protein sources in food for a variety of reasons, including environmental goals such as fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity."
It's not clear where Purina gets the insects the company uses in its food.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recommends that pet owners follow vegan diets for their pets.
"You don't need to add flies to dog food; PETA has always recommended nutritious vegan foods for dogs and cats," a spokeswoman for the organization told NPR. "Animals used for food are individuals who experience pain, hunger, fear, thirst, love, joy and loneliness as do dogs, cats and humans, and we must respect all of life, even its smallest forms" .
The American College of Veterinary Nutrition recommends pet owners speak with their veterinarian for information on the proper diet for a specific pet.