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Insect Based Petfood: Sustainable & Innovative solution

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Five years ago I read about the legalisation of insects for use in aquafeed in the EU and was blown away by the potential that insects possess to transform our consumption habits and pose a viable solution to aspects of the global food crisis.

Last year I began researching the pet food industry and was equally astounded to learn of the strain that pet food is having on our resources, with pet food constituting 25–30 percent of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides in the US alone.

However, I found that not only does the pet food industry pose an environmental strain, but it is also dangerously unhealthy; the majority of dry dog food is void of fresh ingredients, carcinogenic and engineered for a shelf life of up to 2 years without refrigeration. These unhealthy foods are directly responsible for continually increasing rates of cancer, obesity and diabetes in dogs. Meanwhile, recent research has shown that dogs fed a freshly-prepared diet could live, on average, 32 months longer than dogs fed commercial dry dog food. Eating a fresh, varied diet is clearly the better choice for our own nutrition, so why are we not extending this logic to our canine friends?

With these findings in mind, I spent 12 months researching and developing a potential solution to provide dog parents a selection of recipes designed to let their dog thrive, and not just survive, without sacrificing the planet. In the end, I founded Tuggs – a dog food start-up creating freshly-prepared dog food in a sustainable way using black soldier fly insects alongside other meat and vegetables.

Why did we include insects?

The UN estimates that by 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on the planet and, in order to feed this exponentially growing population, more food will need to be produced in the next 50 years than has been produced in the entirety of human history. However, with the shrinking availability of crop-bearing arable land combined with forecasted water shortages, humans will be unable to produce the volume of livestock required to feed the world unless alternative, sustainable protein sources are utilised. With this in mind, insects have become a leading contender in the future of food production. Livestock production accounts for around 15 percent of global greenhouse gases, but insects are a sustainable source of protein with a carbon footprint 4 percent that of beef. Additionally, insects use 95 percent less land than beef and 94 percent less water for the same output of protein, permitting a much more effective means of food production. As a result, insect-based products are being slowly integrated into western society as an alternative, sustainable food source.

So what type of insect did we research?

The black soldier fly (BSF). Black soldier fly larvae contains up to 50 percent of high-quality protein, as well as necessary vitamins, fats, and all essential amino acids required to form a complete canine diet. They are also rich in antimicrobial, medium-chain fatty acids which have proven gut health benefits. BSF has also been shown to have antioxidant properties. A research paper studying BSF’s potential health benefits in 2020 noted that BSF protein derivatives were effective in protecting animal cells from oxidative damage – oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins and DNA and subsequently can play a role in the development of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Are insects actually suitable for dogs though?

One concern that is often targeted at insect-based foods is the digestibility of the protein and nutrients, with an argument that there may be a health trade-off by substituting traditional meats for insect protein in the diet. A 2016 study which looked at the In vitro digestibility and fermentability of black soldier fly in dog food concluded that the “in vitro digestibility of amino acids of selected insect larvae was high” with levels similar to that of traditional meats. Further research has concluded similarly, with a 2021 research paper concluding that “the digestibility analysis of a dog food containing insect meal as the sole source of protein (36.5 percent inclusion) showed promising results in terms of it presenting similar values as a meat-based diet, indicating its suitability as a sustainable protein source for pet food.” Therefore, one can conclude that there are little health concerns regarding the digestibility of insect protein, with a permissible argument that insect protein is akin to traditional meats in this regard.

A 2015 study researched whether “edible insects [are] more or less ‘healthy’ than commonly consumed meats”, concluding that insects and meat do not show significant divergence in nutritional composition and that there is no health-related trade-off in promoting insect foods over meat. In fact, in 2019 The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said that some insect-based foods may be better for pets than prime steak.

Therefore, the team at Tuggs reached the conclusion that insects offer an innovative solution to reducing livestock production whilst including a novel protein that offers them the same nutritional benefits without compromising on any of the benefits of meat. We include 20 percent insect in our meals in order to meet these goals and in line with the research we have to date.

This year we will be working with an Asian-based therapeutics company to research how the microbiome of a selection of dogs alters as they convert from a kibble diet to a Tuggs, insect-based diet. We have also undertaken research in collaboration with students from Glasgow University comparing insect-based food to raw dog food with fantastic results which will be released shortly.

If you’d like to read more please head to For any questions feel free to reach out to me at

Article contributed by Harry Bremner, Founder, Tuggs, UK



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