As alternative proteins become increasingly popular in human foods, they are also gaining interest among pet food consumers, and black soldier fly (BSF) -based ingredients are among the most popular.
“We know that every food trend that takes place in the human nutrition market will inevitably feed into pet food,” said Trevor Faber, director of pet nutrition and technical services for Trouw Nutrition, speaking at the 2021 Petfood Forum in Kansas City. And he added: “Alternative proteins are THE food trend.”
One reason for the growing interest in BSF protein and oil is that on the regulatory front, “any hurdles are being removed,” said Brad Ewankiw, Product Line Manager, Feed, at Enterra, a manufacturer of BSF products.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approved BSF protein for adult dog foods and treats in August, and AAFCO approvals are awaited and processed in 2022 for BSF oil for adult dog foods and treats, and BSF protein and oil for adult cat foods . The use of BSF in dog and cat food has already been approved by the European Food Safety Authority.
“We really see BSF as a great alternative as a novel protein in hypoallergenic foods,” Ewankiw said. “Food brands that are looking for alternatives for dogs with food allergies, skin and coat problems, etc. can be used there as another alternative and have shown some really good results.”
He added that BSF ingredients have antimicrobial and prebiotic properties, so they have additional nutritional benefits for pets.
“Because the lauric acid and fat show antimicrobial benefits, and the chitin, which comes from the maggot’s exoskeleton and has prebiotic and antimicrobial benefits, we are excited to see the pet food opportunities,” he said.
Ewankiw’s colleague Laura Metcalf, Key Account Manager, Animal Nutrition at Enterra, explained some of the feeding trials the companies have conducted on dogs that have good palatability, high overall digestibility, very high protein digestibility, and no concerns about the safety or health of dogs .
“In trials with dogs, the BSF diet worked well and provided all of the nutrients necessary to maintain the dog’s health,” Metcalf said, adding that the BSF protein is easily incorporated into adult dog diets, often as direct exchange for other proteins.
Total digestibility for premium pet food ranges from 84% to 90%, she said, with the BSF digestibility study showing an average total digestibility of 84.6%. The average protein digestibility was even higher at 85.4%, which is higher than some of the competing new proteins.
The palatability study found that dogs’ initial approach when comparing a BSF diet and a vegetable protein-based diet was similar, but the initial taste for the BSF diet was 62% compared to 38% for the vegetable protein diet.
“There is something about it, be it the smell or the appearance, that attracted the dogs more,” Metcalf said.
And when it comes to consumer willingness to feed insect proteins to their pets, another Enterra study found that 31% of consumers said they were buying an insect-based protein product for pets after a very brief introduction to the ingredients.
Ann Reus is a reporter at WATT Global Media.