Pets, which are currently represented mostly (but not exclusively) by cats and dogs, are an essential part of human societies around the world. Their positive effects on human emotional and physical health have been scientifically proven beyond any reasonable doubt and are widely appreciated. The importance of pet companions is also likely to continue growing in the coming years.
Pets obviously need to eat. Currently, the global pet food industry is worth about $100 billion per year, which is a lot of money, and provides a great variety of products. Most owners want the best possible nutrition for their pets. This is a noble goal; however, meeting it comes with a substantial price tag attached.
Feeding cats and dogs on their natural diets is impractical. Moreover, it may cause certain ethical problems. For example, many people will object to the idea of breeding parakeets for feeding them to cats. Instead, modern pet food consists of artificial feeds specifically formulated to meet nutritional needs of their target animals. This, however, creates a dilemma. If pet food consists of the same ingredients as human food, then pets and humans compete for the same products. In the world where about two billion people suffer from low food security and, in many cases, outright malnutrition, such a situation is rather undesirable. Moreover, conventional agriculture has a significant negative impact on the environment. Therefore, increasing production to feed pets will have a negative impact on other species that happened to remain wild, and ultimately on humans and their pets as well. If pet food consists of ingredients that are not suitable for human consumption, then there is a high probability of using all kinds of junk that is not good for pet health.
Using farmed black soldier flies as an ingredient of pet food helps addressing this issue. Decaying waste is their natural environment, from which they extract nutrients that can be later processed into dog and cat food. First insect-based products are already on the market, and their share is likely to grow.
Scientific research on the effects of incorporating black soldier flies into dog and cat diets is still scarce. However, results of the existing studies are encouraging – pets readily consume them, and there are no apparent health problems. Moreover, there is mounting evidence that black soldier flies may improve pet health. Larval fat is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which have been shown to improve brain function in elderly dogs prone to dementia and reduce frequency of epileptic seizures, as well as in lauric acid, which is beneficial for modulating intestinal immunity. As the number of scientific publications on using black soldier flies grows, there is a good chance that additional value-added properties will be discovered.
Black soldier fly is not going to replace other pet food ingredients completely. However, it is a valuable and environmentally sustainable component that is likely to continue increasing in popularity.