Purina Launches Insect-Based Pet Foods

Black soldier fly larvae is the key ingredient.

British shorthair cat and golden retriever at food bowl
Pets in Switzerland can soon try these insect-based foods. chendongshan / Getty Images

Insects will soon be coming to some dog and cat dinner bowls, courtesy of Purina. The pet food powerhouse is introducing kibble featuring alternative proteins, hoping to have less of an impact on the environment. 

The foods will include insect protein from black soldier fly larvae and plant proteins from fava beans and millet.

Purina Beyond Nature's Protein will first be sold in Switzerland this month with plans to expand to other countries in Europe. At this time, there are no plans to introduce these foods in the U.S. or Canada, a Nestle spokesperson told Treehugger.

However, Purina test-marketed an insect-based dry dog formula in the U.S. in 2018 that used cricket protein. That food will be available online beginning in January 2021, along with several other formulas using more sustainable protein sources such as invasive carp.

“We recognize the importance of identifying nutrient rich alternative protein sources to feed our pets,” the Nestle spokesperson said.

The trend toward more sustainable protein sources is fueled by a desire to be more environmentally conscious. Meat production is responsible for releasing the greenhouse gas methane into the environment. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, livestock contribute to 7% of the total greenhouse gas emissions through enteric fermentation and manure.

Insects offer a more sustainable alternative. They emit few greenhouse gases, require significantly less water, and are very efficient with their feed. It takes 1.7 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of edible insects (I kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds), compared to 10 kilograms of feed per 1 kilogram of beef, reports the FAO.

Insects and the Environmental Impact

"Every ingredient in our food serves a purpose. With our new Beyond Nature's Protein dry pet food, we are offering a complete nutritious alternative to conventional dog and cat products, while taking care of the planet's precious resources by diversifying the protein sources,” Nestlé Purina Petcare EMENA CEO Bernard Meunier said in a statement

“We're constantly looking at ways in which we can source sustainably for the longer-term while still delivering the high-quality nutrition that pets need today and tomorrow."

One of the new foods uses chicken, fava beans, and fly larvae protein. The other features pig's liver, millet, and chicken. The insects used in the food are raised in the Netherlands, according to Nestle.

The company doesn’t yet know what the impact will be, switching pets to an insect-based diet.

“The CO2 impact of this product cannot be reduced in a satisfying way by using insects yet, but we believe that the potential is there and that we can reach a reduction by scaling up the use of insect proteins,” the spokesperson told Treehugger. “This is in line with Nestle’s commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

In a further commitment to the environment, Purina has partnered with Reforest'Action so that for every one of these new food products that is sold, a tree will be planted in Sumatra, Indonesia, to help with reforestation.