Many years ago our domesticated dogs ate table scraps. At that time we ate healthier, and processed foods had yet to be invented. Our diets were healthy and healthy for our dogs.
Dry dog food, or kibble, was invented as a convenience for humans. This product was designed to provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a dog needs. The regulating body in the US, AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), sets guidelines for allowable ingredients in animal feed. Under these guidelines, animal feed, to include dog food, can contain ingredients not fit for human consumption – such as non-species-specific animal fats, by-products and grains that provide calories but not a lot of nutritional value, and meats and organs from diseased or deceased animals – and not just cows, chickens or fish.
So, as pet parents became more informed about what goes into their dogs’ foods, animal feed manufacturers started to improve the quality of the animal proteins they used for their pet foods – whole grains or no grains, legumes and pulses, and species-specific fats, species- specific meats and organs, as well as sourcing these from the human side of the food supply.
Here’s the rub – we’re now putting human-grade ingredients into our pets’ foods. Which means there’s a greater demand for human-grade proteins – the ones we eat. Also, many underdeveloped countries that have been previously vegetarian or vegan are now adding meats to their diets as their standards of living have improved. So, we’re having to produce more meat proteins to meet the demand.
When the supply can no longer meet the demand, we’ll have to reduce or remove the meat proteins from our pets’ foods to ensure the humans on this planet have meat. (Or all the humans decide to become vegetarian and vegan!)
Enter new proteins. Currently in Europe, dog foods have been developed that contain little or no animal proteins. These foods use insect flours as their protein source. I know – eeoouu! But there are communities in other cultures that have included insects as main protein sources - and even delicacies - for millenia.
In our lifetime we may see shortages of drinkable water, and with that comes a need to reduce our use of it for livestock. Which means we need to seek other sources of foods, to include proteins, that require fewer resources.
In the US, insect proteins have not been approved for animal feeds, but that day is approaching. Companies are already producing treats that contain insect flours – and dogs don’t seem to notice the difference (Remember, your dog will pick up dead squirrels and other discarded items on your walks, right?)
I invite you to be open-minded, and embrace what’s ahead. Keep an eye on the results of pet food testing in Europe and get ready to embrace new proteins in your dog’s food. It’s only a matter of time.
For further reading, see: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/10/dog-food-made-from-insects-on-sale