Crickets for dinner

Crickets for dinner

Insects are the future of food ... and our beloved pets may be the first to try them.

March 10, 2020

You’ve probably watched your faithful companion catch a fly hovering around its muzzle. That’s not a big surprise since insects have been part of the natural diet of dogs and cats for a long time. But did you know that bugs are the latest trend in animal feed? Since 2015, industry leader Wilder Harrier, based in Montreal, has been marketing dog biscuits made with cricket powder in some 100 grocery stores across Canada. “Dogs like the nutty and fishy taste of crickets,” says Paul Shenouda, one of Wilder Harrier’s three founders. The biscuits come either with banana-nut or apple-cranberry flavours or are vegan-friendly, based on seaweed and fruit-and-vegetable pulp, bought from the juice company LOOP. “Above all we wanted to build a company that would have a positive impact on the environment and the world,” says the young entrepreneur. Their next step, to be launched soon, is a line of dog food derived from crickets, black flies and mealworms. Still skeptical? Your furry companions deserve the best, and there are many good reasons to dish up insects. Here’s why.

Meat is an important contributing factor in global warming, and our dogs and cats consume plenty of it. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the livestock industry is responsible for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And that’s not counting the other environmental effects associated with meat production. This is also why insects—specifically crickets—are increasingly being used as pet-food ingredients. “To produce 10 kilograms of meat, you need 100 kilograms of grains,” says Jarrod Goldin of Entomo Farms, a cricket-raising company in Norwood, Ontario. Crickets, on the other hand, create very little methane gas, consume a minimal amount of food, and need less water. To obtain a pound of crickets, you need only four litres of water, compared with 10,000 for a pound of beef.

Paul Shenouda and his partners came up with the idea of starting Wilder Harrier after reading a 2014 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), proposing edible insects as a possible alternative food source for the world’s growing population, which is projected to reach 9.55 billion by 2050. The same report inspired the Goldin brothers to found Entomo Farms, a cricket-raising company in Norwood, Ontario. “There’s something ethically wrong when there are people on the planet dying of hunger while the pet-food industry is based almost entirely on meat production,” says Jarrod Goldin, who sells cricket powder to cattle farmers and pet-food producers like Wilder Harrier, as well as insect-based snacks for human consumption.

A healthy choice
Insect-based food not only helps reduce our ecological footprint, it’s also healthier for pet animals. “Cricket powder is rich in fibre, iron, omega-3 and other dog-friendly nutrients, Goldin says. “It has more than twice as much protein as beef, and unlike meat, contains no antibiotics or steroids.” In fact, Wilder Harrier biscuits are sold in some veterinarian clinics, mainly because they are allergy-free. “A lot of dogs and cats develop scabs and itchiness after ingesting certain animal proteins,” explains Shenouda. “About 30 percent of our clients choose our products because they’re hypoallergenic.”

An economical choice
Wilder Harrier plans to sell its new line of dog food at the same price as high-end products on the market. But Shenouda hopes eventually to revise the cost downward. “Prices are high because production is still manual. They will certainly come down once we’ve automated the entire operation—both farming and processing,” he explains. “Purina has just released its new eco line, called RootLab. And one of its four products contains our cricket powder,” Goldin says proudly. Wilder Harrier also plans to launch a line of cat food in the near future. We look forward to the verdict of our feline friends!

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