Black soldier fly larvae is a sustainable new protein found in hypoallergenic dog foods — and it’s generating a lot of buzz.
Animal-based protein isn’t the only way to give dogs the nutrition they need. Pet food manufacturers are starting to include new ingredients that are not only effective sources of easily-digested and immune-supportive protein, but that also meet the market demand for sustainable, natural food. A novel ingredient that is generating interest in the pet food industry is protein made from black soldier fly (BSF) larvae.
Insects are a natural dietary component for many wild animals. Even wolves and wild cats will turn to insects when sources of larger prey are scarce. According to an article published by the Cambridge University Press, “Other types of animals consumed [by wolves] were birds, insects, intertidal organisms and fish.”1 While BSF larvae are not on the usual list for these close cousins of domesticated dogs and cats, they do provide a high quality source of protein and are rich in beneficial nutrients.
BSF larvae are dried, heat treated, and ground into a powder or oil that contains 50% to 54% crude protein that can then be added to a pet food recipe alongside other ingredients.
- The powder created from BSF larvae is filled with essential amino acids, digestible lipids and antimicrobial components. As noted in the table, black soldier fly has a comparable level of the ten essential amino acids that dogs need.
- BSF oil is not only rich in lauric acid, but also has significant levels of unsaturated fats, with a profile of 21% monounsaturated and 19% polyunsaturated.
Enterra, a North American ingredient manufacturing company that focuses on insect-based feed, recently funded and completed a study on the digestibility and health benefits in adult dogs of its BSF meal and oil products (EnterraProtein™ and EnterraOil™), with some notable results.
Conducted in 2020 in the United States, , the study indicated impressive digestibility rates of 85.4% and 93.7% for the BSF protein and oil, respectively, for dry extruded dog food containing 20% EnterraProtein and 6.8% EnterraOil.
In terms of palatability, multiple studies in recent years have also shown that dogs and cats equally prefer foods that include BSF ingredients, especially once they become used to the smell and flavor profile of this novel ingredient.
This is a new ingredient option to keep an eye out for this year as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its utility and safety review for the use of BSF meal in adult dog food.
In addition, the Ingredients Definition Committee (IDC) of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has voted to propose to the Board of Directors a new tentative ingredient* that includes the use of whole dried black soldier fly larvae and black soldier fly larvae meal in adult dog food. This proposal will go to the AAFCO Board of Directors in April before being passed for AAFCO Membership in August.
*New Tentative Definitions remain in a tentative status for one year. If neither the IDC nor the FDA receives objections during this interim period, the IDC will recommend that the tentative definition be moved to official status. During the tentative status, states are unlikely to object to the use of the ingredient in the finished product as the FDA and IDC have both signed off on the product being safe and efficacious.
1Bosch, G et al. Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition? British Journal of Nutrition. 2014;113(S1).
2FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation, 2007.