Protein Sources in Pet Food

Insect-Protein: Black Soldier Fly Larvae

Insect protein is an important protein source for small animals as many of them (such as hedgehogs and sugar gliders) are insectivores that would eat insects in the wild. They’re also a great source of protein for chickens, reptiles, amphibians, and other insect eaters. These animals will eat the insects themselves to obtain the protein.

It can also be incorporated into staple diets as an alternative to animal or plant-based protein. When used this way, animals that wouldn’t normally consume insects (including dogs and cats!) can still benefit from the protein content.

Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) and crickets are the most popular insects to use in animal diets since their protein levels are very similar to traditional animal protein. They also contain other nutrients, like high calcium content in BSFL, and high amounts of taurine and amino acids in crickets.

Raising insects to use for protein requires much less resources than raising animals, since they take up less space and can be farmed without concerns of overcrowding or other welfare considerations present with raising livestock. They’re also more environmentally friendly because they can be fed on food waste and scraps, which further reduces the resources needed for production.

Insects reproduce rapidly, yet they take up a very little space compared to livestock, require significantly fewer resources to process, and are not carriers of common meat pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli.


Plant-Protein: Soy

Soybean meal is a popular plant protein because it’s readily available and highly nutritious. Soy is a good alternative to animal proteins because of its nutritional value and low cost compared to animal proteins. Of all the plant protein types usually used in pet foods, soy is the most complete protein.

Besides having high protein content, soy also has many other nutritional benefits. It’s high in vitamins, folic acid, essential amino acids, and lysine. It’s a good source of fiber and potassium, and a concentrated source of fatty acids. It has key antioxidants, has good digestibility, and contains no cholesterol.


Animal-Protein: Blood Meal

Blood meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh meat. It’s made by drying the blood collected from different livestock during the farming process. Drying it turns the blood into a powder form, which concentrates the protein content and makes it easier to add into pet food diets. This makes it an attractive source of animal protein. In addition to high protein levels, it also has essential amino acids and minerals.

Blood meal has to be sourced from healthy animals, and is commonly used in food for many different animals, including fish, poultry, and pets. Strict federal regulations used in the manufacturing process protects against harmful bacteria and makes it more digestible when used in pet food products.