Chocolate-covered grasshoppers, seasoned scorpions, mealworm burgers and cricket energy bars have creeped into grocery stores across the globe as people slowly come around to the idea of eating insects as an alternative, environmentally-friendly protein source. Soon, your furry friends will be able to chow down on creepy crawlies, too.
In a move to offer more sustainable products, Nestlé's Purina just announced a new line of bug-based pet food, Reuters reports.
Pets consume an estimated 26.6 million metric tons of pet food each year, contributing 64 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually. To ease its environmental footprint, Purina is looking for innovative ways to diversify its protein sources, so now, bugs are on the menu. The Beyond Nature's Protein line will drop in Switzerland's Coop grocery stores later this month, and pets will have their choice between a mix of chicken, fava beans and black solider fly larvae or chicken, pig liver and millet, reports Jaclyn Diaz for NPR.
The United Nations projects that 9.6 billion people will populate Earth by 2050, and food production will need to increase by 70 percent to meet demand, NPR reports. To achieve such a feat, the world will need to massively reform how food is produced. As such, the UN says that adapting bugs into our diets can be part of the solution.
There are nearly 2,000 species of edible insects. Traditionally, bugs have been culinary staples in cultures all across Latin America, Asia and Africa for centuries, and at least two billion people already eat insects regularly. Only in Western markets does eating insects evoke a squeamish reaction, Jennifer S. Holland reported for National Geographic in 2013. If people can get over their conditioned fear and repulsion of insects, bug protein could become a key part of our diets.
National Geographic reports that bugs are much easier and more sustainable to "farm" than livestock. Bugs take up much less space to raise, so the devastating environmental impacts of livestock production—deforestation, agricultural runoff, water use and waste production, among others—are dramatically reduced. Plus, insects don't produce nearly as much greenhouse gases as livestock, easing the impacts on the climate as the world works to reduce emissions altogether. Lastly, bugs convert food products into protein much more efficiently than livestock, so they require little input for a lot of output.
Nestlé tells NPR that they "see the need to diversify sources of protein in food for a variety of reasons, including environmental goals such as fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity," but it's unclear where they'll be sourcing the bugs from. In January, Nestlé will expand its alternative protein options—which includes Asian carp, an invasive fish that has devastated aquatic ecosystems in the United States—and will fulfill online orders in the US.