Friday, July 12, 2024

The Pet Expert: Innovative Ingredients Increasing Sustainability in Dog Food Industry

Brandon Forder

The pet food market has evolved rapidly over the past decade, as pet owners become ever more focused on their pet’s overall health and well-being. As a result, pet food manufacturers are competing at levels never seen before to bring unique and innovative products to the global pet marketplace.

This is a big win for dog owners, as high quality pet food recipes become more widely available to the consumer, and in many cases, more affordable.

But what prompted this drive to feed our pets better quality foods? Certain experts believe that, as knowledge of human nutrition continues to evolve through advanced research, the general population is becoming increasingly educated about the benefits of a healthy diet. The more we learn about health and nutrition, the more likely we are to read ingredient labels to make healthier choices. This knowledge is spilling over into the pet realm, as today’s pet owners are much more likely to read and research the ingredients in their pet’s food.

Now, the pet industry is experiencing an even broader change, as pet food manufacturers are increasing the sustainability of their ingredients, packaging, and manufacturing practices. Many of today’s most popular pet food ingredients are reflective of trends in the human food market, while others are unique to pet foods alone. Let’s take a look at some of the rising star ingredients that may change pet food products as we know it.

Crickets, Soldier Flies, & Other Bugs

Once you get over the initial ick factor of consuming bugs, recognizing the numerous health and environmental benefits of these clean protein sources is undeniable.

Crickets and other farmed insects not only occupy a substantially smaller space than farmed animals, they’re high in protein, and contain all the same nutrients found in meat. Additionally, crickets have an exceptionally low carbon footprint. In fact, cricket farming uses 75% less carbon dioxide and 50% less water than chicken farming.

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann, biologist and Ph.D. from The Danish Technological Institute has been studying the potential of replacing livestock with insects as food for both people and animals. Heckmann says, “Rearing insects is 100 times more environmentally friendly than raising cattle”, suggesting bug farming may be one sustainable solution to the ever-increasing global food demand.

One company leading innovation in the Canadian pet food industry is Wilder Harrier, offering high quality diets for dogs using black soldier flies. Black soldier flies contain upwards of 50% crude protein (dry weight), and have an amino acid profile similar to fish. To further this innovative ideology, Wilder Harrier also makes a line of dog treats using cricket protein and reused loop juices from local juiceries.

In the human health food marketplace, cricket protein powder has made its way into everything from power bars, protein shakes, pasta, bread, cookies, and more. Cricket powder is rich in prebiotic fibre, essential fatty acids, and vitamins, and minerals.

Mushrooms and other Fungi

It has been known for centuries that mushrooms and other fungi pose tremendous benefits for immune health and other essential systems in humans. Considering dogs share considerably similar physiology with humans, they can often reap similar health benefits. Mushrooms meet the requirements to be considered a functional ingredient, meaning they are used for more than just flavour, and their inclusion in a recipe contributes to a more robust nutrient profile.

Popular fungi in many Eastern Asian countries, like koji, are more commonly making their way into North American foods. Koji is a naturally occurring culture used to ferment rice and soybeans, among other things. Fermented foods are loaded with healthy bacteria that help optimize gut and digestive health, and support a healthy immune system.

Plant-based dog food manufacturer Wild Earth uses koji as a novel ingredient in many of their formulations. Many industry specialists forecast an increase in both demand and supply for Asian mushrooms and fungi in North American throughout the 2020s.

Sea Vegetables & Other Novel Vegetables

It’s no secrets that sea vegetables such as kelp and nori (the seaweed commonly used for sushi) have tremendous health benefits. They’re more nutrient dense than land-grown vegetables, and offer a unique fishy flavour that dogs can’t resist. Sea vegetables also promote optimal skin and coat health as they’re rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Improved digestion and improved thyroid health are also among the many benefits of sea veggies.

Aside from being super-foods, sea vegetables are also extremely cost efficient, sustainable, and lightweight. They take substantially fewer resources and manpower to grow than land grown vegetables, too. A big win for food manufacturers across many sectors.

As demand for healthier and more sustainable foods increases across the globe, the pet food industry is well poised to compete in a way that is better for both our pets and our planet. Keep an eye out for new and unique ingredients – you might be surprised by what you find!

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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