It can no longer escape anyone that we humans and our planet face many challenges. Increased carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, food supply for a growing population, water shortages and reduced natural habitats threaten both humans, animals and the biological diversity of our planet. But how can insects contribute to a solution to the global environmental crisis?
Carbon dioxide emissions
The production of protein from traditional sources such as beef, chicken and pork today accounts for large carbon dioxide emissions. The research is clear; reduced meat consumption by humans is a key factor in reducing our climate footprint, but did you know that our pets account for approximately 25% of meat consumption? A new study from Finland also states that replacing traditional protein sources with insects can reduce our environmental impact by 80%.
Below we compare carbon dioxide emissions to produce 1 gram of protein from insects compared to 1 gram of protein from beef.
Land use & biodiversity
Large areas of land are required to raise livestock and meat-producing animals. More than 80% of today's agricultural land is currently used for meat and milk production. Increased spread of humans and our animal husbandry threatens important ecosystems on both land and water. Did you know that of all the mammals in the world, wild animals today account for only 4%, and much of this is due to the fact that their natural habitats no longer exist?
20 tons of insects can be raised on the surface of a tennis court, and our insect farm can produce 10,000 tons of protein on one hectare in a year! If we start to use our resources more wisely, we can spare more land for wilderness and vital ecosystems.
Feed & food production
Large areas around the world are used to grow feed which in turn is used for livestock, which in turn is used for food... This is an unnecessary detour and a waste of precious resources. In Sweden, two-thirds of the grain that is grown is used for food-producing animals, grain that could instead have been used directly for human consumption. Over 95% of the soy we import into Europe is used as feed for meat-producing animals, and it has often been grown on cleared rainforest land, further contributing to the destruction of natural habitats.
By ceasing meat and dairy production, agricultural land could be reduced by more than 75 percent, an area the size of the United States, China, the EU and Australia combined - and still manage to feed the world's population.
Our insects live only on plant-based food scraps – our insect farm collaborates with local companies and producers, and makes use of food waste. The larvae then efficiently convert the food waste and by-products into high-quality protein, making production circular and very resource-efficient.
Animal welfare and health
Another important factor for many consumers is animal welfare in the meat industry. From an ethical perspective, there are several aspects to take into account, but if we look at the dog food industry as a whole, the lower traceability makes it more difficult for the consumer to know how the animals lived and were handled. Depending on which country the meat comes from, there are different standards for animal welfare and slaughter, and whether antibiotics or growth hormones are used. Antibiotic resistance is today one of the biggest threats to our public health.
During the breeding of our insects, antibiotics or growth hormones are never used, because insects thrive and grow quickly all on their own. The insects are kept in a habitat that mimics their natural, and when it is time to harvest the larvae, this is done by cooling them down so that they go into a natural dormancy and are not aware of further steps. This means that it can feel like an ethically better alternative as a protein source for your dog or cat, for you who yourself have chosen to exclude meat from your diet. You can read more about how our insect production works here.
Frequently asked questions:
What is the environmental impact of pet food?
Studies have shown that the food consumption of our dogs and cats accounts for about a quarter of the environmental impact from meat production. The conclusion of this study is that alternative protein sources are one of the solutions to reduce this climate footprint. You can read how researchers at SLU comment on the study from a Swedish perspective here.
Alexander et al conducted a study in 2020 and came to the conclusion that the impact of the pet food industry are equivalent to an environmental footprint of around twice the UK land area, and would make greenhouse gas emission from pet food around the 60th highest emitting country, or equivalent to total emissions from countries such as the Philippines, a country with 110 million people.
But, isn't it only meat scraps and by-products that humans can't eat that are used for dog food?
Of course, it would be beneficial if the only ingredients in today's dog feed were foods that humans cannot eat and thus take care of our food waste, but unfortunately this is not the case.
This is partly due to consumers' increased demand for higher meat content and more high-quality and pure meat in products for their dogs, so-called human-grade meat, as well as the trend of homemade and raw dog food. Environmentally, this is a step in the wrong direction. In this article from Pet Food Processing, it is reported how much of the climate footprint is estimated to come from human grade meat vs by-products, other studies give an average of 11-22% of human grade food products in pet food (Acuff et al).
In the studies above looking at the environmental impact of pet food and the conclusion of Alexander et al, a lower impact of animal by-products have been accounted for, still demonstrating a significant environmental burden caused by the pet food industry.
Is it not worse for the environment to import dry feed than to give meat from local sources?
The data shows that the ingredients in a feed have a greater environmental impact than the distance the feed has been transported. Protein sources account for the highest environmental impact and carbon dioxide emissions. In this database, carbon dioxide emissions are reported for different types of food, where we can see that transport accounts for a fraction of food's total environmental impact.
In other words, transporting a feed with low carbon dioxide emissions has a lower environmental impact than producing feed with high carbon dioxide emissions in Sweden. The insects are grown on our insect farm in the Netherlands, where the feed is also produced to reduce the transport distance. The Netherlands is an excellent starting point to make the transport distances as low as possible to the 13 countries in Europe we sell to.
Transport within Sweden is also not necessarily shorter than a transport from the Netherlands to Sweden - it is roughly the same distance between Östersund and Ystad. Where the ingredients in the feed come from also plays a role in the overall climate footprint. Therefore, over 99% of the ingredients we use in our feed come from Europe, and the majority from the Netherlands, to minimize transport distances as far as possible.
In what way do you work with sustainability within your company?
Our sustainability focus has been the driving force behind our dog food revolution and the reason petgood was founded and we launched our first product, a complete food based on insect protein. But our sustainability work is bigger than that - in this article you can read more about how we work with sustainability.
Curious to read more or find a reference?
On this page, we have collected articles, references and research studies about everything we love: pets, sustainability, insects and our planet.