What is Black Soldier Fly Larvae and Why We Use Them in Our Products
Written by: Tanys Franz, B.Sc & Inna Shekhtman
Help Give Wings to This Sustainable Option
More and more of us are exploring how we can reduce our carbon footprint on this planet. We are choosing more efficient modes of transportation, recycling more, buying sustainably produced clothing, shopping more local, and reducing the amount of meat we eat. Our food choices for both ourselves and our pets also have a significant impact on both health and environment. In fact, according to recent studies, food production accounts for over 26% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. So it is time to think outside the box when it comes to the way we feed our furry family members and we believe that insects can be part of a natural solution as a nutrient-dense, biologically appropriate and safe alternative.
Is my pet's diet really a problem for the environment?
Raising livestock is one of the largest contributors of pollution and global warming emissions. While the majority of animal protein is produced for the human industry, about 20% is consumed by our pets according to recent studies  . And as we try to feed our pets better with fresh food diets and human grade ingredients, it likely has the opposite effect on the health of our environment, with more animals being raised to accommodate this change.
There is some data to suggest that free-range animals are better for the planet and that farmers can use regenerative agriculture  methods to create environmental neutral operations. While we hope in time that more farms will adopt these natural farming practices, however today this represents a marginal percentage of the farming industry insufficient for commercial requirements. So if you are purchasing a commercial pet food, even one that uses ethically raised animals, your pet is part of the environmental load!
So imagine if we could even reduce that by 20%! For beef, that would mean a reduction of 730 kg of greenhouse gases per year.
What is Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)?
The black soldier fly (not to be confused with the common house fly), Hermetia illucens, is native to America. In particular, the larvae or juvenile form of the fly are denser in protein and nutrients before they move on the adult fly stage of their life cycle.
We think that these little bugs are superhero … just like livestock and fish, they convert plant-based food to a high-quality protein. But these little guys are way more efficient at this conversion, all while leaving a smaller carbon footprint than it found. In one year, a single acre of black soldier fly larvae can produce more protein than 3,000 acres of cattle.
Image: Black Soldier Fly
In addition to that, they have an amazing capacity to concentrate minerals and vitamins from the foods they eat. The black soldier fly we use are fed a high-quality vegetarian diet, which means they contain a high concentration of the amazing vitamins and mineral s found in those vegetables. This makes them a great whole food source for many minerals that are essential to our pets’ diets.
Why We Use Black Soldier Fly in Our Products
We began researching insects, including Black Soldier Fly, as an alternative source of protein in 2017 and found that not only was it a more sustainable protein option, but it was also more nutritious. In fact, we found that Black Soldier Fly contained a higher concentration of certain minerals than any other insect option, minerals that were difficult to get from meat and other natural sources. For example, BSFL is abundant in bioavailable manganese and calcium. Here are how insects compare to traditional ingredients …
BSFL as Supplemental Use
We use a small amount of BSFL in our No Frilz meals as a source of essential minerals for a complete and balanced diet.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, insect farming requires less land and water than producing livestock, and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. See below a chart with data sourced from carbonfootprint.com 2020:
Source of data: https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food
*Because insect farming is a fairly new and evolving industry, we suspect in time and as efficiencies improve, the carbon footprint will be reduced even further.
BSFL As A Protein Replacement
In our ECO meals, we replaced 20% of the meat by weight (Beef or Kangaroo) with rehydrated larvae protein. We have made a few changes to these ECO meals to use the larvae powder, which is tasty and a bit less oily than the whole grubs. Otherwise, these recipes are basically the same, so if your dog regularly consumes our Beef Complete Meals for Dogs, they should have no issues transitioning to the Beef Eco Meals for Dogs. You will also find yourself saving some money, as our Eco versions cost less than their meaty counterparts. Great for the planet and great for your wallet!
Is Black Soldier Fly Larvae Safe in Pet Food?
We know dogs and cats include insects in their diets in nature, and at RDBK, this aligns with our goal to provide a natural, whole food diet for pets. Unfortunately, most people, when they think of harvesting flies, conjure up visions of flies consuming manure or post-consumer food waste. This is something we want to clear up.
Our supplier of BSFL (Enterra) harvests the insects in a HACCP-compliant, CFIA inspected facility, and only feeds their insects pre-consumerfruits, vegetables and grains that are CFIA- approved as safe for human consumption. The larvae are heated to 90° Celsius for three minutes to kill off any pathogens and toxins of concern, and we receive a Certificate of Analysis from a third-party lab for every lot used in our pet food. The other bonus is the insects are 100% farmed and processed in Canada.
BSFL is certified for use in Europe and is currently in the approval process for AAFCO.
We appreciate those who have eagerly tried our Eco Line and are already on board. For those who have not yet given our Eco products a try, and desire to become a more eco-friendly pet parent, we want to encourage you to consider adding our Eco products as part of your pet’s regular rotation of meals. We think your pets will fall in “larvae” with them and you will feel great, as we do, about making a positive change for our planet!