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The alternative protein market continues to grow. Because pet food trends tend to follow human food trends—much like a puppy or kitten follows its owner—it makes sense that what we feed our pets mirrors what we consume. As a sustainable food, alternative protein will help to reduce climate change caused by the traditional food industry such as chicken, beef, lamb, and salmon.

Alternative proteins can be plant-based, cell-based, and insect-based. Insects, animal, and plant-based proteins are good sources of protein, and it is important to blend them to ensure that the product delivers all essential amino acids dogs and cats need.

Insects, like animal- and plant-based proteins, are good sources of protein, and it is important to blend them to ensure that the product delivers all the essential amino acids dogs and cats need.


Plant-based proteins

For pet owners who wish to completely eliminate animal meats, some pet food companies have already introduced meatless pet foods that include plant-based proteins and/or eggs.

But many pet owners are simply seeking out pet foods that incorporate more beneficial fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based ingredients.

Studies by University of Illinois on plant- and yeast-based proteins and their applications in pet food concluded that pea, potato, fava bean, and soy protein concentrates, as well as dried yeast concentrates, are quality sources of proteins and essential amino acids. Combined with the right ingredients, these protein concentrates can help meet the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats while providing new and alternative protein sources.


Pulses and grains

Grain-free diets have always been popular, but studies reveal that grain-free foods do not offer additional health benefits over food that contains traditional or ancient grains. As a result, pet owners may be exploring more grain-inclusive diets for their animals. 

Ancient grains deliver protein, starch, and dietary fiber. Additionally, traditional grains like corn and wheat are as biologically appropriate as other popular sources of carbohydrates in today’s pet foods.


Insect-based proteins

Insect protein could become more prevalent in the pet industry as consumers seek a more sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their pets. And the opportunity for pet food manufacturers to begin researching and formulating pet foods with insect protein could be on the horizon, as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) tentatively approved the use of dried black soldier fly larvae in adult dog food last year.  

Safe and healthy foods

Pets need nutrients not ingredients. The first step toward bringing new ingredients into the mix is extensive research.

Before a novel ingredient makes its way into pet foods or treats, it should be validated through research to ensure it is acceptable for pets and will nutritionally support a balanced diet.

When feeding pets with new ingredients, do refer to food labels to ensure that the manufacturers are complying with federal regulations and labeling requirements and selecting suppliers that reliably provide safe and quality ingredients. Regardless of the ingredient, safe and healthy pet food is developed as a complete formulation to meet the animal’s optimal nutrient requirements for all life stages, from puppy or kitten to senior.




ACADEMIC COUP: “Use of precision-fed cecectomized rooster assay and digestible indispensable amino acid scores to characterize plant- and yeast-concentrated proteins for inclusion in canine and feline diets.”

FOOD INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: “Alternative proteins, functional foods driving pet food ingredient trends.”