Using invasive species as novel pet food ingredients allows brands to make numerous marketing claims that follow current consumer demand trends.
Read the entire report about invasive species in the October issue of Petfood Industry.
Dog and cat treats made with Asian carp boast of being limited ingredient, made in the USA, wild caught and non-GMO, all while helping freshwater ecosystems and economies. Along with these qualities, dog treats made from feral axis deer in Hawaii, USA also claim to go beyond humane and cruelty-free to become “stressless.” Soon-to-be-released feral hog dog treats can assert that the treats help wildlife conservation and restoration efforts.
While these virtues may help brands stand out in a crowded natural pet food market, using invasive species poses challenges for pet food and treat makers.
"The problem is we need a stable source,” Logan Honeycutt, co-founder of BareItAll Petfoods, told Petfood Industry.
His company introduced dog treats made from non-native Asian carp in 2016. Asian carp species threaten aquatic ecosystems and economies in the US Midwest and South. Since there isn’t much of a market for Asian carp meat in the US, few processors and distributors bother with the low-value fish, which can make it hard to find a steady supplier with enough of the novel pet food ingredient to meet demand.
BareItAll and another brand, Scout and Zoe’s, both found sources for Asian carp, but branching out into other invasive species may be more difficult. Honeycutt said that when his company started planning to make pet treats made from invasive feral hogs, they had trouble locating a source for the meat.
“When there's no industry or supply chain behind the animals, it's very difficult to get safe and secure ingredients," he said.
Ironically, that lack of supply is the opposite of the problem invasive species cause in nature, where the beasts abound. When people release non-native organisms or they escape into the wild, those species may conquer that new ecosystem by devouring resources, reproducing quickly or otherwise out-competing local animals and plants. Large populations of invasive species can force native creatures towards extinction, reduce biodiversity and create costly problems for people.