Nutrition and Digestibility of Black Solider Fly

October 14, 2022

  • Tuggs has a secret super power – insects!

  • Why do we include insects?

  • The UN estimates that by 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on the planet and, in order to feed this exponentially growing population, more food will need to be produced in the next 50 years than has been produced in the entirety of human history.[1] However, with the shrinking availability of crop-bearing arable land combined with forecasted water shortages, humans will be unable to produce the volume of livestock required to feed the world unless alternative, sustainable protein sources are utilised. With this in mind, insects have become a leading contender in the future of food production. Livestock production accounts for around 15% of global greenhouse gases[2], but insects are a sustainable source of protein with a carbon footprint 4% that of beef.[3] Additionally, insects use 95% less land than beef and 94% less water for the same output of protein, permitting a much more effective means of food production.[4] As a result, insect-based products are being slowly integrated into western society as an alternative, sustainable food source.

  • So what type of insect did we research?

  • Black Soldier Fly Larvae

  • The black soldier fly (BSF). Black soldier fly larvae contains up to 50% of high-quality protein, as well as necessary vitamins, fats, and all essential amino acids required to form a complete canine diet. They are also rich in antimicrobial, medium-chain fatty acids which have proven gut health benefits.

  • BSF has also been shown to have antioxidant properties.[5] A research paper studying BSF’s potential health benefits in 2020 noted that BSF protein derivatives were effective in protecting animal cells from oxidative damage – oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins and DNA and subsequently can play a role in the development of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.[6]

  • Are insects actually suitable for dogs though?

  • One concern that is often targeted at insect-based foods is the digestibility of the protein and nutrients, with an argument that there may be a health trade-off by substituting traditional meats for insect protein in the diet. A 2016 study which looked at the In vitro digestibility and fermentability of black soldier fly in dog food concluded that the “in vitro digestibility of amino acids of selected insect larvae was high” with levels similar to that of traditional meats.[7] Further research has concluded similarly, with a 2021 research paper concluding that “the digestibility analysis of a dog food containing insect meal as the sole source of protein (36.5% inclusion) showed promising results in terms of it presenting similar values as a meat-based diet, indicating its suitability as a sustainable protein source for pet food.”[8] Therefore, one can conclude that there are little health concerns regarding the digestibility of insect protein, with a permissible argument that insect protein is akin to traditional meats in this regard.

  • A 2015 study researched whether “edible insects [are] more or less ‘healthy’ than commonly consumed meats”, concluding that insects and meat do not show significant divergence in nutritional composition and that there is no health-related trade-off in promoting insect foods over meat.[9] In fact, in 2019 The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said that some insect-based foods may be better for pets than prime steak.[10]

  • Therefore, the team at Tuggs reached the conclusion that insects offer an innovative solution to reducing livestock production whilst including a novel protein that offers them the same nutritional benefits without compromising on any of the benefits of meat. We include 10-20% insect in our meals in order to meet these goals and in line with the research we have to date. This research lead to us working with Glasgow University students and comparing Tuggs freshly-cooked dog food to raw dog food, with incredible results. Read more about that research here.

  • [1] Roser, M. and Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2000). World Population Growth. [online] Our World in Data. Available at:

  • [2] The Guardian. 2021. EU’s Farm Animals ‘Produce More Emissions Than Cars And Vans Combined’. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 January 2021].

  • [3] van Huis, A. and al, E., 2013. Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,. Page 59

  • [4] Baker, A., 2021. Is Insect Protein The Future Of Pet Food?. [online] Mintel. Available at: <> [Accessed 16 January 2021].

  • [5] Franck, T., 2020. Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) Larvae Protein Derivatives: Potential to Promote Animal Health. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 July 2021].

  • [6] 2021. What is oxidative stress? Effects on the body and how to reduce. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 July 2021].

  • [7] Boschaj, G., Vervoortb, J. and Hendriksac, H., 2016. In vitro digestibility and fermentability of selected insects for dog foods. [online] Science Direct. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

  • [8] Livio, P., 2021. In vivo and in vitro Digestibility of an Extruded Complete Dog Food Containing Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) Larvae Meal as Protein Source. [online] Frontiers In. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

  • [9] Payne, C., Scarborough, P., Rayner, M. and Nonaka, K., 2015. Are edible insects more or less ‘healthy’ than commonly consumed meats? A comparison using two nutrient profiling models developed to combat over- and undernutrition. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

  • [10] BBC, Harrabin, Roger. 2019. “Insect-based food ‘better for pets than top steak’”.


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