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Bug Bites: Cricket Treats Your Pet and the Planet Will Love

The future of dog food is looking a little less beefy and a little more buggy.

by Maia Welbel
April 28, 2022
A dog sniffing for something in the grass.
Simone Wave / Stocksy

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

If you’re someone who is conscious of your ecological footprint, you’ve probably made dietary choices that reflect that. But have you ever thought about the sustainability of the food your pet is eating? The future of dog chow might look a little less beefy and a little more buggy.

By this point, we know that the meat industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, water pollution, deforestation, and more. As the global pet food market continues to grow, it stands to reason that our furry friends account for a portion of that impact. A UCLA study found that pets’ diets constitute about 30 percent of the environmental impacts of meat production in the U.S.

It doesn’t have to be this way — at least not for dogs, who are omnivorous, meaning they don’t require meat in their diet as long as their nutritional needs are met from other sources. Enter: cricket-based dog food. Crickets have more protein and fiber per weight than other common pet food ingredients like salmon or beef. They are high in iron, omega-3 oils, and vitamin B12. Turns out, crickets provide just the sustenance our pups need to keep their tails wagging.

Crickets require less land, water, and food than other livestock. To put that into perspective, one pound of beef requires 2,000 gallons of water and 25 bags of feed, while one pound of cricket protein requires about one gallon of water and two bags of feed. Processing crickets emits a fraction of the carbon dioxide compared to meat, and emits effectively zero methane — a potent greenhouse gas that is a major byproduct of the beef industry. Cricket farming also causes less water pollution because manure management isn’t an issue and overall chemical inputs are reduced.

Though it’s still a small market, cricket kibbles and treats for dogs are becoming more widely available. A number of brands have hopped on the nutritional and environmental benefits of insect-based pet food and are offering some delectable options. 

treats in green bag

Hoppers makes nutritious dog treats from cricket protein. Their Hayride and Hound Dog flavors come in packaging so cute, you’ll want to reach in and try one yourself. And it turns out you can. “I’ve personally tried all of them and they taste great,” says Danielle Wood, one of four co-founders that launched Hoppers in 2021. Included in each Hoppers treat are human-approved ingredients like chickpeas, peanut butter, coconut oil, banana, and honey. “The first thing people comment on when they open a bag is that they smell delicious.”

Insect protein may seem new to us, but dogs have always been down for a chirping treat. Wood adds, “Insects are part of their ancestral diet, and they’re probably eating them when they’re playing outside anyway.”

Shop Hopppers
cricket treats

Chippin is a dog food brand focused on planet-friendly proteins. In addition to cricket products, they also make food from silver carp (a wild-caught, overpopulated fish from the Great Lakes), and vegan spirulina. According to Jessica Blum, Head of Business Operations at Chippin, their “proteins are all free from the top allergens in dogs, offer functional benefits like prebiotic/probiotic gut health support, and are 80 percent less natural resource-intensive to produce than a standard beef or chicken treat.”

Chippin sources their proteins directly from small and medium-sized farms and fisheries in North America. Their packaging is even certified plastic neutral and made from recycled yogurt cups. “With so many alternative protein sources to tap into that are equally as nutritious for pets and so much healthier for our planet, were ready to see a shift in the status quo of what ‘healthy’ means in the pet industry,” Blum says.  

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the yellow and pink bag of treats

Another new company on the pet food scene is Neo Bites. Neo Bites makes cricket-based food toppers and treats that “supercharge” your dog’s diet. In addition to promoting health and longevity for our pets, co-founder Wesley Cooper says sustainability is a top priority for the brand. Neo Bites is the first carbon-negative pet food company in the U.S., meaning they offset more than they emit.

“We make everything in small batches in Austin, TX,” Cooper says. “By doing that we are able to keep a close eye on quality control, reduce waste in production, and minimize the transportation of our products from warehouse to warehouse.”

Eating insects has long been stigmatized in the U.S., but millions of people enjoy crickets as part of their regular diet in other parts of the world. As climate change continues to loom large, feeding our pets earth-friendly options is one small way we can reduce our individual impact. Cooper explains, “My hope is to demonstrate to the pet food industry that innovation, progress, and responsibility is not only demanded by consumers, but should be the norm for how we conduct business.”

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the treats in blue and black packaging

Jiminy’s was one of the first pet food brands to add powdered cricket protein to dog food and treats. Their latest product innovation is their Nooch Puffs and Peanut Puffs, which have a unique airy and crunchy texture that pups love. Every five ounce bag of Jiminy’s dog food saves 220 gallons of water when compared to traditional meat options. “We're so proud to be combatting the effects of climate change and making dogs happy along the way,” says founder and CEO Anne Carlson, “The best part is we’re just getting started.”

Shop Jiminy’s

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author Maia Welbel

Maia Welbel

Maia is a freelance writer focused on using storytelling to help people treat our planet with more compassion. She lives in Chicago with her perfect pets, Maxx the dog and Rubie the cat. Find her on maiawelbel.com and @mwelbel.