Bug-Based Dog Treats Reduce Your Pet's Carbon Footprint

Yum, crickets.

dog eats Jiminy's cricket treats
Dogs have no problems eating insect treats.


In general, most dogs aren’t terribly picky eaters.

They’ll eat dog food, dog treats, table scraps, and all sorts of things they find when wandering in the yard. So it’s not a stretch that they’d eat bugs—especially when the insects are combined with other tasty foods like peanut butter, pumpkin, and carrots.

The combination is a win all around, say the makers of Jiminy’s, a new line of dog treats and food that mixes insect protein with plant-based ingredients. Pets get appetizing, healthy food made with ingredients that are sustainable for the planet.

The company manufactures five flavors of dog treats and two types of dog food created with either crickets or grubs as the main protein.

“Having seen a lot of video of factory farms, I couldn’t be prouder knowing we’re helping eliminate the practice of raising animals for meat,” Jiminy's CEO and founder Anne Carlson tells Treehugger. “To be honest though the humane treatment of animals wasn’t my first goal.”

Instead, she says she was inspired by her daughter Boothe who wasn’t sure she wanted to have kids because she didn’t want to saddle another generation with the issues created by climate change and environmental degradation.

Around that time, Carlson read a United Nations study projecting the world population would grow from 7 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050.

“Insects were proposed as a solution to provide enough protein for this growth, so the idea to use insect protein for pet food just flashed for me,” Carlson says. “I dug into the numbers and science of insect protein and it was easy to see the protein is incredibly sustainable.”

Environmental Impact

It can be hard to measure exactly what kind of impact pets and their food have on the environment. 

In a 2017 study, UCLA professor Gregory Okin concluded that meat consumption by dogs and cats creates the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which has about the same climate impact as driving 13.6 million cars for a year.

Most pet food is meat-based and it takes a lot of resources to feed cows, chickens, and pigs. In the past, dog foods were often made with meat byproducts. Current trends, however, popularize pet foods made from higher quality “human-grade” ingredients, which can have an even greater impact on the environment.

But insects have a much smaller effect. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less feed than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. They emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases, and they don’t require land and habitat to be cleared.

“If you take a step back and examine how insect protein impacts the environment, you’d think the protein had been designed specifically to feed the world. Remember, the smaller the animal, the less land and water it consumes. Well, you can’t get much smaller than a cricket or a grub,” Carlson says. 

The crickets are sourced from several farms throughout the United States and several in Canada.

“Crickets are fascinating to watch and it’s quickly apparent they’re a swarming species used to living in close proximity,” Carlson says. “That’s ideal if the goal is to minimize land and water use.”

The Ickiness Factor

Crickets are high in nutrients, particularly protein. One 2020 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that most crickets have a considerably higher amount of protein compared to other meat-based sources such as chicken, pork, and goat.

Although all the Treehugger tester canines were very happy with all the treats they sampled, some pet owners initially have reticence about the whole eating insects idea.

“Many people grew up and knew bugs as food only through a novelty like chocolate-covered ants. Or they visited a funky reptile house that fed crickets to their reptiles, so they’re expecting that same funky smell with our treats,” Carlson says.

She suggests that once people realize that the biscuits smell nutty or the chewy treats are like beef jerky, they won’t be so hesitant about offering them to their dogs.

“Some people though won’t broach feeding insect protein to their pup. I understand to some extent as it’s an idea out of left field. But once they hear the reasons for using insect protein - sustainability, humane, excellent nutrition, pre-biotic, food-safe, and fights climate change – it softens them a bit,” Carlson says.

“I always point out that if a bug crosses their dog’s path, that bug is toast and they’ve seen that themselves. Sometimes we should take our lead from our dogs," Carlson adds. "They have wants and likes completely divorced from ours.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Growing at a slower pace, world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100." United Nations, 2019.

  2. Okin, Gregory S. "Environmental Impacts of Food Consumption by Dogs and Cats." PLOS ONE, vol. 12, no. 8, 2017, p. e0181301, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181301

  3. Heinze, Cailin R. "A big pawprint: The environmental impact of pet food." Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, 2018.

  4. van Huis, Arnold. "Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2013.

  5. Magara, Henlay J. O., et al. "Edible Crickets (Orthoptera) Around the World: Distribution, Nutritional Value, and Other Benefits—A Review." Frontiers in Nutrition, vol. 7, 2021, doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.537915