Upcycled Pet Treats Are Made With Misfit and Surplus Produce

Your dog and cat can help tackle food waste.

dog staring at dog treats
Some treats even include discarded lobster bits.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

In the U.S., approximately 63 million tons of food gets wasted each year. Sometimes it’s extra produce that just can’t get to store shelves. In other cases, it’s misfit and not attractive enough for most consumers.

Fortunately, dogs and cats totally don’t care what their food looks like or what's in it. (Crickets, anyone?)

Fighting food waste and feeding pets is the idea behind Shameless Pets upcycled treats. The company rescues these surplus, imperfect, and castoff foods and turns them into healthy dog and cat treats.

The story started when company co-founder James Bello was working as a corporate food buyer for Target and saw all the produce that was thrown away each week.

“It started to become something I did more research on and I started to see the vast amounts not only that retail was throwing away but then up the supply chain with both farmers as well as food processors,” Bello tells Treehugger. “My mind was blown at how much food was wasted.”

He did some digging and found not only does the U.S. waste more than 60 million tons of food annually but that global food waste accounts for about 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.

“So, at that point essentially I knew I wanted to be a part of something to help, make a dent, and be a part of the solution,” Bello says.

He joined forces with cofounder Alex Waite, who worked as a product developer in human food brands and saw the waste taking place on manufacturing floors.

“The two of us were dog lovers, dog owners, and just had the idea that a lot of waste was taking place, and what if we just took that waste and turned it into dog treats,” Bello says.

Plus, pets are perfectly content to scarf up anything as long as it tastes good. It doesn’t have to look pretty.

Leftover Halloween Pumpkins and Ugly Produce

Shameless Pets treats now have 16 supply chains coming from many different areas—mostly farms—in North America. Each has a distinct upcycling story.

For example, the pumpkins in Pumpkin Nut Partay soft baked dog treats are often leftovers that weren’t sold in October after Halloween. The apples from Applenoon Delight treats may have been left over once apple juice or cider was made. Lots of other products may have been “ugly” or misshapen and just not pretty enough for store shelves.

Some treats use extra lobster parts. Others use discarded eggshells, which are rich in calcium.

Depending on the specific treat, between 30% to 50% of the product is made from upcycled ingredients. Those ingredients are mixed with healthy extras like peanut butter, potato, salmon, and flaxseed meal.

Dog products include 8 flavors of soft-baked biscuits, 4 types of jerky bites, 4 kinds of dental sticks, and two flavors of calming chews. There are also three flavors (chicken and catnip, salmon and sweet potato, lobster, and cheese) of crunchy cat treats.

Pet owner reviews have praised the products’ sustainability and health benefits, Bello says.

“It’s two-fold, they love the up-cycled produce and our (up-cycled) ingredients also have functional benefits for their pets,” he says. “So it's blended, they love that they have up-cycled blueberries that are also antioxidant-rich. Or lobster that has glucosamine for hip and joint health.”

And the Treehugger test dogs that sampled several flavors thought they were all quite tasty. They probably cared about the whole food waste part too, but they were too busy eating to weigh in.

View Article Sources
  1. "Food: Material-Specific Data." EPA.

  2. "Food wastage footprint & Climate Change." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.