The Sustainability Matters series is a year-long feature that highlights the organizations, retailers, and brands that are changing the landscape of sustainability in the outdoor industry. This article in the series is in partnership with Jiminy’s.
Did you ever think you could create a more sustainable world through your dog? Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure puppies represent perhaps the most life-affirming cross-species bond possible. And, as conscious outdoor consumers, many of us seek ways to reduce our environmental impact in all facets of life.
Jiminy’s took this issue to heart, and created the first truly sustainable dog treat. The company uses crickets to offset massive beef and poultry effects on the environments, create surprisingly nutritious and digestible treats and food, and does it all in a humane way.
Jiminy’s Journey to Sustainability
Just how deep does our consciousness about sustainability go? For most people in the movement, it extends beyond gear and clothing purchases into lifestyle. Everything you do — from driving to flying to eating — affects your carbon footprint, and therefore your mark on climate change.
Anne Carlson, founder of Jiminy’s, asked herself how she could make the most impact on the environment with a single product. Food was the obvious answer — animal agriculture is a bigger contributor to climate change than transportation or energy put together — but there was one glaring issue.
Humans eat a lot of different food. Making one hyper nutritious, sustainable food option would, at most, influence a fraction of people’s diet.
So Carlson thought outside the box — dogs eat as regularly as humans, but most dog owners continue to feed them the same thing, day after day. A single dog food product could significantly impact the climate.
The question then became: how do we make it sustainable?
Crickets were the answer. With this knowledge, ample testing, and clinical trials, Jiminy’s was born.
Jiminy’s is a cricket dog food and treat company that will change the landscape of sustainable dog food.
The Climate and the Cricket
The big secret to Jiminy’s sustainable dog treats and food is right on the packaging: crickets.
Insects on the whole are a significantly underused resource for sustainable, nutritious food. They are eaten by some human cultures, but mostly not, and definitely not in the U.S. Fried cricket just doesn’t have the same ring as fried chicken, right? (That’s a joke and frying food is actually not recommended for health or the environment!)
Dogs tend to not have the same conceptual hangups us humans do. Jiminy’s uses crickets in all of its dog treats and one of its dog foods (to be released in January 2020). The statistics show that switching to crickets affects the climate in a serious way, especially at scale.
Jiminy’s crickets, which are farmed in barns, use 67% less land than chickens and 93% less land than beef to produce. Land-based animal agriculture has massive impacts on global water consumption, land consumption, Amazon deforestation, habitat destruction, and species extinction. Cutting down on the land used to create nutritious food sources for dogs (and humans) is a huge factor in the fight for climate change.
Jiminy’s cricket-based treats, on average, save 220 gallons of water per bag when compared to beef- or chicken-based treats. Using exorbitant amounts of water to grow the food of the world is not sustainable. Crickets and other insects offer a chance to keep nutrient profiles high while significantly reducing water usage.
Jiminy’s cricket-based treats output 740% less emissions than beef treats, and 270% less than chicken treats. The company partnered with Carbon Credit Capital to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of their products to get these numbers, which are significant.
If you look at that range of impact — land use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions– it becomes startling clear that insect-based protein is far more sustainable than more traditional sources of protein (beef and fowl), which dogs consume in the realm of 32 billion pounds per year.
Insects are Healthy, Digestible, and Tasty
I’m not speaking from personal experience — that one cricket I had in Thailand left something to be desired — rather from the direct experience of my pup, who has gobbled down a few bags of Jiminy’s treats, let out a few loud moans for more, and then sat quietly as I acquiesced. And I’m not the only one – Jiminy’s has a growing group of Chirpers (brand advocates) that think so, too.
It’s one thing to find a technically-capable ingredient, know that it’s healthier for the planet to produce, and throw it in food. It’s an entirely different process to ask the question: are insects (specifically crickets) robustly digestible for dogs, and will they even like it?
On the discovery path to sustainability, Jiminy’s decided to answer these questions with industry-leading authority. The company conducted studies with the University of Iowa and the Animal Biome project to determine just how digestible cricket protein was for dogs.
Overall, it found “that diets containing cricket supported the same level of gut microbiome diversity as a standard healthy balanced diet.”
What’s more, crickets are a complete protein, and provide more essential amino acids than beef, pound for pound. Crickets are also a source of excellent omegas, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, Vitamins B2 and B12, and fiber.
There’s a lot that goes into a fully nutritious dog diet, and it’s (honestly) surprising that crickets contain such essential ingredients.
Jiminy’s also found that crickets are hypoallergenic for dogs, and requires them to be raised in North America, indoors at farms that are free of pathogens like listeria and E.coli. All of these are issues commonly associated with the production of beef and chicken, not to mention the environmental impact.
The Jiminy’s Cricket Dog Product Line
Jiminy’s started as a cricket-only, treat-only business. In the process of doing the above-mentioned studies, they have created two excellent varieties of treats — soft and chewy training treats, and biscuit-style cookies. All are made with crickets, and all have other key ingredients that promote health and digestion.
The Pumpkin & Carrot chewy treats are what the Backpackers.com resident Sheltie has fallen in love with (and will do pretty much anything for). These are dry, easily breakable, and perfect for teaching commands or luring your dog away from the dinner table.
The biscuit cookies work equally well, and we like to use them for less training-intensive rewards because they are better given all at once.
From Treats to Cricket Dog Food
When we spoke with Anne Carlson, the CEO of Jiminy’s, she said that dog treats were just the taster (as it were).
Jiminy’s is launching a line of dog food in January 2020, and this is where deeper sustainable change can be made. While some people give their dogs treats, everyone gives their dogs food. Jiminy’s was perfecting their model and recipes before launching a food line — and the time is here.
Cricket Crave Sustainable Dog Food
Cricket Crave is the name of Jiminy’s main upcoming dog food, and it takes the philosophy of the treats to another level. Made with a range of tasty ingredients — brown rice, chick peas, quinoa, fish oil, tumeric, sweet potato, to name a few — the food is veterinarian formulated and meets the AAFCO standards for all life stages.
In terms of health, Jiminy’s is continuing its trend of gut health, as crickets are prebiotic, hypoallergenic, and many of the other ingredients are anti-inflammatory in property.
In terms of sustainability, a dog eating Cricket Crave instead of a chicken-based food will save 480,000 gallons of water per year. That’s a hard stat from Jiminy’s — rest assured, the other associated benefits of the treats are also true, but in higher numbers, with this food.
Good Grub Dog Food
What surprised us most in our interview was that, despite the clever cricket lore-based name, Jiminy’s is not tied to crickets. Any source of protein that is more sustainable and healthy than the current trend works, and the company is proving that with Good Grub, a grub-based dog food that rounds out the food category.
Grubs, in this Jiminy’s food, are Black Soldier Fly Larvae, another insect that contains an impressive amount of nutrients and takes up significantly less resources to produce. This one will be even less visually appealing to humans, and therefore will likely require even more education.
Good Grub by Jiminy’s can produce 1-2 million pounds of protein per acre of farmland. This is in sharp contrast to every other protein source on the market: soy produces 1500 pounds of protein per acre, poultry 265 pounds, legumes 211 pounds, and beef 192 pounds.
These grubs simply outperform on a massive scale, and will save an incredible amount of acreage if used in most dog’s diets.
The Good Grub food meets AAFCO standards, is veterinarian formulated, is the great for gut health of dogs, and can save more than a million gallons of water per year compared to chicken-based diets.
The Outdoor Dog’s Impact
If we follow the logic that outdoor enthusiasts care about sustainability (because without it our pristine wildernesses will fade away), and outdoor enthusiasts also love dogs, it makes pretty basic sense that those outdoor dog owners would prefer to positively impact the environment. Not to mention the dogs — who want to be healthy, happy, and run in clean environments forever.
When looking at sustainability, you must look at every facet of life. Jiminy’s has done that, and provided a clear and practical solution to dog nutrition. Their food is on par with other leading competitors in terms of price, but they reduce the impact on the environment significantly.
Jiminy’s has given our readers 15% off any purchase for December — make sure to use the code TREATS15 at checkout.
Logan R. Kilburn*, Anne T. Carlson†, Elizabeth Lewis‡, and Mariana C. Rossoni Serao*1. Crickets as an alternative protein source. Retrieved from Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 5001
This article is sponsored by Jiminy’s.
Backpackers.com Affiliate Policy: This guide contains affiliate links, which help fund our website. When you click on the links to purchase the gear we get a commission, and this goes a long way to creating guides, gear reviews, and other excellent content.