Beyond sustainability: Insects as a superfood for dogs

Anne Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, will speak at Petfood Forum this spring on the benefits of feeding insects to companion animals and how it can be more than reducing their carbon pawprints.

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Anne Carlson will speak at Petfood Forum on Tuesday, April 30, in Kansas City. Her session, Latest research: Insect protein for companion animals, will focus on the benefits beyond sustainability that insects can offer our pets.
Anne Carlson will speak at Petfood Forum on Tuesday, April 30, in Kansas City. Her session, Latest research: Insect protein for companion animals, will focus on the benefits beyond sustainability that insects can offer our pets.
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Long touted as a sustainable alternative to other protein sources, insects are more than an environmentally conscious choice to use in pet food. They are a complete protein source and superfood, said Anne Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, a producer of sustainable dog food and treats using insect protein.

"I always encourage people to think of insect protein as a novel protein," said Carlson. "It can help dogs with protein allergies as an insect’s exoskeleton is a fiber. It feeds the good bacteria in the gut, so it’s prebiotic and a great digestion solution." 

The benefits of feeding insects to companion animals, however, goes well beyond protein, she said. She knows of what she speaks. In addition to creating Jiminy’s, Carlson led the development of the dossier for crickets as a nutrient source in dog food, which included several peer-reviewed and published studies. In 2021, she was elected to the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture’s board of directors.

“While much of the initial focus on insect protein has been as a sustainable replacement for other animal protein sources like beef and chicken, there is now a growing body of evidence that insects are a solution for other issues in canines,” said Carlson. “The benefits of feeding insects to dogs goes well beyond protein, including support for a healthy gut microbiome, enhanced immunity, an alternative for food sensitive dogs, improved mental acuity, joint health and mitigating arthritis signs.”

Crickets do more than reduce the carbon pawprint

Jiminy’s uses powdered cricket protein along with a blend of plant-based ingredients in its lineup of dog food, treats and chews. Insects, said the company, have proven to be high-quality digestible proteins packed with essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals dogs need. Carlson said the company started with crickets – roasted and ground with nothing else added – and have recently added recipes with grubs.

"Dogs are athletes too, so they need a diet high in protein, and insect protein contains more protein pound for pound than beef," she said. "Grubs in particular offer immunity benefits, glucosamine for joint health, and lauric acid for mental acuity."

Carlson will speak at Petfood Forum this spring on the latest research and benefits of insect protein for companion animals. She noted four benefits of using insect protein in dog food:

  1. Insect protein is truly a superfood, Carlson said. Insect protein offers three times the protein in beef, two times more iron than spinach, all essential amino acids, and 10% more vitamin B12 than salmon.
  2. Insect protein supports a diverse gut microbiome. Crickets also contain fibers, such as chitin, that are different from the dietary fiber found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Fiber serves as a microbial food source and some fiber types promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics.
  3. Insect protein is great for dogs with sensitivities. Because insect protein is not a known allergen, dogs exhibiting allergies to beef or chicken or other environmental triggers could benefit from an insect-based diet.
  4. Eco-friendly, sustainable protein source. Insect protein offers better land use and feed conversion, as well as uses less water and creates almost no greenhouse gases.

“As the pet food industry grows, we need better sustainable alternatives for our pets,” said Carlson. “According to a UCLA study, 25% to 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the U.S. can be attributed to our pets. Insect protein is a superfood solution to this problem, delivering great nutrition coupled with a radically reduced carbon pawprint.”

Thinking differently about insect protein

Insect protein for pet food and treats seems to have a lot going for it. Are there any challenges? There’s the ick factor, of course, said Carlson.

"Honestly, we encountered that reaction a lot more early on than we do now," she said. "The last two tradeshows, I didn’t get that reaction once. That tells me two things: the message on insect protein is being heard and people are opening up to the idea of it as a viable food option. It’s no longer a surprise to hear we’re using insect protein. Now the question is why are we using it."

Education and allowing consumers to try the products have been a successful way to get over the "ick factor." As a matter of fact, Carlson said success for Jiminy's begins with a retailer and their staff.

"If they’re at all familiar with the unique features and can convey them, there are a ton of consumers who find us a great fit," she said. "We know we’re humane, sustainable, nutritious and fight climate change, but the trick is making sure the consumer knows.

"We offer training online and in-person when possible," she added. "Also, we’ve found samples to be a great introduction. For some, seeing and handling the treats and food is a revelation. They’re expecting to see antennae or legs. Nope, it’s just an ordinary looking treat with an extraordinary superfood protein."

Looking toward the future: a dog eat bug world

Carlson said she started Jiminy’s to build a better future for her daughter and the younger generation. “By thinking differently about the protein source in our pet’s food, we’ve created a better dog food that delivers enormous benefit,” she said.

At Jiminy’s, she said, they have created a delicious, sustainable, insect-based dog food and treats that nourish pets and promote long-term stewardship of the earth. “We’ve made a commitment to being a positive force for change by making sustainable and humane choices while being mindful of the bigger picture,” she added.

Carlson believes the insect protein market will continue to expand because the sustainability numbers demand it.

"We have a world population of eight billion people that jumps to 10 billion by 2050," she explained. "We’re already tearing down rainforests for cattle grazing. That can only go on for so long. In a world where water is precious, the demand for products that maximize every drop will only rise. Millennials and Gen Z get it and that’s the future of the market."

Insect protein, Carlson said, is a perfect solution that's right here, right now.

"The good news is that experience with insect protein is building, so there’s a good knowledge base already," she said. "I think insect protein will be a staple in this new environment. Think of it -- you can save over 100,000 gallons of water by switching a dog from a chicken-based diet to an insect protein diet. Sign me up!"

Anne Carlson, founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, will speak at Petfood Forum on Tuesday, April 30, in Kansas City. Her session, Latest research: Insect protein for companion animals, will focus on the benefits beyond sustainability that insects can offer our pets. For more information, visit

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