Crickets, Brew Grains & Sustainable Treats
Many dog owners are familiar with the basics of living an eco-friendly life: reduce, reuse, recycle. Those are simple guidelines to follow when making everyday decisions for yourself, for your household, and for your pets. There are many ways to reduce your impact on the environment, and we will share more of them in future Pure Earth Pets blog posts. Today we are going to focus on two of our favorite sustainable ingredients found in some of the pet treats that are Dover approved: crickets, and brewer’s grains.
Why Do Sustainable Ingredients Matter?
Before we dive into our favorite sustainable ingredients found in our eco-friendly dog treats, let’s talk about why it matters how an ingredient is created. Basically, not all farming methods are as eco-friendly as others. Some crops and types of livestock are harder on our natural resources than others. So, what makes one food ingredient more sustainable than another? According to Sustainweb, a sustainable food should contribute to the local economy, provide social benefits, and “Protect the diversity of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild species), and avoid damaging natural resources and contributing to climate change.” That’s what we are going to focus on in this post.
If you have studied history (or gone through the super cool eco-focused Living with the Lands attraction at Disney’s Epcot Center), you know that farmers and scientists have continued to make advances in farming practices. For example, harmful plowing and planting practices back in the 1930 created the dust bowl disaster that killed livestock and caused crops to fail. That was 90 years ago, but every decade, there are more and more advances in eco-friendly farming techniques. Choosing sustainable ingredients is one way that consumers can do their part, while the experts work on the production aspect of farming.
Cricket Dog Treats
Although most Americans do not relish the idea of eating crickets, insects are common food items in many other parts of the world. You’ve probably seen travel shows with brave foodies trying various insects around the world and cringed a little, but our dogs do not have any of the mental hangups about eating bugs like we do. Crickets started to appear on the ingredient labels of pet food and dog treats around 2016, and have been gaining in popularity ever since. It is easy to understand why, because of the health benefits for dogs and the sustainability of crickets as a protein source.
According to the World Pet Association, crickets are a novel protein that can help owners whose dogs are allergic to typical dog food ingredients like chicken, beef, fish, or lamb. Nutritionally, crickets are a great source of lean protein, and are high in nutrients like iron and Omega 3 fatty acids. They are also full of fiber and have all the different amino acids that dogs need for optimal health.
Raising crickets as a source of protein for pet foods and treats is much more sustainable than raising other forms of protein. It takes a fraction of the amount of water to raise crickets compared to livestock like beef or pork. Additionally, there is 80% less methane gas production on a cricket farm than on livestock farms. In fact, according to Jiminy’s, one of the brands of cricket treats that Pure Earth Pets proudly sells, one bag of cricket protein treats uses 67% less land than an equivalent amount of chickens, saves 220 gallons of water, and emits 740% less greenhouse gases than if the treats were made of beef! And that’s a single bag of treats. If your dog is like Dover, you know that you go through way more than a single bag of treats in a month...or even a week! Feeding your dog one bag of cricket treats instead of chicken saves 11,440 gallons of water a year. That’s a 15’ by 30’ food swimming pool!
Humans love beer. I never thought I’d write that sentence in a blog about dog treats. But have you ever thought about how beer is made? And did you know that the beer industry produces approximately 35 million tons of brewers grain a year? That’s the leftover grain after the beer making process...and a heck of a lot of it! Brewer’s grain is also referred to as “spent” grain because it has served its purpose in the beer making process. It is not too often that you can truly recycle a food item, but fortunately spent grain can be fed to livestock like cows, sheep, and goats.
In recent years, spent grain has been making its way into dog treats, sometimes by home brewers, but more often by companies like Calvin’s Craft Cookies, who “rescues” the grains used by local microbreweries to make dog treats. Talk about sustainability, these grains are literally being used a second time for a second food item! This is win-win for beer drinkers and dogs everywhere.
From a health perspective, spent grains are not really used up. This byproduct of beer making still contains fiber and protein, making it a great base for dog cookies. Fiber is important for digestion, and the process of eating a crunchy dog treat can even help fight tartar buildup on their teeth. Plus, dogs love them as a reward for training or just for being an overall fabulous dog.
A word of caution for home-brewers is to make sure that any spent grain being used for dog treats has not been in contact with hops, as hops are extremely toxic to dogs. Letting the experts make the spent grain dog treats sounds pretty perfect to us to avoid worrying about hops. Instead of baking and messing up our kitchens, we can grab a cold beer for ourselves, a can of Calvin’s Craft Cookies for your pup, and spend time doing nothing together except maybe listening to the crickets in your back yard.