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Pet Food Has a Big Carbon Footprint. Insects Can Fix That

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Americans have a lot of pets—and those pets eat a lot of meat, with massive implications for the climate.

To shrink the carbon footprint of our furry companions, brands like Jiminy’s and Lovebug want to swap animal protein for insects.

“Our dogs eat the same thing every day. Swap it with a sustainable alternative, and you basically get all of their eating occasions,” Jiminy’s CEO Anne Carlson told Adweek. “You can have massive impact with each and every dog that you convert.”

Between 1988 and 2022, the percentage of U.S. households with a pet jumped from 58% to 70%, per the American Pet Products Association. A nation comprised only of American pets would rank fifth globally when it comes to meat consumption, according to a UCLA study from 2017. It also found that pet food accounts for up to 30% of the U.S.’s total meat-related environmental impact.

Reducing climate impact was the impetus behind the creation of both Jiminy’s, the dog food brand that Carlson founded in 2016, and Mars-owned Lovebug, the insect-based cat food founded by Futerra’s Solitaire Townsend in 2021.

Jiminy’s treats generate 7.4 times less greenhouse gas emissions when compared to beef and 2.3 times less emissions than chicken, according to estimates from environmental consultancy Carbon Credit Capital. But the sustainability message isn’t what wins most pet parents over.

A majority of pet owners (70%) say they want their pet food purchases to be sustainable, according to a new Adweek-Morning Consult survey. But those same shoppers are increasingly viewing their pets as family members that require “human-grade” pet food rather than traditional kibble. An even higher percentage of pet owners (79%) want to feed their dogs and cats food made of fresh ingredients.

The road to pet parents’ hearts

When Lovebug launched in 2021 after 10 years of experimentation and research, Futerra tested numerous brand messages related to sustainability. But given the firm’s expertise in sustainability-related marketing, Townsend didn’t expect the climate benefit alone to sway shoppers. It had to highlight its “functional, emotional, social benefits; not just sustainability benefits,” she said.

Still, there were clear lessons from the early days of Lovebug. One of the most successful ads featured cartoon bugs crawling around the screen, instructing viewers to show it to their cats, who would then swat at the bugs. The ad doubled as a game for cats.

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