Now on Kickstarter: EntoBento wants to feed your dog tasty crickets
You might not be able to stomach ground crickets as a snack, even if they are good for your health and the planet. But Fido? What does he know?
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Recently, I was sent a sample of a snack made from cricket flour. The snack bar, from a company called Exo, sat on my pantry shelf for about six weeks. Every few days I'd contemplate eating it, but I never could, because, well, bugs. Then one day, I fed it to my dogs, and they didn't mind the insect-based treat one bit. That's why a new Kickstarter campaign to make dog treats with cricket flour makes sense.
The company behind the treats, EntoBento, says it was inspired to turn to crickets as a key ingredient because they're both healthy and better for the environment than dog treats made from traditional meat sources.
According to a 2013 report from the United Nations (PDF), insects already form part of the diet of about 2 billion people and can provide seriously good nutrition using fewer resources and causing less pollution than raising chickens, cows and pigs for meat. For one, insects don't produce anywhere near the methane that comes from traditional meat sources. Also, there's the water.
According to EntoBento, it takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef from cows and only one gallon to produce a pound of edible crickets. That's a statistic backed up by Big Cricket Farms, and it's a highly relevant one in drought-prone areas like San Diego, where EntoBento is based.
Still, if you don't come from a culture where snacking on crickets is a regular thing, it can be creepy to eat a bug -- even if it's ground into flour. But your four-legged friend won't mind.
In fact, you've probably caught your dog gobbling down a creepy crawler here and there, which, according to a veterinarian interviewed in the EntoBento video, is actually part of the canine ancestral diet. So feeding Fido cricket-based treats is a way to harness at least some of the resource-saving benefits of bugs without having to eat them yourself -- although EntoBento says you could east its treats, as they're made from human-grade ingredients including peanut butter, sweet potatoes, eggs, coconut oil and honey.
While the treats might save water, they're not going to save you any cash. It'll cost you $21 to get two 4-ounce bags of the treats, plus shipping. And you'll have to be patient. The treats aren't supposed to ship until April 2016, and crowdfunding campaigns are notorious for delays. If that's too long to wait, another company called Chloe's Treats is already making dog treats with cricket flour for roughly the same price. There's also a simultaneous campaign running on Kickstarter for dog treats called BugBites, which -- you guessed it -- also use cricket flour. That campaign's targeting this December for a shipping date.
So if you have the extra cash and want to get your pets on the planet-saving bandwagon, the bug munchies might be worth a try. Just be sure your dog doesn't have a shellfish allergy. Crickets are related, and the powdered version in the treats could affect your pet adversely.