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'Turning Bugs Mainstream' - meet the company making sustainable pet food

Words by Abi Scaife

If you have a pet, you won’t be surprised to learn that dogs and cats consume 20% of the world’s fish and meat (yes, really). But did you know that meat farming can be incredibly harmful to the environment, thanks to how much water it uses up, and how much methane is produced?

It sounds pretty dire - but never fear, an alternative is here! It might make you squirm at first - but bear with us, we promise it’s worth it.

Grub Club are a pet food company fully dedicated to an incredible sustainable alternative - bugs. Un-bee-lievable, right?

We were able to catch up with Alessandro Di Trapani, one of the co-founders of Grub Club, and the initial bug-baker for the business.

“We looked at going down the plant-based route, which is kind of typical in the human food,” explains Ale. “But [we] realized that the veterinary support and nutritional side of things wasn't quite there - especially for cats who are obligate carnivores; [they] need to eat a meat-based diet.”

Why are bugs so good?

Thus, the idea of bugs was born - and the testers were buzzed to sample all the food. Not only are bugs a powerhouse of protein and nutrition, but they also have a secret weapon.

“It's a novel protein, which means [pets] with intolerances or allergies to traditional protein sources don’t have [an] allergic responses,” explains Ale. “It's really good for gut health, highly digestible, a source of nutrition and rich in Omega Three which is great to support things like joint health, especially for older dogs.”

Not only that but harvesting insects for protein is leagues better for the environment than fish or meat - in part because you get so much bang for your (metaphorical) buck. Plus, you can feed them leftover fruits and veg and even spent grain from brewing beer. Bargain!

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“We knew that it was probably the biggest leap of faith when it comes to getting customers to get behind the idea of feeding their dog grubs,” says Ale. “The concept of using insects as food is still something we in the Western world are getting used to when it comes to nutrition.”

As a disclaimer - none of the Grub Club food or treats actually look like bugs. Their dry food appears just like ordinary, meat-based kibble - but is so much better for the environment. 

The bug in question is the Black Soldier Fly larvae - and you might feel icky about bugs when they come through your window and get stuck in your house, but there’s no denying this little creature has a whole lot of power behind it.

Not only can you grow one ton of the insects in 14 days on 20 square metres of land - it takes less than 30 litres of water to do so. That’s somewhere around six toilet flushes.

“It's bonkers how you can grow so much in such a short space of time with such a limited amount of resources,” admits Ale. “That one ton of insects will upcycle around four and a half tons of organic matter. They're really good at creating these circular zero-waste food systems.”

Since their beginnings in September 2020, Grub Club have come a long way - even winning Sky’s Zero Footprint Fund in 2023. 

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What's up next?

“We're in a fortunate position where we're doing something we're passionate about, but it also has an incredible potential to make a positive impact,” says Ale. “Taking bugs mainstream is part of the agenda.”

Dedicated readers of Smiley News may remember that we featured Ale and Grub Club in a previous article when we spoke to Rayan and Paul of Growth Studio. Ale and Grub Club took part in one of Growth Studio’s accelerator courses, where start-ups with the planet at their core are given support.

“It's so easy to get bogged down in making sure you're pulling every single lever as hard and as quickly as possible,” admits Ale. “What was really good about that experience was that it forced us to zoom out a little bit and understand what was important.”

Smiley News is all about positive change - and we have been privileged to interview businesses, like Grub Club, who also have the good of our world at their core. In our modern world, it really is important to spend your money on what you care about, wherever possible.

“I think the only way we can drive change is [by] changing the way people spend their money,” says Ale. “It's so crucial for the community of impact-driven brands to get it right. The more people we can get to shift their consumption towards sustainable dog food or eco-friendly cleaning products or nappies or whatever it may be … that's where real, scalable change can happen.”

To learn more about Grub Club and their sustainable practices, you can visit their website. 

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article. 

The Climate Coalition. This is the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change. Find out more and support them here.

Climate Reframe.  Climate Reframe is committed to supporting the climate and environment movement in its transformation towards greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). Find out more.

Every Can Counts. This is a not-for-profit recycling programme, encouraging people to recycle more often, to protect our planet. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Responsible Consumption and Production and Climate Action.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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