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This Clarendon-based dog food brand is ‘reducing the carbon pawprint’

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Very good boys (and girls) can now eat food that’s good for the planet, from a Clarendon-based company called Chippin.

It all started when founder Haley Russell gave her goldendoodle a cricket to eat, and her dog enjoyed it.

“That initiated the journey of looking at how might we be able to give all-natural alternative protein sources to nourish four-legged family members and meet this totally unaddressed need, which is for pet parents to be able to give them great nutrition while aligning purchases the way they buy other things” — that is, with a focus on environmental impact, she tells ARLnow.

The company sells dog treats and dog food made from crickets, an invasive species of fish and a CO2-sucking algae called spirulina. Russell says Chippin enjoyed a successful 2021: it launched new products and hit the shelves of big-box pet supply store Petco, which aims to have sustainable food companies comprise half of the food brands it offers by 2025.

And this year, she’s focused on increasing distribution and finding new retail and wholesale partnerships. While Russell couldn’t divulge any more details, she said Chippin is looking to respond to the tremendous demand for cat food products later in 2022.

U.S. pets are the fifth-largest global meat consumers, according to Russell, so how pet owners choose to feed their companion animals has a significant impact on the environment. Production of traditional protein sources such as chicken, beef and pork releases methane and CO2 emissions, leads to water overconsumption and degrades water and air quality, among other consequences, she noted.

Haley Russell, founder of Chippin (courtesy photo)

But when Russell began looking for alternatives, she says she found “nothing on the market that was delivering on what I wanted: a high-quality, eco-friendly, tasty product.”

Her dog’s eager consumption of a cricket was not the only source of inspiration for Chippin. Russell, a graduate of Northwestern University, says she studied economics and global health and has always been interested in how food could be “an agent for change for health and the environment.”

Her years in the Great Lakes region prompted her to see if silver carp — an invasive species threatening the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing economy — could become another source of food for dogs. Her hunch was right.

“We created the first-of-its-kind dog food that solves for providing high-quality nutrition with a protein for dogs with allergies to beef and chicken and helps restore biodiversity in the Great Lakes while fishing for a fish we need to fish for,” she said.

Every product is vetted by veterinarians and researchers at the University of Illinois, who ensure these “planet-friendly proteins” are healthy and biologically appropriate for dogs, she said. They’re also more digestible than chicken.

The Maryland native says Clarendon, where she also lives, is the paw-fect fit for Chippin, which is “seeking to be agents for change in taking climate action in an industry that has totally been under-addressed.”

“It’s dog-friendly neighborhood and my team really enjoys engaging with the vibrant community of pet parents here,” she said.

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