In Defense of the Animal Cracker

The “animal cracker” is an often misunderstood delight, deserving of detail and defense in an era of mislabeling and generalizations.

According to Wikipedia’s definition of “animal cracker,” they are “crackers in the shapes of animals… They are like crackers due to the way they are made, with layered dough, however the use of sweetened dough gives them the cookie taste and consistency.”

Tellingly, the definition also notes: “There is debate about whether or not Animal Crackers are actually crackers or cookies.”

And this is where I come in. See, I have this very debate roughly every two weeks. Someone will invariably see one of my animal cracker “snackin’ buckets,” and say, “Man, I love animal crackers, too! I remember those boxes as a kid with the circus animals, and…” And that’s where I stop them.

Nabisco’s Barnum’s Animals (Crackers) are far from animal crackers. Sure, they have animals on them, share a similar form factor, and even share similar packaging labels. But, they are animal cookies. Always have been. They are soft, buttery, crumbly, shortbread cookies. Not crackers.

According to Merriam-Webster, a “cracker,” is

“a dry thin crispy baked bread product that may be leavened or unleavened.”

Merriam-Webster then goes on to define a “cookie” as

“a small flat or slightly raised cake.”

Can there truly be much debate? Could an animal cracker be mistaken for a cake? (Maybe so, for its frosted cousins, such as the Keebler Frosted Animal Crackers, but not for the standard animal cracker.)

What, then, is the standard for the animal cracker? Stauffer’s originated the animal cracker in the US back in 1871. And, true to their legacy, they still make a mean animal cracker. Stauffer’s Animal Crackers have a similar outline and package as their cookied, Nabisco brethren, but follow through on their cracker promise.

Semi-sweet, crisp, and airy, Stauffer’s always delivers. Further, they offer good value. For a period of time, Costco offered a giant, 5 lb. Stauffer’s Bear Jug. I’ve seen smaller bear jugs and bags at Target and Walgreens occasionally, but unfortunately the consistency of the cracker is not matched with consistency of shelf stocking. (I can rarely find Stauffer’s on my shopping escapades.)

As such, I often find myself picking up Trader Joe’s Organic Animal Crackers for $2.99 for a 1-pound tub. I can’t say I know what’s “organic” about an artificial animal cracker, but I can say Joe makes a mean cracker.

And that’s what I’m always looking for… a great animal cracker. The world has many cookies, and Nabisco is behind many of them. But, their “animal crackers” are not among these cookie greats, nor their cheap, low-rent, imitation knockoffs. (I’m looking at you, Keebler and Borden.) The thing is, I don’t need any more new cookie encounters. Mostly, I don’t need Nabisco and friends converting their remnant cookie cruft into “crackers;” if future generations only encounter these cookies-in-disguise, they’ll never know the joy of a delicious, dry, crispy, baked, semi-sweet, bread product in the shape of an animal.

Instead, they’ll only be digesting disappointment.



  1. seldo said,

    June 15, 2008 @ 1:20 am

    You… may be taking this matter a little seriously. Also, your link to Stauffer’s crackers goes to Keebler instead.

  2. nicole said,

    June 15, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

    Good, I got you “crackers” and not “cookies”. *shwew*

  3. That Kid from Omaha said,

    June 16, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    Good catch. I’ve updated accordingly.

    Re: level of seriousness, you are correct… I take Big Biscuit’s actions very seriously. Who knows what’s next? Triscuits might soon be labeled a “hearty wheat cake,” and next thing you know, BAM!, cakes as we know them disappear from the planet.

  4. ricky said,

    September 12, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

    wow seriously…calling them animal crackers
    and not animal cookies doesnt rly matter.
    the name of the “cookie” is animal “cracker”
    so its not rly that big a deal
    and if u think so, get a life.
    good day.

  5. That Kid from Omaha said,

    September 26, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

    Really great point there, Ricky, and very cogent. Also grt spllng; I can tell you're in a rush to get on to sharing your folksy wisdom on other blogs. Good day to you, as well.

  6. » » In Defense of the Animal Cracker « - Micah Laaker said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 1:24 am

    […] » In Defense of the Animal Cracker « – Micah Laaker. Written by marshal in: Uncategorized | […]

  7. William said,

    December 17, 2008 @ 8:55 am

    I was just ruminating on the phrase so often used by my departed grandmother, 'posing for animal crackers' and wound up here. Still don't know its originator or first use, but I got to read your funny post.

  8. isaiah said,

    June 30, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    who cares!!!!! just eat the dang things they taste, smell, look, and feel the exact same way wether theyre called animal crackers or cookies_all the problems in this world and yall are worrried about this!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Micah said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 6:17 am

    Hey, man. I appreciate you taking time out from saving all the other problems in the world to come over, take the time to read such a long article, and then add such meaningful commentary. Sounds like your priorities are in good order, too. Thanks! In the meantime, i hope you’ve had a chance to try out some Trader Joe’s animal crackers. They. Are. Delicious.

  10. sara said,

    July 27, 2011 @ 10:57 am

    I love trader joes animal crackers! perfectly dry and slightly sweet. also only 2g of fat for like 22 crackers! and you are right nabisco makes cookies.

  11. stopgooglingoverme said,

    July 8, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    I’m more alarmed by the depiction of inhuman animal treatment on the box! I think we need to get PETA on this one.

  12. not Sting said,

    July 11, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    As a Brit in New York recently I was delighted to find the Nabisco Barnum’s Animals on sale, including the key word ‘crackers’ on the box, and equally undelighted when I found they were sweet. But I still don’t know what it was Shirley Temple had in her soup, nor indeed why she had them in her soup (I do know what saltines are though).

  13. Gary said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 5:42 am

    This posting is funny. Your putting LIES across the front makes you seem like you are going after them – but then you defend them. It’s all linguistics, isn’t it? I mean, they used to be called “biscuits” I don’t think of them as crumbly cookies. So many adult crackers have just as much sweetness – but I do see your point in wondering how far we can get away from renaming things like cakes into other more healthful sounding products. Have you seen the ads for Nabisco Barnum Animals as now being made with Whole Grains? They had to redesign them to include a number of holes in the middles.

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