Cultivated meat comes to the pet food sector1 Oct 2021
Cell-based protein technology has now migrated from human food to pet food. Brands such as Wild Earth, Because, Animals and Bond Pet Foods have all committed to eliminating animals from the supply chain that feeds pets.
As consumers become more aware of the impacts that their animal protein consumption has on the environment, they are increasingly seeking alternative sources. One category in which a switch to less animal-derived protein will make a difference is in the pet food sector. In the U.S., 25% to 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption comes from dogs and cats, according to a 2017 UCLA study cited by Livekindly.
While the idea of cultured meat might appear to be the underdog option when one looks to alternative options to nourish their pet, the concept has begun to gain serious traction and investment.
Recently, California-based pet food brand Wild Earth announced it secured $23 million in funding from Veginvest, At One Ventures, and Big Idea Ventures, actor and animal rights activist Paul Wesley and Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban. Mark Cuban previously invested $550,000 in the company for a 10% stake in March 2019. While Wild Earth has yet to debut its concepts for retail, the company expects to launch its cell-based beef, chicken, and seafood pet foods next year.
Some companies have already progressed beyond ideation. Because, Animals is taking pre-orders for its cultured mouse meat treats for cats on its website. Bond Pet Foods said it plans to launch its first animal protein product by 2023. The company is working on creating a cultured meat derived from a heritage hen named Inga.
While this shift to focusing on the pet food sector as a springboard for culture meat may appear to be an unusual shift, it is actually strategic. Unlike foods suited for human consumption, securing acceptance for cell-based meat has a lower bar for pet food. “It greatly simplifies the product design to not have to please humans,” according to Rubio, who met Kelleman at New Harvest’s 2017 conference.
Safety and health regulations are still of concern when it comes to developing pet food, but rather than focusing on the look and feel of the products, nutrition is the top priority. In foods created for people, manufacturers need to consider taste, texture and protein response to various cooking methods. However, with fewer variables to account for in pet food, researchers can focus on creating cell-based meat at scale that delivers impactful nutrition benefits.
Beyond nutrition, cell-based pet food also allows researchers and scientists to work with more information, according to the non-profit research institute New Harvest. Mice are better understood by scientists than chicken or beef because they have long been used in a laboratory setting. That history is part of the driving reason behind Because, Animals selecting this protein source for its cat treats.
While there is still significant R&D required to translate these cultured meat concepts into reality, if manufacturers are successful with pets, it may not be long before this technology begins to gain steam and become more mainstream for people.
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