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‘Pet’ Food Companies Look to the Future With Cell-Cultured Meat

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More than a quarter of the environmental effects of animal growing is due to the pet food industry. Cell-cultured food would provide is the first environmentally sustainable, ethical meat for people to feed their pets.

SHELBY VITTEK: There are a lot of pets that need feeding in the United States. Around 67 percent of households own at least one. Companion animals lead the pack, as 63.4 million households have dogs and 42.7 million own cats, with some overlap for those that have both.

While people continue to rescue and adopt cats and dogs, many farmed animals face a different fate as a result. Pets aren’t included as consumers in the calculations for overall US meat consumption, but animal-derived products make up a significant portion of their diet. If cats and dogs made up their own country, they would rank fifth in terms of meat consumption, according to a 2017 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One. That translates to the creation of roughly 64 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Unlike humans, who don’t need to eat animal products to meet their dietary needs, cats need meat to survive, so it cannot be entirely removed from their food. But in an effort to curb the pet food industry’s environmental impact, a small handful of startups are working to cut animal agriculture out of the equation by using cell-cultured meat…

“Companies like Impossible [Foods] and Beyond [Meat] laid the foundation for what a burger could look like and what nutrition could be,” says Rich Kelleman, CEO of Bond Pet Foods, a Boulder-based start-up using biotechnology to create cell-cultured meat for pets…

Those consumer preferences are trickling down to pets. According to the Pet Food Industry, pet treats marketed with sustainable claims saw about 70 percent sales growth from 2015 through 2019, compared to about 30 percent of growth for treats without sustainable claims.

“Pet food follows human food,” says Shannon Falconer, CEO of Because Animals. “Many people think of their pets as family members. [More people are following] a diet that’s sustainable and mindful and want to do the same for pets.”

Along with Joshua Errett, Falconer founded Because Animals five years ago with a goal to create a healthy and sustainable option for the world’s pets… Because Animals started by sourcing cells from mice for cat food, and rabbits for dog food, reflecting their diets in the wild. The cells are then grown in a nutrient-rich environment outside the animal… It has the same nutritional value and composition as animal-based meat, but without the need to raise or slaughter animals…

There’s currently no pet food made with cell-cultured meat available on shelves. Because Animals plans to release a limited batch of pet food made with cultured mouse meat in 2022. Bond Pet Foods, which just made its first batch of cell-cultured chicken protein last August, has its eyes set on 2023…

One thing is certain: To reduce its carbon footprint, pet food needs to evolve. “More than a quarter of the environmental effects of animal growing is due to the pet food industry,” says Falconer. “What this [cell-cultured] food would provide is the first environmentally sustainable, ethical meat for people to feed their pets”. SOURCE…

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