Paws for thought: Pet food goes vegan and beyond
New pet food brands want to reduce the environmental impact of what’s being served up to our dogs and cats
It’s been just a few months since we asked: “Does my dog need chef-prepared food?”
And while our piece at the time touched on how the gap was closing between our own and our pet’s diets, the past few months has seen a flurry of news emerge about another trend emerging in the space – with brands offering pet foods that they say have a reduced impact on the planet.
In January, a new brand called The Pack started teasing its vegan wet food for dogs, which is made from plant proteins, pulses and other superfoods. Its products are set to launch in the first quarter of this year, and a number of UK footballers have already provided financial backing to the brand.
Meanwhile, Aardvark, which is making an insect-based pet food, is also due to launch in the first half of this year. It has raised over £300,000 via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. It follows in the footsteps of Tomojo, a French brand that makes insect-based foods for dogs and cats. Insect farming is considered more planet-friendly than rearing animals, as it emits fewer greenhouse gases and uses less land and water.
Other companies are experimenting with ‘cultured’ meats, where cells are harvested from animal sources before being fermented and ‘grown’ into chunks of meat. In August 2020, Bond Pet Foods, based in Chicago, announced that it had created what it says is the world’s first cultured chicken protein for use in pet foods. According to The Spoon, it was made using a “one-time blood sample – in this case, from a heritage hen named Inga who is alive and well at a farm in Lindsborg, Kansas – to determine the genetic code for the best types of chicken proteins to nourish dogs and cats.”
Because Animals has created prototypes for a cat treat that is made from cultured mouse meat, and it is also working on a cultured rabbit meat for dogs. It’s hoped the cat treats could become available in limited batches at the end of 2021, pending regulatory approval.
“As much as we are a pet nutrition company, it’s not about pet food – our mission is to take animals out of the supply chain,” Shannon Falconer, Because Animal's co-founder says, adding that pets account for as much as 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption.
On the issue of whether or not it is healthy to feed an animal alternative proteins or even a vegan diet, “all cats and dogs, just like humans, require specific nutrients rather than ingredients to survive and thrive,” Shannon says. “The reality though is that, in nature, a single source food like that does not exist.”
Elsewhere in the pet food space, A Pup Above was recently awarded $10,000 from pet food giant Nestle Purina for its sous-vide meals for dogs, while brands including The Anxious Pet, Goodboy and Front of the Pack all sell supplements that can be given to dogs as part of their diets.
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