UPDATE: FRI 6 DEC, 16:41 ET *adds comment from Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud*
Did you know that if America’s cats and dogs were a country, they’d be the fifth largest consumer of meat products globally? Now add the world’s pets into that; that’s a big contribution to the carbon footprint of the world’s meat industry.
Yes, much pet food does use byproducts and parts of the animal not eaten by humans, but increasingly, people are feeding their pets meat they would consider edible themselves, according to research from PLOS.
“As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices,” reads the PLOS report. “Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts.”
Earlier this week we delved into the increasing propensity for humans, particularly Millenials, to pamper their pets more than ever, which includes feeding them premium food; premium pet food startup Jinx announced funding from Will Smith, Alexis Ohanian’s VC and other high profile investors based on that premise exactly.
Now Bond Pet Foods is taking a different approach; meat-based pet food but made from cultivated meat — that’s meat grown without the animal. The Boulder-based startup has just raised $1.2 million in seed funding from Agronomics, a UK-based listed vehicle focused on the alternative protein space, KBW Ventures, the venture firm founded by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, Plug and Play Ventures, Andante Asset Management, and others.
For Prince Khaled, a vegan, Bond Pets solves two issues: sustainability but also, similar to Jinx, the desire to feed pets higher quality food.
“It has never been a high-quality food market – and that’s very unusual since most people see their pets as family members. It makes sense to consider why we’re feeding out pets the leftovers from the traditional meat sector, and that’s problematic for a number of reasons, health included,” he told AFN. “I definitely prioritize this as a sustainability issue; Bond will be producing high-quality protein from sustainable sources using only the natural resources required. Agriculturally speaking and from a water conservation standpoint; Bond’s products can be good solutions in that respect.”
There are different approaches to recreating meat including cellular agriculture, which involves either culturing the animal cells that constitute meat (e.g. fat cells and muscle cells), or using microbial cells as factories to synthesize proteins that are unique to animal tissues. Bond Pet Foods adopts the latter approach and genetically modifies yeast to express chicken proteins and adds that to pet food. It’s similar to how alternative dairy companies use yeast to express the components of dairy products, but without the need to then extract the proteins like whey and casein; incorporating the protein-containing yeast into the final food product is not a problem in pet food like it would be in cheese, for example.
Anthony Chow from Agronomics says he expects more companies to come out of stealth next year with a similar approach of using microbes to produce proteins, like Bond Pet Foods. This is Agronomics’ sixth investment in the cultivated animal product space, which Chow says consists of just 31 companies globally. KBW has also been active with an investment in Geltor and Memphis Meats. Prince Khaled said the firm had assessed others in the pet food space.
“We did assess the competition pretty closely; we did also consider investing in other companies. We found that for us the best fit was Bond for a number of reasons: one was how early stage the company is and how far they had advanced in terms of R&D and product development.”