No mice were harmed in the process of making Because, Animals’ new cookie product for cats. Instead, the startup uses cellular agriculture to cultivate real mice meat directly from cells, without the need for slaughter. The cultured mouse meat is blended with plant-based ingredients such as tempeh, miso, and nutritional yeast.
According to the startup, the feline-approved formula went through multiple taste tests with “finicky cats” who enjoyed the novel treat containing real animal protein from their ancestral diets.
Commenting on the debut, the company’s co-founder and CEO Dr. Shannon Falconer said: “The public launch of Harmless Hunt is a milestone for us, for the cultured and alt-protein industry, for pet food, and for animals raised and slaughtered to feed cats and dogs.”
Because, Animals says that the new product is expected to land on the market in early 2022, pending regulatory approval. It is now taking pre-orders and will be selling a limited batch before the end of this year—racing ahead before cell-based meat for human consumption becomes available to U.S. diners. So far, only Eat Just’s cell-cultured chicken bites have been given the go-ahead to be sold in Singapore.
FBS-free cultured meat for pets
Falconer started Because, Animals with co-founder Joshua Errett back in 2016. One of the company’s biggest achievements to date is removing fetal bovine serum (FBS) from the process of developing cell-based meat. FBS is widely used in the industry, but it is not cruelty-free as it is extracted from bovine fetuses from pregnant cows during slaughter, and it is hugely expensive.
By eliminating FBS with its own proprietary media, Because, Animals was able to produce 100% animal-free, slaughter-free cultured mouse tissue. The firm’s initial prototype first debuted in 2019. It has also produced a cultured probiotic supplement for cats and dogs to support digestion and immunity.
Beyond ensuring that their products are cruelty-free, the company says that cultured meat pet food also presents a far more sustainable and healthier option for dogs and cats.
Currently, commercial pet food is estimated to drive as much as a quarter of the environmental impact of the factory farming industry, and many existing pet food products have battled with food safety issues, such as pentobarbital contamination. Because, Animals’ choice to use mouse cells also means avoiding the most common allergens—beef and poultry—in cats.
“We are finally able to provide pets with a healthier, safer, greener choice at a price that will be on par with other premium retail products,” said Dr. Falconer.
Though still a tiny category within alt-protein, there are other startups also working on developing cultured meat for pets, including Bond Pet Foods. The Colorado-based company is using cell-ag to create cultured chicken meat protein for cats and dogs.
All images courtesy of Because, Animals / lead image designed by Green Queen Media.