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While people around the world are getting excited about trying cultivated meats for the first time in the near future, this startup is thinking about offering this experience to your pets. Based in Philadelphia, Because Animals is a biotech working on developing animal-free pet food using cell-based technology, and have already managed to produce the world’s first fetal bovine serum-free (FBS) cultured meat for cats from mouse tissue.
If you’re among the lucky few who have participated in cooking demonstrations and taste tests launched by cultivated food techs over the past years, or more recently have had the chance to order Eat Just’s cultured chicken bites in Singapore, then you’ve already had the experience of eating cruelty-free, sustainable yet real meat made directly from the cells of animals.
But what about your pets? While us humans are finding sustainable solutions to produce enough protein for our needs, this biotech wants to use cellular agriculture technology to bring a safer, more nutritious and environmentally-friendly alternative to current commercial pet food made from factory farmed meat.
Founded by Dr. Shannon Falconer and Joshua Errett in 2016, Because Animals is using the same cell-based technology that we currently use to make everything from cultivated burgers to seafood, to make 100% animal-free pet food. By 2018, the company launched its first product, a cell-based probiotic supplement for cats and dogs to support digestion and immunity.
Then in 2019, armed with its first seed funding from venture capitals like KEEN Growth Capital, Draper Associates and SOSV, Because Animals launched “noochies” for dogs, a certified-organic cookie made with cultivated nutritional yeast that provides B vitamins and proteins. Both products are currently sold via its e-commerce website.
But where Because Animals plan on taking it to the next level is creating an entire line of cultured meat pet food products, which it is hoping to release this year.
They’ve already developed their first prototype, which they claim is the world’s first cultured meat pet food made from cell-based mouse tissue, the ancestral diet of the cat, and notably required no antibiotics, growth hormones or the controversial fetal bovine serum (FBS) to produce – something that many startups still rely on to develop cultivated proteins.
By developing a proprietary media that provides the nutrients and growth factors needed for tissue to grow, Because Animals can ditch FBS, which is not considered cruelty-free because it involves extracting blood from pregnant cows at slaughter.
Not only does this mean that your pets don’t have to munch on something that contributes harm to other animals, but also that their food is far safer, healthier and doesn’t destroy the planet either.
While human food products undergo stringent tests and regulations, many pet food products slip through the cracks in terms of safety checks, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) having to issue recalls on products due to reasons like pentobarbital contamination, an agent used to euthanise animals for their meat.
Current commercial pet food is also estimated to account for as much as a quarter of the environmental impacts of factory farms.
Because Animals isn’t the only startup developing pet food alternatives, though it remains a nascent category within the alternative protein space. Colorado-based Bond Pet Foods, for instance, is also focused on using cultivated meat technology to create animal-free proteins for pets, and has developed animal-free cultured chicken meat protein for cats and dogs.
V-planet, on the other hand, offer dog owners a range of 100% plant-based kibble products made from vegan non-GMO ingredients such as peas, ground oats, brown rice and potato protein, all of which are corn-free, soy-free, wheat-free and nutritionally complete for dogs. Since the San Francisco-born company launched in 2005, it has grown presence to more than 10 countries and has most recently entered the Japanese market.
Lead image courtesy of Because Animals.