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Many pet owners believe that their dogs are naturally carnivores. But the truth is, dogs are omnivores and they can thrive on a plant-based diet. That’s the reason why British veterinarian Dr. Guy Sandelowsky decided to start Omni, an aptly named startup that has developed 100% vegan, nutritionally-complete dog food that is better for pets’ health, and the environment too.
Founded during the pandemic last year, Omni recently launched its line of 100% plant-based dog food. Unlike the majority of pet food available on the market, Omni’s range isn’t meat-based. The whole idea started when practicing small animal veterinarian Dr. Guy Sandelowsky realised the poor nutritional quality of most pet food brands.
Plant-powered dog food
“As a vet I saw first hand the effects of poor nutrition on the health of pets, and I wanted to do something about it,” shared Sandelowsky. “But as I investigated I realised that I knew so little about the science of nutrition for pets. When I learned about plant-based options for dogs, I was suspicious but the research all adds up.”
“Once I knew that dogs could thrive on a plant-based diet, I didn’t understand why more people weren’t aware that it was possible.”
Sandelowsky partnered with Shiv Sivakumar, who with his family has raised their dogs on a plant-based diet for generations, to start Omni. Based in Sri Lanka, Sivakumar’s family dogs lived to 14 and 16 years old, and never ate a single piece of meat.
The brand’s final product, formulated together with veterinary nutritionists, contains 30% protein—all derived from plants. That percentage is higher than most meat-based dog food, says Omni. Some of the ingredients featured in Omni’s dog food includes microalgae, oats, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, pumpkin, brown rice and even cranberries and blueberries for an extra kick of antioxidants.
Better for pets and the planet
Sandelowsky says that Omni isn’t just about offering pet owners a healthier option for their dogs. It’s also about disrupting pet food, which at the helm of the meat industry, is driving huge amounts of GHG emissions and unsustainable land and water use.
Currently, commercial pet food is estimated to drive as much as a quarter of the environmental impact of the factory farming industry.
“There are so many problems with livestock farming and its effect on the environment and on the quality of meat that ends up in our pet’s food bowls, so I launched Omni to get the message of healthy, science-backed and future-proofed proteins for pets into as many homes across the UK as possible,” explained Sandelowsky.
Compared to traditional animal-based pet food, Omni says its vegan formulation requires 61% less water, 92% less land and emits 85% GHG emissions.
“If we can get dog owners to cut down their dog’s meat intake and replace it with a nutritious plant alternative, that would be an amazing step towards a kinder, more sustainable future,” the founder added.
Pet food alt-protein innovation
Given the significant environmental toll of commercial meat-based pet food, more startups are now innovating sustainable alternatives. Other plant-based brands on the market include Berkeley, California-based Wild Earth, which is available in the US and India, and San Francisco’s V-planet, which has made inroads across multiple Asia-Pacific markets.
But companies aren’t just making pet food alternatives from plant-based ingredients. Some are tapping cellular agriculture, creating alternatives that contain real, slaughter-free animal meat that has been directly cultivated from cells. Because, Animals, for instance, just debuted the world’s first cultivated pet food, a snack for cats containing cell-based mouse meat.
Bond Pet Foods is also working on cultured meat for pets and is currently in the process of developing a chicken meat protein for cats and dogs.
Ultimately, Omni says that driven by its “mission to reduce our reliance on farmed livestock”, it isn’t ruling other technologies out. Having launched plant-powered dog food on the market, the startup has revealed that it is now “exploring research into fungal protein and cultivated meat products” as well.
All images courtesy of Omni (unless otherwise credited).