The issue of sustainability in pet food is enormous and one that is not yet addressed anywhere close to as much as is imperative. The number of pet dogs across the planet has been estimated at 900 million, so let that sink in for a second, then understand that the pet food industry creates unfathomable sustainability issues and needs to be disrupted just as much as human food.
Rich Kellemen, founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods, is on a mission to address the problems caused by pet food. Here he offers his special insight into the future of the industry.
When it comes to pet health, meat is a beautiful thing.
Dogs, and definitively cats thrive on meat proteins as the cornerstone of their diets due to its complete amino acid profile and nutritional performance (high digestibility).
Yet, the same challenges that exist with meat production for human foods are also ever-present in pet food. In the U.S. alone, our 163 million dogs and cats consume nearly 30% of all meat products sold. The growing trend of fresh-meat inclusion in pet food recipes (vs. by-products and meals) amplifies this consumption, further contributing to issues around farm animal welfare, antibiotic use/resistance, food safety and sustainability.
Plant-based options aren’t the answer.
Plants can provide a more sustainable, responsible source of protein and other micronutrients for our pets. However, plant proteins are often deficient in essential amino acids like lysine and methionine, and nutritionists and formulators must take into account a multitude of antinutritional factors that are present in these ingredients (e.g. potato, soy, peas, other legumes). This is especially true when used as a primary protein source.
By definition, antinutritional factors (tannins, lectins, phytate, saponins) reduce nutrient utilization; as a result dogs and cats can have impaired gastrointestinal absorption resulting in toxicities or deficiencies.
Or, simply put, dogs and cats fed exclusively plant-based diets without strict oversight may be more susceptible to illness and disease over time.
The promise of a/cellular agriculture.
So how can we meet the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats while addressing the ills of meat production? Enter the promise of cellular and acellular agriculture. Growing and harvesting high-quality, animal-derived proteins through cell culture or fermentation can give our beloved pets the foundational nutrition they need, without the dirt.
Proteins that offer comparable (or better) bioavailability compared with conventional meat proteins yet are safer, kinder, and remarkably more sustainable.
Watch this space. Bond and a new crop of upstarts are leaning in on technology to transform pet nutrition.