Wild Earth cofounder and CEO Ryan Bethencourt doesn’t think humans should be the only species with access to plant-cultured food. During his years at startup accelerator IndieBio, he played a role in nurturing alternative, animal-free “meat” companies like Memphis Meats and Finless Foods. Now, he’s creating faux-meat food for dogs, a species known to gleefully eat its own poop.
“I think we can do a lot better than the current industrial animal agriculture system,” Bethencourt tells Forbes as part of a profile of Wild Earth. “I’m unapologetic in saying that I want to end the use of animals in our food system but I think the only rational way to do that is to give everyone a better option.”
Everyone—including our pets. Wild Earth creates a plant-culture based dog food without antibiotics, carcinogens, or animal meat. (Author’s note: As I type this, my black Labrador is chewing a used tissue she recovered from the trash.) There are already vegan pet foods on the market, but Wild Earth’s differs in that it uses human consumption-grade koji protein, which is biologically related to mushrooms and packs the same amount of protein—or more—than animal-derived proteins. Bethencourt tells Forbes the food will be priced comparably to other pet food at $20-$30 per 20-pound bag, and will include dry and wet food for both dogs and cats.
It’s understandable to want to feed your pet quality food, sure. My dog eats a high-protein “active dog” food that gets delivered monthly from Chewy.com and costs as much as a decent human dinner out. But I’m not kidding myself; despite the fancy food, my 7-year-old Lab has consumed the following:
- my Chapstick
- a pound of all-purpose flour
- three unscented pillar candles
- a padded manila envelope
- bird poop
- a wine cork
- two sticks of incense
I have no doubt she’d eat this plant-culture, non-animal-protein food without a thought, just like she’d eat an entire shredded tennis ball covered in mud.