When you think about reducing or eliminating your household’s meat consumption, you might only be thinking about it in terms of what the humans in your home eat. But when you’re listening to the clatter of kibble cascading into your dog’s bowl every day, you might have forgotten that there’s meat in that, too. Because climate change and the carbon footprint of pet food production are intertwined, one company is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing meat in pet food with a different and unexpected ingredient: yeast.
Can pet food go meatless?
Pet food startup Bond Pet Foods believes this is an achievable goal, reports Scripps News. The team has reportedly found a cruelty-free way to combine the DNA of a chicken with baker’s yeast to create an amino profile identical to the one that dogs and cats require in their diets. (The chicken’s name is Inga, by the way, and she’s still alive.)
“It is essentially brewing meat, and there’s a craft to that,” founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods, Rich Kelleman, told Scripps. “I think us celebrating that and articulating that will be attractive to a certain type of person.”
While the choice of yeast might seem a little curious, the National Library of Medicine published a paper saying that yeast is in fact a viable source of protein. As an example, it states that 49% of the volume of beer brewing yeast is protein, which could be used as an affordable dietary supplement for people across the world.
So it’s not super far-fetched to apply the same logic to pet food. Nutritional yeast has all kinds of culinary applications, and not only is it filled with nutrients, it can in fact be delicious. If it’s true for humans, it might be even truer for dogs.
How is yeast protein pet food made?
According to Bond Pet Food’s website, chicken DNA is incorporated with baker’s yeast. As it’s being “brewed,” vitamins and minerals are added to the yeast, along with sugar to feed it. The process is quick: just 48 hours later, the yeast is ready to dry out and is baked in ovens at 250 degrees Fahrenheit until dry. After that, it’s ground into a powder and ready to go into food.
Kelleman told Pet Age in a separate interview that the first task will be to get owners to adopt the change to meatless pet food. After all, they’re the decision makers when it comes to what their pets eat.
“Job one is to demystify the process, make it relatable and operate under full transparency to provide comfort and build trust, along with showcasing the real nutritional, social and environmental benefits of our approach,” Kelleman said.
Nutrition is a complicated matter, and like with vegan meat substitutes, there’s not necessarily an easy swap. And as we’ve seen with plant-based meat substitutes in recent years, these alternatives aren’t necessarily “better” for you than meat products. Convincing pet owners to switch from what already works won’t be easy—the task of changing consumer habits rarely is.
But the population size of our furry friends is something to consider. A 2017 paper published by journal PLOS ONE suggests that when the number of U.S. cats and dogs are combined, the meat consumption by those pets would equal about one-fifth of the meat consumed by the nation’s human population. That’s a lot of farm animals.
While I’m not sure we’ll be able to feed our pets things like fungus-based vegan fish substitutes just yet, it’ll be exciting to see some new products make their way onto store shelves someday. If not entirely free of meat, maybe products with a whole lot less of it.