Wild Earth wants pets to eat environmentally friendly vegan pet food

The company claims its cultured protein, koji, a staple of Asian foods, will be a game changer

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Wild Earth Inc. is using cultured proteins to develop clean, high-quality pet foods that are healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more humane than conventional products, according to the biotech startup company.

“Wild Earth will be the first to bring cultured protein and cultured meat products for dogs and cats to market, that are nutritious, humane, and without the devastating ecological impact of factory farming,” said Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Berkeley, Calif.-based Wild Earth. “Using biotechnology gives us the ability to scale and to get a product to market safely, quickly, and affordably.”

The company’s first cultured protein product is made from human-grade koji, the common name of the fungus Aspergillus oryzae, a microorganism found in Asian cuisine. According to Bethencourt, Wild Earth can create a range of proteins and carbohydrates, with varied textures and flavors, all with ingredients sourced, formulated, and made in the U.S.

Using cultured proteins aims to avoid the risks associated with traditional animal-based proteins, Bethencourt added, referring to recent recalls as well as the environmental impact of manufacturing of pet foods. An estimated 25 to 30 percent of meat’s environmental impact in the U.S. is attributed to pet food, but Wild Earth can produce at scale at a fraction of the environmental cost, he said. Gregory Okin, Ph.D., a geographer at University of California, Los Angeles, published a study last year that revealed dogs and cats eat an equivalent number of calories as 62 million Americans, or a fifth of the population. The study also found that feeding pets creates the equivalent of 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Vegan dogs and cats?

Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Berkeley, Calif.-based Wild Earth

Bethencourt recently was asked by National Geographic whether vegan diets were right for both dogs and cats.

“It’s something we don’t have data for right now, but as you’ve seen with vegan athletes, we think that a nonmeat diet will be beneficial to the animals as well, perhaps surprisingly so,” he said.

One veterinarian weighs in

“Wild Earth has found a novel way to deliver protein and will have a great nutritional profile, to meet the same requirements as meat-based pet foods,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, Wild Earth chief veterinary officer. “Pet lovers want healthy, humane, and environmentally friendly choices, and Wild Earth formulas will deliver nutrition without affecting the planet.”

Nontraditional trial method

Wild Earth products will be tested via a protocol approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, conducted by volunteers and animals living in homes; these clinical trials will test for palatability, preference, digestibility studies, and stool quality. In addition to AAFCO approvals, this type of trial is gaining favor in the scientific community because it delivers real-world results, according to a Wild Earth statement.

The company plans to release its first pet treat product by June, with a kibble-based food available later in 2018.

For more information, visit wildearthpets.com.

20 thoughts on “Wild Earth wants pets to eat environmentally friendly vegan pet food

  1. I have wondered if they would ever make a vegan type pet food. My dogs are allergic to almost everything. Can’t wait until it is available.

    Sincerely,
    Brenda

  2. This statement does not inspire confidence: “Bethencourt recently was asked by National Geographic whether vegan diets were right for both dogs and cats.

    “It’s something we don’t have data for right now, but as you’ve seen with vegan athletes, we think that a nonmeat diet will be beneficial to the animals as well, perhaps surprisingly so,” he said.

    Dogs and cats are not the same as humans. I do hope that there is a veterinary nutritionist involved in this product formulation.

    Also, will the AAFCO studies include testing to determine the nutritional adequacy of the food? The “clinical trials will test for palatability, preference, digestibility studies, and stool quality,” does not cover either short or long term nutritional adequacy.

    I do look forward to a suitable diet for dogs and cats that does not depend on industrial animal agriculture!

  3. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been around for over a decade for dogs, and veterinary dermatologists have used them for food trials in dogs they suspect of having allergies to the most common allergens, animal-based proteins. They are complete and balanced, and can be fed without supplementation. This is an important development, since the combined meat consumption of America’s dogs and cats would place fifth worldwide if they were considered a separate country. With respect to cats, even though they are physiologically carnivores, (unlike dogs, which are omnivores) cats can thrive on a complete and balanced vegan food, and may even benefit from lower rates of obesity and kidney disease if on a plant-based diet.

    1. There are certain essential fatty acids that cats need that they can only get from meat. This is why they are obligate carnivores, and it’swhy they should not be fed a vegan diet. Even if this diet promises to deliver those nutrients, I would still want to see some actual science to back it up before I would feed it to a cat. If people want a vegan pet, don’t get a cat; the animal shelters often have bunnies and Guinea pigs available for adoption.

      1. This Koji-based food is not for cats. The company is going to develop a cultured food for carnivorous animals. The first one being developed is “mouse meat” for cats. It is, of course, cultured meat and no mice are harmed.

  4. Why is a veterinarian site promoting VEGAN foods for CATS??? I would never ask my obligate carnivore pet to eat a vegetable-based diet. Their system requires amino acids that are found in a meat-based diet, their teeth are made to chew meat, their digest systems mimic their wild cousins. And the PREVALENT reason dogs and cats get allergies IS because of the carbohydrates in their food. And, by their own admission: “It’s something we don’t have data for right now, but as you’ve seen with vegan athletes, we think that a nonmeat diet will be beneficial to the animals as well, perhaps surprisingly so.” Dogs and Cats are NOT human, STOP putting a human’s ideology onto our pets. They CANNOT choose for themselves, it is up to US to feed them appropriately.And while I will agree that some dogs can be fed a vegetarian/vegan diet with some success (though I do not advocate it) CATS SHOULD NEVER BE!! Just stop already!

    1. Please provide your reference for your claim that carbs are the most common allergen in dogs and cats. Every source that I have seen cites animal proteins, specifically beef, dairy, and chicken. The same information has been presented at veterinary dermatology conferences. You are absolutely correct with respect to cats requiring specific amino acids (these are termed essential amino acids). However, you are incorrect in stating that the only source for these is meat. Once proteins have been digested into their amino acid components, the body, whether it is a dog, cat or human, is blind to the source of that protein. In other words, taurine from clams is indistinguishable from synthetically-produced taurine added as a supplement. Cats’ digestive systems are fully capable of digesting plant material; in fact, their natural prey items are mostly herbivores like rodents, rabbits, and squirrels. When they eat these animals, they are eating their stomach contents as well. Cats’ pancreases produce the digestive enzymes (amylase and lipase) necessary to fully digest carbohydrates. With respect to your argument that we should stop putting human ideology into our pets, citing the fact that cats and dogs can’t choose for themselves, we do this with nearly every other aspect of their lives, from walking our dogs on leashes and keeping our cats indoors vs. letting them run free, denying their desire to reproduce by spaying and neutering, and protecting their health by giving them vaccines. Feeding them a diet that may improve the environment that they live in is a natural extension of this philosophy. Finally, if you are truly concerned about the health of dogs and cats, you may want to research the levels of POPs (persistent organic pollutants) and heavy metals that are present in many meat-based dog and cat foods. If that doesn’t convince you, you may want to read a summary of the over 20 food recalls so far this year, ranging from the everyday E.coli to the less common euthanasia solution and excess beef thyroid hormone levels.

      1. “However, you are incorrect in stating that the only source for these is meat. Once proteins have been digested into their amino acid components, the body, whether it is a dog, cat or human, is blind to the source of that protein.”

        Please provide a study to back this claim up.

        1. This concept is used in the formulation of hypo-allergenic diets such as Z/D. If you look at the ingredients list of this food, it reads like most others…beef, chicken, etc. However, these proteins are put through a hydrolysis procedure that cuts them up into much smaller segments; so small that the immune system doesn’t recognize them as coming from beef, chicken, or whatever their original source might have been.

      2. Join the raw feeding group on FB. Groups owner is a canine nutritionist.
        Read Dr Jean Dodds info on feeding.
        Very few people anymore attribute true allergies to protein sources. Except possibly chicken. The thinking is that it might be the chickens majority feedsource; corn, that causes negative reaction in dogs.
        Most raw feeders use multiple mixed protein sources. Minimize carbs. Get rid of allergy/sensitivity symptoms.

        1. Just like Dr. ATKINS leading the all protein diet. I see what you mean. However, the U.S. has the highest cancer rates in the world. Hasn’t always been…but what is really ironic, the U.S. population of pet dogs has a higher cancer rate than all other countries combined. & cats and their human counterparts have similar top spot on world list for diabetes. Muself, living in cow countrt, where you van actually see tumors on cattle grazing before being shipped off. I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence. ..like grain and allergies…oh wait..ALL the major grains…oh. that’s right. Our great government grains that are GMO & altering actual DNA of the animals fed soley these crops. Geez…people. at least this company is taking a step in the right direction. #notanothertumorburger

        1. Just like Dr. ATKINS leading the all protein diet. I see what you mean. However, the U.S. has the highest cancer rates in the world. Hasn’t always been…but what is really ironic, the U.S. population of pet dogs has a higher cancer rate than all other countries combined. & cats and their human counterparts have similar top spot on world list for diabetes. Muself, living in cow countrt, where you van actually see tumors on cattle grazing before being shipped off. I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence. ..like grain and allergies…oh wait..ALL the major grains…oh. that’s right. Our great government grains that are GMO & altering actual DNA of the animals fed soley these crops. Geez…people. at least this company is taking a step in the right direction. #notanothertumorburger

  5. Cats are not vegan, by any stretch of the imagination. To require them to eat a vegetarian diet is unnatural, unhealthy, and inhumane. Keep your food preferences to yourself.

  6. If you have no data to provide to pet owners about the long term effects on feeding cats and dogs vegan food… how, as someone responsible for the health care of these animals, can you confidently make this statement?

    This is a bunch of nonsense. Actually, I probably just commented on clickbait..

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