The start-up Bond Pet Foods produces a light brown powder with a nutty flavor, with touches of Parmesan, which is perhaps the magic formula to feed dogs and cats with animal proteins, without killing calves, cows, pigs, calves.
Rich Kelleman, co-founder of this Boulder, Colorado-based company, clicked after reading a study from California, according to which American pets consume as many calories of animal origin as the entire French population.
This former communicator became vegan a few years ago, when he was in charge of Burger King’s advertising strategy, disgusted with the living (and dying) conditions of animals destined for slaughter. But also to protect the environment.
Because industrial agriculture is responsible for 14% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.
But how do you escape this industry to feed dogs and cats? They can’t necessarily live on tofu and broccoli, or even vegetarian meat alternatives.
“I came to the conclusion that if a company can find the right formula, its commercialization will be much easier than if it were food for humans,” the businessman told AFP.
Animals “do not need it to sizzle, to be appetizing like meat … They only need animal protein incorporated into food.”
– The price of the croquettes –
Tony Day, CTO of Bond Pet Foods, on July 1 in Boulder, Colorado (AFP – Patrick T. FALLON)
His startup drew blood from a high-end chicken, supposedly flowing happy days on a Kansas farm. Biologists extracted DNA from it to insert it into a microbe. This is fermented to produce animal protein.
The process is similar to that of producing the protein that is used in many cheeses. “It sounds strange, but it’s a mastered technique. We’re just applying it to a new kind of product,” says Rich Kelleman.
His dog Rumples seems to enjoy it. But your business still has many hurdles to overcome before it can expect widespread adoption.
Price first. Even the most environmentally friendly “dog mothers” keep an eye on the price of kibbles.
“Since we’ve used fermentation tanks, our production costs have plummeted from $ 100 to $ 5 per kilogram of protein. And within six months, we expect to be well below that,” said Tony Day, CTO of the start-up. March.
Obtaining authorization from the health authorities will take even longer: at least two years of various tests and evaluations to verify the quality of the proteins and their impact on the health and shape of the quadrupeds.
Therefore, Bond plans to bring finished products to market, through large animal feed companies, by the second half of 2023.
– Wolves and lions –
Rich Kelleman, co-founder of Bond Pet Foods, petting his dog Rumples, July 1, 2021 in Boulder, Colorado (AFP – Patrick T. FALLON)
Then there will remain the crucial question of convincing humans, who are very concerned about the welfare of their puppies.
In a nearby park, dog owners are interested but cautious. “I like the idea of being able to feed my dogs real animal protein without harming the planet,” says Rochelle Loughry, observing her two Australian Shepherds.
“In theory it looks good, but we should know if, in the long run, the benefits are the same as with real meat,” tempera Jason Ackermann.
The issue crystallizes more tensions than you might think.
Greg Okin has received harsh criticism from both conservatives and animal rights activists for his study of the environmental impact of dogs and cats that inspired Rich Kelleman.
“It seemed like he was telling people to kill their animals or not feed them!” Recalls the University of California professor at UCLA.
A dog park in Lafayette, Colorado, July 1, 2021 (AFP – Patrick T. FALLON)
Part of the problem, according to him, also comes from the marketing on the subject “your dog is a wolf, your cat is a lion”, in the ads that promote more expensive products, rich in meat.
The professor also heard the argument that animal feed comes from poultry or beef by-products that humans do not consume: turning them into kibbles therefore avoids waste.
“These by-products still require land, water and energy,” says Rich Kelleman. “And you still kill one animal to feed another.”