A biotech dog food start-up is growing protein from chicken cells to make dog treats.
The process means that no animals are slaughtered for production of the treats, as the cells used to develop the food are taken via blood donation from a live chicken.
The US company Bond says its animal-free chicken protein will help to tackle environmental and welfare concerns and is an alternative to vegan products that can lead to ‘nutritional challenges’ for dogs.
Company CEO Rich Keeleman told Fast Company: “Because the public increasingly is looking for high-quality meat for their pet food products and for their pets’ consumption, we felt like there could be a better way to recapitulate these proteins and not try to totally source them on farm and field.”
Rather than fully recreating meat by growing tissues and muscles from animal cells, Bond is focused on just the protein. Other companies trying to use similar technologies for human food are trying to recreate the meat-eating experience, but Bond says this is not necessary for canine consumption.
Rich said: “Dogs don’t have the same requirements as humans: as long as the food tastes good, they’re happy to eat it.”
While other ‘cell-based’ meat companies culture cells in bioreactors, Bond uses microbial fermentation to produce chicken protein. The company’s scientists took a blood sample from a – still living – chicken on a farm, isolated the DNA, and then used that genetic code to program microbes to produce the same protein.
It comes out of the fermenter looking like diced chicken. “We take that and gently dry it down into fine powder, and then it can be blended into a variety of different formats, whether it’s blended into kibble or baked into a treat,” Rich said.
The company has produced a prototype dog treat, which volunteer dogs ate ‘enthusiastically’ in early testing. The team plans to continue to tweak its fermentation process and will then work with FDA regulators to get approval.