California based company, Wild Earth, is now producing vegan pet food. The startup hopes to revolutionise the pet food industry by making sustainable, cruelty-free, and healthy products.
In their products, Wild Earth replaces animal meat with Koji, a Japanese fungus commonly used in soy sauce. It is rich in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin K and Molybdenum, containing all the amino acids that cats and dogs need.
Wild Earth sources lab-grown Koji. The koji is sprinkled on rice or sugar, which it quickly consumes as it grows. Koji takes about 40 to 50 hours to grow, therefore it is more efficient than growing animal meat.
After the koji is grown, it can be used as any other kind of ingredient to be made into kibble of all flavours and sizes.
A UCLA researcher found that cats and dogs are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States. Therefore, the potential of cutting out meat from our pets diets is the equivalent of reducing annual global carbon emissions by 64 million tons.
Compared to a plant-based diet, meat requires more energy, land, and water to produce, and has greater environmental consequences in terms of erosion, pesticides, and waste. However, lab-grown food uses other energy resources, significant industry change would have to happen in order to facilitate the shift to meat-free pet food.
If pet-food companies stop using meat, can lab-grown koji meet demand?
However, do cats and dogs need meat to live healthy lives? Peta explains that companion cats and dogs have been removed from the natural food chain and have nutritional advantages that free-roaming animals lack. Therefore a vegan diet that meets the nutritional needs of an animal is ethical.