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During the pandemic, so many more homes welcomed a cat or dog as part of their family. People have long adored their pet companions - they become a staple part of our households, (often ruling them) and treated like royalty.Extensive research shows that people are more than happy to pay premium prices for pet products and food.
In the past year, a new type of food startup has emerged, focusing on using alternative protein as pet food, by using plant-based, fermentation orcell-based technology. Vevolution.com, the investment platform specialised in the alt protein space, already lists 26 ‘pet care’ companies.
Why are these startups doing this and what problem are they trying to solve? Aren’t cats and dogs obligate carnivores needing meat in their diet to survive? This is something I am deeply interested in, not just for my own feline companion, but for the future of our planet. I haveresearched high and low, and found a lot of answers and facts onthe queries we have. It is not always a pretty story, but I promise it does have a hopeful ending.
Pets eat an estimated one-quarter of all the meat consumed in the US, equivalent to the meat devoured by twenty-six million Americans. That makes US dogs and cats equal to the fifth largest country in the world in terms of animal protein consumption. That was the fact that shocked me the most!
In the past, pet food was simply a byproduct of the meat industry. Meat that was not suitable for human consumption for all the gory reasons you can think of, was mushed up and made into pet food, because why not? While that is still very much the case for many household pet food brands, the demand for better, cleaner, organic products is on the rise - whichincreases the numberof animals to be specifically raised just for the pet food industry. No longer a by-product, but simple raising new animals, to feed other animals…
"New pet companies are doing everything they can to focus on the health and wellbeing of the animals and are making sure their products are the best a pet can get"
By now we all know that animal protein is one of the biggest causes of climate change and other important issues. It causes greenhouse gasses like methane and co2, uses huge amounts of land for feed (it takes 7 kg of grain to get 1 kg of beef), meat is linked to serious health issues, and we can probably all agree that the way we treat production animals is not optimal.
But pets need meat to survive, right? It turns out that pets do need specific nutrients to survive, and these often exist in meat. However, meat is not necessarily the best solution to get these nutrients in, because it also contains synthetic growth hormones and other chemicals, that are definitely notneeded by our pets.
Vets estimate that as many as 59 percent of all pets are obese. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 169 percent increase in the number of overweight cats and a 158 percent increase in the number of overweight dogs. As many as 37 percent of all dogs are overweight by the time that they're 6 months old. This shortens their life span by 2,5 years on averages and overweight dogs have a higher chance of getting cancer. We created this problem, surely it is now our responsibility to help reverse it.
Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can eat everything, cats are more specifically build to process meat, and need taurine – a nutrient found in meat, but again, not only in meat. It is very important that all nutrients are available in every meal.
Pet care startups are highly aware of this and are working with pet nutritionists and vets to make sure the food is nutritionally complete and contains all the good stuff, without unnecessary additions. The best thing – the pets lap it up – literally! New studies show that cats and dogs eating a plant-based diet are generally much healthier and a lot less obese, with fewer ailments.
It is not very surprising it you think about it. Where the current industry is trying to sell left over animal parts that are illegal to use in human food, the new pet companies are doing everything they can to focus on the health and wellbeing of the animals and are making sure their products are the best a pet can get.
It comes with a price, where the meat industry is heavily subsidised, these companies are being paid for by venture capital and their products are still at premium price level. I expect when production capacity and market demand grow, these prices will go down, and in a few years, prices will be similar, making it more accessible for the average pet owner.
These new pet care companies are located everywhere on the planet, examples are The Pack in the UK, Wild Earth in the US, Vegdog in Germany, FreshWoof in India or Virchew in Canada. So if you want your pet to be part of the solution and not the problem, and make sure your furry friend lives a longer, happier and healthier life, you know what to do…