Wild Earth: Now There Are Vegan Dogs Too
Because it’s all about that bioengineered yeast
Here are some pet facts:
- Annually, Americans spend over $95 Billion on their pets
- More than 67% of American households own at least one pet
- 73% of Gen Zers & 68% of Millennials will pay more for sustainable pet products
- 43% of dog owners and 41% of cat owners buy premium pet food
With those statistics, it would seem like the pet food market should have birthed some radical new companies, you know, been pushed forward by some innovative new ideas. In reality, despite an eager market, it hasn’t changed much since we domesticated wolves, 40,000 years ago.
It’s still just meat–even if it’s shaped like mini pellets. 🦴
Why do we need Wild Earth?
So yes, disruption, woohoo, but what’s wrong with meat pellets?
Even though pet parents today are spending more than they ever have on their companions, most still have no idea what is actually inside of the kibble they buy. In a study of 80 popular pet food brands by the Clean Label Project, many contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals.
This is because pet food is often made of the 4Ds: dead, dying, diseased, and disabled animals, including those that died from infection. While it may be cheaper to source meat from these animals, it has resulted in frequent recalls of pet food, often due to bacterial contamination. For example, in 2018 the FDA recalled pet food with traces of barbiturates (used to euthanize animals)!
Yeah, not so yummy. If it’s not safe for human consumption, why should it be for our pets?
On top of the meat used being unsafe, it also has an extremely large environmental footprint.
It’s no secret that raising livestock is extremely harmful to the environment. Animal agriculture is the fifth leading contributor to greenhouse gases!
What may come as a shock, is that a whopping 25–30% of meat’s environmental footprint in the US is due to pet food. That’s the equivalent of a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars.
How is Wild Earth different?
Wild Earth makes 100% vegan, yes vegan, dog treats and kibble.
Before you go freak out about how they’re probably killing dogs, it is completely balanced and healthy. Dr. Ernie Ward, chief veterinary officer at Wild Earth says, “A common misconception is that dogs need animal meat in their diet, but what they truly need is protein.” Just like humans do fine on vegan diets (with the right nutrients), so do dogs. In fact, the diet of some wolves is already ~50% plants!
So if it’s not meat, where is the protein in Wild Earth’s products coming from? The majority of it is from yeast. Yeast is an amazing base because it’s 49% protein by weight vs. beef at a measly 24%.
Over a quick 3 day process, bioengineered fungal strains are transformed into concentrated yeasts through fermentation in large bioreactors. This makes something kind of similar to Marmite or nutritional yeast, which is already commonplace in vegan cooking for its umami flavor.
This process is super controllable and growth conditions can be altered to produce proteins with a variety of textures. The yeast can also be genetically modified to have different nutritional or functional properties.
In addition to yeast protein, it also a plethora of vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies including blueberries, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
Of course, perhaps the most important factor is whether dogs will eat their new vegan food or not. Because the yeast provides a rich savory flavor that dogs (and humans) love, 41% of dog owners who tried Wild Earth’s kibble observed an improvement in their dog’s appetite!
In addition, a slew of other health benefits were reported in a 2020 survey of 425 Wild Earth customers; >50% saw an improvement in their dog’s skin and coat, 43% saw a reduction in itching, and 54% saw an improvement in their dog’s poop among many other benefits.
Wild Earth launched their first product, dog treats, with koji–a fungus used in the production of miso and soy sauce. For their kibble, they chose to use nutritional yeast because it was more accessible and scalable.
With yeast being so easy and quick to ferment in bioreactors, especially compared to whole factory farms and fields of monocultures, it’s no wonder Wild Earth has already received $39.2 M in funding and is backed by Mark Cuban!!
On top of constantly improving their vegan lines, Wild Earth is planning to have a new lineup of pet food made with cellular agriculture beef, chicken, and seafood inputs on the market by 2022! What’s more, they’ve even talked about growing cell-based mouse meat for cat food; a great idea because of how much we know about mice from scientific experiments!
Having grown >700% year over year with no sign of slowing down, I can’t wait to see what Wild Earth comes up with next. It’s sure to be pawsitively furbulous! 🐶🐱🐾
Be sure to check out their website as well if you’re interested in them!
Thanks for reading! I’m Klara, a 14 year old super passionate about the future of food and sustainability. If you’d like to learn more about me, you can visit my personal website or LinkedIn. Make sure to follow me here on Medium too for updates on articles I publish. Thank you for your support :)