“What if we could leverage food technologies that have been used for decades in cheese and beer-making to instead make real, high-quality meat protein that is brewed instead of farmed?” This simple yet ingenious question prompted the founding of Bond Pet Foods. With the intent to reduce harm to farmed animals, lower environmental impact, and provide optimum nutrition to our companion animals, CEO and Co-Founder Rich Kelleman seeks to revolutionize the pet food industry. He sat down with VegNews to share the impressive story in creating clean-meat pet food. 

 
 
 
 
 
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The “ah-ha” moment
Often, the most life-changing moments are simple instances in our daily lives. Such has been the experience of Kelleman. Before establishing Bond Pet Foods, Kelleman worked in advertising for several years. However, his work with Burger King exposed him to the unpleasant reality of the current food system and set the stage for his transition to a vegan lifestyle.

 
 
 
 
 
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What to feed the dog
After adopting a dog with his wife, Kelleman struggled with the decision of how best to feed his new companion with optimum nutrition while considering farmed animal welfare, sustainability, resource intensity, and the safety of traditional, commercially available dog food. Companies like Clara Foods, Perfect Day, and Memphis Meats produce animal protein without the animal but only cater to human consumption. This drove Kelleman to wonder why such companies did not exist for pet food. With that, the idea of Bond Pet Foods began to grow. Earlier this year, Bond successfully launched its treat bars for dogs, made from plants for the time being—the company is working on incorporating clean meat proteins into the recipe. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Fermenting … chicken
Adding to their success, Bond recently reached a major milestone by producing the first batch of its prototype chicken protein from food-grade yeast. The company harmlessly obtained a one-time blood sample from a heritage hen named Inga who is living happily at a farm in Lindsborg, KS. The team proceeded to determine the genetic code for the best types of chicken proteins to nourish dogs and cats. This genetic code was coupled with a strain of food-grade yeast and left to grow in a fermentation tank. The result was meat proteins that are identical to those of a living, breathing chicken. Similar fermentation techniques have been used for half a century to make enzymes for cheese, but Bond is adapting the process to obtain high-quality animal proteins. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Clean meat treats
Bond’s food science and nutrition teams have successfully baked this new ingredient into Bond treat bars. Most importantly, the treats have obtained the seal of approval from the company’s Chief Dog Officer and taste-tester, Rumples, and her fellow dog volunteers. The next R&D phase will focus on enhancing nutrition and optimizing scalability to make the products affordable to the average consumer. These new protein bars are expected to hit the market in 2023.

 
 
 
 
 
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Moving beyond treats
Bond seeks to expand its product offerings to include standard food for our cats and dogs once it establishes a loyal customer base with a semblance of trust in the company and its mission. While cats and dogs are the focus for the foreseeable future, there may be an opportunity to explore the applications of the technology for other companion animal species. The ultimate goal of Bond is to make a meaningful difference in the conventional meat supply chain. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Partnership plans
Well-known organizations such as Nestle Purina have an increasing awareness of public sensibility when it comes to animal welfare, sustainability, and clean food for themselves and their pets. Kelleman believes that Bond could prove to be a viable partner with one of these larger brands once the company finesses its clean-meat production. The effect could mimic the success of the fast-food chain collaborations with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods—the impact of big brands carrying a plant-based product is too huge to pass up. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Words of wisdom for ambitious innovators
Kelleman knows the struggles and joys that accompany a new venture. When asked about advice he wishes to impart on the next generation of changemakers, Kelleman said: “Always know your why and take it day by day. Remember what it is that made you wide-eyed and inspired to pursue your dreams and don’t let that resilience fade. There will be hard days and great days along the way. It is normal and healthy to feel the ups and downs of the journey. If you have that passion and conviction, keep going forward.”

Shriya Swaminathan is a graduate student at the Washington University School of Medicine who is working on using alternatives to animal models to study kidney biology and disease.

Image credit: Bond Pet Foods

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