Biotech Startup Develops Fungus-Based Clean Pet Food

New biotechnology company Wild Earth plans to disrupt the $30 billion pet food industry with nutritionally complete, animal-free proteins.


California-based biotechnology company Wild Earth plans to become the first company to offer “cultured” (known as “clean” or “lab-grown”) protein for cats and dogs. The company’s flagship product will be made with Koji (a fungus) that is cultured in a lab-setting, mitigating the risk of chemical contaminants in companion animal food—as was the case with a recent Federal Drug Association recall of food brand Kibbles N’ Bits that it found contained euthanasia drugs. “Wild Earth will be the first to bring cultured protein and cultured meat products for dogs and cats to market that are nutritious, humane, and without the devastating ecological impact of factory farming,” Wild Earth CEO Ryan Bethencourt said. “Using biotechnology gives us the ability to scale and to get a product to market safely, quickly, and affordably.” Wild Earth plans to research other methods of creating clean protein, including the use of animal cell-based processes currently being developed for human consumption by companies such as Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, and JUST (formerly Hampton Creek). “Wild Earth has found a novel way to deliver protein and will have a great nutritional profile to meet the same requirements as meat-based pet foods,” Wild Earth chief veterinary officer Ernie Ward said. “Pet-lovers want healthy, humane, and environmentally friendly choices, and Wild Earth formulas will deliver nutrition without affecting the planet.” Last year, competing brand Bond Pet Foods launched with a similar mission of using technology to create slaughter-free foods for companion animals and plans to debut its flagship product to consumers in several years.