New tie-up aimed at expanding access to sustainable pet food ingredients

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ti-ja
© GettyImages/ti-ja

Related tags Sustainability pet food Precision fermentation

Wilbur-Ellis Nutrition and precision fermentation technology innovator, Bond Pet Foods, are partnering to develop tailored ingredients for pet food applications.

Animal-derived ingredients are the mainstay of dog and cat diets. While the demand for these ingredients continues to grow, meat production to satisfy this demand can have an oversized impact on the environment, say the US companies.

Boulder, Colorado-based Bond Pet Foods employs a yeast-based precision fermentation to produce proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish without the animal. It sources DNA extracted from a blood sample from a live chicken, and then, using a fermentation process, the company’s R&D experts combine that DNA with yeast and put into a fermentation tank, where it is fed sugars, vitamins, and minerals. Once it reaches a certain density and composition, the fermented meat protein is dried and ground into a powder.  

“We’re using a technology - precision fermentation – that has been around for more than half a century to make enzymes for cheese manufacturing to vitamin B12 and lactic acid. We’re just reassembling the process to produce animal proteins more efficiently and responsibly like chicken, turkey and fish that can be foundational for pet health,” founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods, Rich Kelleman, told us previously.

He maintains that the company’s straightforward production process which involves minimal downstream processing makes the math work for pet food applications. “At scale, we have a line of sight where Bond’s ingredients will be price competitive with animal proteins routinely used in the industry - whether that is meat trim, low-ash meals or dried bone broth.”

Strain on pet food ingredient sources 

Precision fermentation is an increasingly attractive tool to produce proteins, flavors, and blends, according to Nick Braden, vice president of Wilbur-Ellis pet nutrition.

“Our collaboration with Bond does not signify a shift away from our dedication to advancing sustainability in livestock production. Rather, it represents another facet of our efforts to introduce new products aimed specifically at enhancing sustainability within the pet industry. As the pet food sector evolves, particularly in the realm of premium brands, there can be a strain on ingredient sources, potentially competing with human food markets. We view this partnership as an opportunity to offer more flexibility to our customers, giving them more diverse ingredient options to create the next generation of innovative pet food and treats,” he tells FeedNavigator.

Nutrient and flavor profiles 

Leveraging the collective knowledge of the two companies, Wilbur-Ellis is able to expand capabilities to offer innovative, multifunctional solutions with a variety of benefits in pet diets – and not just vegan or vegetarian recipes, but mainstream brands as well, says Braden.

“Through the utilization of precision fermentation, we can tailor the protein and amino acid profiles to create precise nutrient and flavor profiles. This enables us to partner with our customers in a new way, delivering the specific ingredients our customers need at a compelling price point.”

This approach offers greater flexibility for innovation, aligning with the humanization and sustainability trends prevalent in the pet food industry, he continues.

“Additionally, it provides an avenue to address existing gaps in ingredient solutions. While there are many excellent plant and animal ingredient options available for pet food, precision fermentation enables the creation of more customized solutions. These solutions can offer added benefits and premium product options, all without relying on traditional supply chain resources.”

Introducing new ingredients to the market always involves an adaptation phase, he stresses. “However, through deliberate communication of their benefits, we are confident that consumers will embrace this transformational technology.”

Bond’s investors include prominent funds in the alternative protein, biotechnology and ingredient space including Genoa VC, Lever VC, ADM Ventures, Cavallo Ventures (Wilbur-Ellis), Agronomics, Thia Ventures, KBW Ventures, iSelect Fund and Plug and Play Ventures.

Regulatory review

Earlier this year, the startup announced it had delivered two metric tons of animal protein to Hill's Pet Nutrition, a collaboration it maintains represents a major milestone​ toward it commercializing its fermentation technology for pet food applications. The scale of the delivery will allow Hill's to formulate a variety of test products at its Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas, for regulatory review and evaluation.

In June last year, US regulators approved the sale of chicken made from animal cells for use in human foods. But they have not approved cultivated meat as a pet food ingredient, yet.

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