WATCH: The times they are a changin’ when it comes to protein production, says Bond Pet Foods

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bond Pet Foods Microbial fermentation alternative proteins FoodBytes

Bond Pet Foods – one of 15 startups pitching at Rabobank’s FoodBytes! event in San Francisco last month - deploys microbes as tiny factories to produce proteins for pets in fermentation tanks. FoodNavigator-USA caught up with founder Rich Kelleman before he went on stage.

We’re working with biotechnology to make pet food from animal protein like chicken, turkey, and fish, without the animals, essentially using classic fermentation techniques to harvest proteins that are identical in composition to what you’d get if you harvest animals from the farm​,” explained Kelleman, a former ad exec who first started querying the ethics of industrialized meat production after doing some strategy work for a fast food chain, and emerged from the process as a vegetarian (he’s now a vegan).

“We’re growing and harvesting these meats in a much more sustainable way, using less land, water and energy to produce the equivalent kilogram of protein,"​ said Kellenman.

"We don’t have to slaughter animals to produce the same proteins, and there’s higher safety compared to what you’d get on the slaughterhouse floor, so I think there are a lot of things we can spotlight to get people excited about what makes this better and different.”

How it works

Instead of culturing cells extracted from animals in the way that cell-cultured meat companies such as Memphis Meats are doing, for example, Bond Pet Foods​ ​plans to take a food grade single celled micro-organism and add DNA sequences (which can be 3D printed using synthetic biology techniques) which effectively instruct the organism to produce the proteins found in chicken or other animals after being fed sugars and other nutrients in a big fermentation tank.

The resulting protein can then be harvested and mixed with other foods to make pet food or treats that provide dogs or cats with everything they need nutritionally, added Kelleman, who has teamed up with microbial fermentation expert Pernilla Audibert, PhD, to help commercialize the proteins, and has “closed a portion of our seed round to give us enough funds so that we can start running.”

“The protein will be less structured and will be something like a baby food consistency or a paste that can be gently dried into a concentrated protein and mixed with other ingredients into a final recipe.”

Dog treats

The initial plan is to introduce dog treats under the Bond Pet Foods brand made from pure microbial protein over the next four to five months to start educating the public about ‘fermented proteins,’ he said. After that Bond will work “aggressively on our animal proteins, starting with chicken.”   

Bond Pet Foods dog treat bar

The regulatory framework

Asked about the regulatory framework that might apply to the proteins he will be producing, he said Bond Pet Foods would likely put together a GRAS determination for its proteins.

But he added: “The one thing that makes our approach a little bit easier ​[than cell-cultured meat production for example], is that we’re using a foundational technology​ [microbial fermentation] that’s been around for almost half a century so the FDA is very familiar with the nomenclature, the process, and the approach."

Read more about the three winners​ of the FoodBytes! pitch competition: Shaka Tea, Bushel, and Toast Ale.

Rich Kelleman Bond Pet Food

“We are taking the DNA that in chicken encodes muscle protein, and putting it into a single-celled microbial host. We then use the cellular machinery of the microbe to produce chicken-identical protein via fermentation, feeding the cells sugar and simple, non-animal derived nutrients until it reaches a certain density before harvest.”

Rich Kelleman, founder, Bond Pet Foods

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