Biotechnology company Because Animals is taking aim at the pet food industry, attempting to untangle its connection to animal agriculture. The tech startup is developing a lab-grown cat food that uses real mouse cells to create a cruelty-free system that will reimagine the pet food industry. The brand's "Harmless Hunt Cultured Mouse Cookies for Cats" will build on cultured meat technology to create cell-based replications of pet products.

“The ultimate goal of most cultured meat companies is to create a product that will allow animals to be taken out of the food supply chain,” CEO, and co-founder of Because Animals Shannon Falconer told Fast Company. “And, given that humans are the largest consumers of traditional meat, it makes sense to focus on humans when making a cultured meat product. However, something that most people are unaware of is that, in addition to humans, there is another hugely significant population driving the animal agriculture industry forward: our pets.”

The cat food will use mouse cells to create its cruelty-free product by harvesting cells from a real mouse. The company claims that no mice are harmed in the process of cell extraction, and once harvested, the cells can continue to be duplicated to create cultured mouse meat. Because Animals explains that the process mixes the cells into a nutrient-rich serum in a bioreactor. Over the span of a few weeks, the final product is meat without any animal slaughter.

The cell-based mouse meat is enhanced by several ingredients including pumpkin, miso, nutritional yeast, and tempeh to maximize the nutritional value of the cat cookies. The cell-based mouse cookies are slated to be available by 2022, but currently, the company is allowing customers to preorder the innovative snacks from its website.

“The public launch of Harmless Hunt is a milestone for us, for the cultured and alternative-protein industry, for pet food, and for animals raised and slaughtered to feed cats and dogs,” Falconer said. “We are finally able to provide pets with a healthier, safer, greener choice at a price that will be on par with other premium retail products.”

Because Animals aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the pet food industry by moving away from animal agriculture. Recent reports including the UN’s report on the climate crisis emphasized the dangerous impacts of animal agriculture on the environment, attributing the industry to excessive carbon emissions, the loss of biodiversity, and even human health. The majority of the impact comes from the production of human food, but the production of pet food contributes a significant amount. One study found that the pet food industry’s footprint can be valued at approximately 64 million tons of emissions per year.

Another study from Gregory Okin at UCLA wrote that it is less about the pets' direct contribution, but the mindset and methods practiced within the general industry. In the Wynes & Nicolas survey, Okin discusses how drawing attention to human impact at every level is necessary, even pet ownership levels worldwide.

"As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices," Okin writes in PLOS ONE. "Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits, would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts."

Falconer hopes that Because Animals initiate the conversation regarding the pet food industry, and more importantly the great animal agriculture impact. She explains that the pet food industry acts as one pillar that upholds the greater animal agriculture industry, and by starting to change this system, consumers can rethink the processes and foods they purchase to design something more sustainable for the planet.

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