Culturing meat instead of farming meat seems like such a simple, world-changing idea. It will bring about less environmental damage, better public health outcomes and less cruelty.
But it is a total departure from the food system that we as a society have used for generations upon generations. So, understandably, people have a lot of questions.
Cultured meat—or as some refer to it lab-grown meat – is real meat. It’s grown from real animal tissue to be nutritionally identical as traditional meat. It is not “synthetic”, or “highly processed”, or “fake”. Cultured meat is different from traditional meat only in the way it is grown.
Here we address a few questions and misinformation about cultured meat that we have recently come across.
Q: Is the cultured meat you are making for pet food a highly-processed, synthetic food?
No, and to best explain, it’s helpful to first understand what exactly meat is.
All meat is simply a collection of animal cells. Meat in the traditional sense happens when these cells grow inside a body. But, when given the right nutrients, these cells can also grow inside a container we call a bioreactor. The end result in both scenarios is 100% meat.
Because, Animals is making meat for pet food that is identical in nutrition and composition to traditional animal meat. Here’s how we’re doing it:”
1. To start the process of growing our cultured meat we collect a small sample of animal cells. We do this in the most humane way possible to ensure no harm comes to the animal.
2. From that sample we isolate the necessary cells and we feed those cells a mixture of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, all inside our bioreactor, where those cells grow and divide and ultimately become cultured meat without harming a single animal. This is also how cells grow in a womb.
3. Harvest time. We simply collect the meat from the bioreactor and incorporate this meat into our nutritious recipes for treats and food for cats and dogs.
Q: What about the mixture of nutrients you “feed” the animal cells? Isn’t that synthetic?
No. Our cells are fed the same nutrients that cells growing inside of an animal receive - vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Whether those animal cells are growing inside or outside of the whole animal, the nutritional needs of those cells are the same.
Among the biggest differences between cultured meat and animal-grown meat is the source of those nutrients: rather than nutrients coming from within the animal, the nutrients used in Because, Animals' cultured meat come from plant and microbial sources.
Q: I’m worried lab grown meat isn’t safe for my cat and dog.
Our meat is ultimately safer for your pets. We grow our meat without the inclusion of antibiotics or growth steroids; our cultured meat is free from pathogen contamination (since the most common source of contaminated meat is fecal matter from animals at slaughter); and our meat does not undergo an intense sterilization process such as the case with rendered ingredients, so most of the nutrients that cats need are naturally retained in our cultured meat.
Our process is highly controlled: We know the precise inputs and we know the precise outputs. The same can’t be said for meat that comes from rendered animal ingredients.
The more people know about where both cultured meat and the meat used in current pet food come from, the more people will recognize the advantages of cultured meat.
Q: I don’t want any food that comes out of a lab!
Most modern foods begin in food science labs. Everyday foods like bananas, potato chips, orange juice and thousands more have been created in labs. (Bananas, as we know them, are the result of scientific cloning of the Gros Michel, once only viable in South America but now grown in the United States year round!)
It’s important to remember though, even as food is created in a research lab, it isn’t grown there. Cheetos, developed in a research facility in San Antonio, Texas, in 1948, would cost a lot more if there were still PhD scientists making and packaging it!
Cultured meat is no different. Though it is made using food science initially, it will eventually be grown at a food facility – a lot the same way beer is made today. Which is why “lab-grown” is an unfortunate and untrue moniker for what we’re doing.
Q: But isn’t cultured meat really unnatural?
“Natural” is a tricky idea when discussing meat in pet food. How “natural” is rendered meat from factory farms? On factory farms animals are fed antibiotics, steroids and growth hormones and are kept in highly unnatural oppressive, inhumane conditions before being slaughtered.
And because the meat that goes into pet food is typically the “leftovers” from the human food market, and those leftovers have been trucked to a rendering factory where flesh, fur, blood and bone is combined, sterilized and highly processed before being sold to the pet food industry, we don’t think there is anything natural about that process.
And “natural” also becomes a rather meaningless term when discussing ingredients in pet foods on the market.
For example, look at the long list of nutrients that should already be contained in meat, but are listed on the package in supplemental form. If taurine naturally occurs in meat, why does it need to be supplemented? In the case of commercial pet food, many of those essential nutrients that cats need — such as taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid — are not provided by the meat itself but are lost during the intense sterilization process at the rendering facility.
We now know that it’s not the ingredients in pet food that matter as much as the nutrients. And when you think of it that way, creating a better can of cat food is only a matter of assembling the proper balance of nutrients cats need from ingredients that come from better sources than factory farmed animals.
Q: I’ve been advised to feed my dog a nutritionally balanced raw or gently cooked homemade diet from sustainable meat sources.
Until cultured meat is widely available on the market, that could be the right choice for your cats and dogs. But remember, dogs are omnivores and thrive on nutritionally-balanced plant-based diets. And also keep in mind, whatever meat you are serving, there is no such thing as humane or sustainable pet food because there is no such thing as humane or sustainably-produced meat. And, unless you’re feeding your pet a vegan diet, meat is one of the main ingredients in your pet’s bowl.
And this is why we are racing to bring our first cultured meat product for cats to the market.
Q: Cultured meat is just too weird!
Cultured meat may sound like science fiction but it’s not. The same technology — namely, feeding cells the nutrients they need to grow and divide inside a warm vessel called a bioreactor — is already used to create many of the foods we consume, including probiotics, beer and Marmite!
As a new ingredient, it’s totally natural that people are going to have loads of questions about what it is and how it’s made. And that’s why we’re trying to be extremely open about our process.
We know that pet parents want to feed their dogs and cats meat, but without all of the devastating effects of animal agriculture. Not only is cultured meat better for the planet, public health and the farmed animals themselves, it is also better and safer for our pets.
Cultured meat pet food has the potential to be so much better in so many ways and once we realized this it was impossible for us not to pursue making this for pets.