Dogs and cats need a balance of various nutrients to live long, healthy lives. Of those nutrients, protein gets the most hype, and in most cases - particularly with cats as dogs can do well on a plant-based diet - that protein source is meat.
But the fact is, there is more to meat than protein. And that is why Because Animals is creating the world’s first cultured meat for pet food—not only will our cultured meat be a source of protein, but it will also deliver the essential fats, vitamins and minerals that are vital to our pets’ health.
Cultured meat has all of the goodness of conventional meat - it is, in fact, 100% meat. The only difference is that our meat cells grow inside a bioreactor instead of an animal’s body. This differentiator means no harm to other animals or the environment and safer, healthier food for cats and dogs.
In this Q&A with Because Animals’ CEO and co-founder, Shannon Falconer, who has a PhD in microbial chemical biology, she explains the difference between meat and protein and why the two aren't interchangeable.
Q: So, first of all, what elements make up meat?
A: Meat is mostly made of water, protein and fat. Nutritionally speaking, meat is a source of amino acids, many B vitamins (such as B2, B3, B6, B12), vitamin K, vitamin A, as well as several essential minerals, including iron, zinc and phosphorus.
Q: And then, what is protein?
A: Biochemically speaking, protein is a long series of amino acids strung together that form large molecules with different shapes and biological functions. Although there are hundreds of naturally occurring amino acids, only 20 of them are capable of complexing with one another to form a protein. Proteins are unique in that the length, ratio and order of amino acids differ between them. Protein is found in every cell, whether that cell comes from a mammal, insect, plant or bacteria. Protein is essential for all life, no matter how complex or simple the organism might be.
As for its role in nutrition, protein found in food is broken down by the body to form individual amino acids, where those amino acids are then recycled and used as the building blocks to form new protein that the body needs for various biological processes.
Ultimately, it’s the amino acids that make up protein that are nutritionally essential, rather than protein itself.
Q: With that in mind, what ingredients and nutrients will go into Because Animals’ pet food? And how is this different than what anyone else is doing?
A: Because Animals is creating the world’s first and only cultured meat pet food - which contains all of the goodness of meat, but does not come with any of the negative impacts associated with how traditional animal-based meat is produced (such as environmental devastation, animal abuse, and climate change).
The fact is, there is more to meat than protein. This means that Because Animals’ cultured meat is not only a source of protein, but it is also a source of all the essential fats, vitamins and minerals that are vital to our pets’ health.
Q: Speaking of which, what exact nutrients do dogs and cats need from meat to be healthy?
A: Dogs and cats have different requirements when it comes to the nutrients they need to obtain from their diet in order to be healthy.
In the wild, the key nutrients that cats need from meat are essential amino acids (found in protein), taurine (also an amino acid but not one contained in protein), arachidonic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamins B3, B6 and B12.
The essential nutrients that dogs living in the wild obtain from meat are essential amino acids, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
Of course there are many more nutrients that cats and dogs require in order to survive, but the ones listed above are those specifically supplied by meat.
Q: Can they get those meat nutrients just from isolated protein?
A: No! Protein supplies only amino acids. As discussed, there are many other essential nutrients that cats and dogs need. There is much more to meat than protein!
Q: How much protein do pets need to be healthy?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requires that adult dog food contains a minimum of 18%. And although AAFCO does not state a maximum protein level, too much protein can be detrimental to dogs, as their kidneys must then process the waste products of whatever protein was not used as fuel or recovery by the body.
Cats have a very different physiology and metabolism than dogs. The protein requirement of cats is considerably higher than is the case for dogs, where AAFCO sets the minimum amount of protein at 26%. In addition to cats having a higher protein requirement, they also require more fat in their diet, as well as taurine (remember, taurine is not found in protein!), vitamin A certain B vitamins.