The plant based food movement is rooted in ethical, environment and health concerns. The increasing awareness of these matters has consumers flocking to new meat alternatives. With Beyond Meat planning to debut a plant based “ground beef” and the Impossible Burger infiltrating fast food restaurants, lab grown proteins are becoming more accessible and diverse than ever. And attitudes are changing about non-animal protein sources – a category we once saw dominated by soy is now opening up to more unlikely ingredients like crickets and algae.

While the plant based food space has been flourishing, pet food is still catching up. It’s generally agreed that domesticated pets like dogs and cats rely on meat to fulfill their dietary needs, and that depriving them of those nutrients can in itself be animal cruelty. But there is a divide between wanting what’s best for our furry friends, and acknowledging that the production of pet food also contributes to many issues. The environmental impact alone is proven to be a cause for consideration. In light of this, we’re beginning to see some companies working on bringing alternative meat sources to the pet food market in innovative ways. 

Lab grown proteins are making a big name for themselves in the food industry, but Boulder-based start-up Bond Pet Foods is introducing them to pet food. Bond has successfully replicated the DNA of a heritage chicken to harvest its protein, all without harming a single animal in the process. The replicated protein is combined with plant based ingredients to create balanced foods that meet the nutritional needs of dogs and cats. While the company has yet to release a product, they plan to launch with dog treats. They will continue working to reproduce proteins derived from the DNA of chicken, fish and turkey for pet food.

The idea of consuming insects as a protein source is becoming more widely accepted, with brands like Exo Bar and Chirps Chips seeing success on shelves. Chippin has introduced this cricket protein to the pet food world. While specializing in natural and sustainably produced dog treats, the company plans to expand further into the pet food industry, calling themselves the “Beyond Meat of pet food”. Chippin has enjoyed partnerships with companies like WeWork, who has taken a powerful stance against animal consumption by banning meat from being served at corporate events and expensed employee meals. Chippin positions crickets as a complete protein source appropriate for pets, and are slated to be leaders in the alternative pet food movement. 

It’s taken time for consumers to embrace the idea of eating lab grown meat, or ground up insects. But as sustainability becomes an increased priority in food production, the prospects of alternatives become much more approachable. The question remains whether these new protein sources will be embraced on a wide scale as viable sustenance for pets, as they are for humans.