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Meet Rich Kelleman, CEO of Meat Protein Producer Bond Pet Foods

By Pet Age Staff//June 30, 2023//

Meet Rich Kelleman, CEO of Meat Protein Producer Bond Pet Foods

By: Pet Age Staff//June 30, 2023//

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Bond Pet Foods is a Boulder-based company that creates meat proteins through fermentation for pet food applications. The company was founded in 2017 with a mission to create more sustainable, responsible and humane food by reimagining meat, the mainstay of our pets’ diets. Pet Age recently spoke with Rich Kelleman, CEO of Bond Pet, to learn more about his insights in the pet food category.

 

Why is it important for the industry to rethink meat for pet food? 

Premiumization of pet food over the past decade has greatly improved the sourcing of ingredients and the quality of what our dogs and cats eat. Meat protein’s role in any diet is unabating and perhaps for good reason. It gives our pets the essential amino acids they need to thrive and it’s highly digestible and bioavailable. 

That said, premiumization and a continued emphasis on meat as the cornerstone of “quality nutrition” has tracked with an often-competing drive to address sustainability in the supply chain. Sourcing meat while addressing environmental impacts can be a challenge. Our pets are voracious consumers of animal protein, and it’s estimated that between 20 to 30 percent of the negative environmental impacts of meat production (GHG emissions, land and water) can be attributed to their daily consumption. This paradox can be solved, in part, by creatively employing food technologies that enable a variety of animal proteins to be produced in a wholly different, responsible and efficient way.  This is our focus and passion at Bond. 

 

How would you describe the precision fermentation process? 

Your readers are probably familiar with traditional fermentation, an ancient process that produces some of our favorite foods and beverages like wine, cheese and beer. Precision fermentation is an evolution of this technology. It has been around for nearly half a century to make everything from enzymes (rennet) for cheese manufacturing to good bacteria for probiotics, vitamin B12 and lactic acid we’re just reassembling the process to produce meat proteins that can be foundational for pet health. 

The method has similarities to craft brewing, save the starter kit. For example, with chicken, we combine a harmless sample of a hen’s DNA (the building blocks of any plant or animal source) with brewer’s yeast, put it into a fermentation tank, add natural vitamins and minerals and within 48 to 72 hours we’ve produced a batch of delicious, nutritious chicken protein that, when dried and ground, can serve as the foundation of any pet food recipe. 

 

What are the advantages of the meat proteins you produce over traditional animal meat? 

To raise chickens, cows and pigs, a wealth of precious resources is consumed, including land and water, as well as growing crops to feed them. Our approach requires fewer resources to produce a kg of protein compared with conventional livestock farming, and its much less carbon intensive. 

Moreover, no antibiotics are used, threats of pathogen contamination are significantly reduced given our closed-loop system, and there’s potential to amplify protein (essential amino acid) levels to further enhance nutritional value. 

 

What are you looking for in terms of pet industry partners? 

Pet food manufacturers who are actively addressing Scope 3 emissions, prioritizing farm animal welfare and/or are in search of more consistent, secure, complete sources of protein in their ingredient supply chain. 

 

What challenges have you faced getting the world to embrace your way to “meat”? 

If anything, we’re struck by the level of interest among pet food manufacturers who are looking to address the sustainability challenges that accompany meat-centric diets, and we’ve secured partnerships and investment from some of the most respected players in the industry. 

On the consumer side, research shows that the public is comfortable with fermentation, and a growing number (driven by Millennials and Gen Z) are ready to embrace products made with precision fermentation. In the human food industry new products are beginning to come online to tap into this opportunity with milk, cheese, egg and other foodstuffs that are (in part) made with technology. 

Regardless, we know education will be important, and we stand ready to support our brand partners on the road to building a new, exciting and transformational pet food category. 

 

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