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Rich Kelleman is the co-founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that’s making meat in a novel way for the pet food industry — brewing chicken, turkey, and beef instead of harvesting it conventionally on farms and fields.
The company is using precision fermentation, a food technology that has been used for more than half a century to produce a variety of commercial ingredients (think enzymes for cheese production, vitamin B12 and lactic acid.)But they’re reassembling the process to instead harvest high-quality meat proteins that can serve as the foundation of nutritionally complete pet food recipes.
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Why reimagine meat for our pets?
The reasons are numerous: they’re voracious consumers of it (if America’s 163 million dogs and cats were their own country their consumption of meat products would rank fifth in the world) and up to 30% of meat production’s negative effects (land, water, energy use) can be attributed to satiating this demand.
Comparatively, employing precision fermentation to create the same, nature-identical meat protein requires significantly less resources and minimizes carbon intensity — and does not require slaughter.
Bond’s progress with its transformative approach to meat production has attracted the attention\ of major investors, raising $20MM from the likes of food and ag pioneers ADM and Wilbur-Ellis, food/tech funds Genoa VC and Lever VC, and music icons Sia Furler and Joan Jett, and last year announced an industry-first partnership with Hill’s Pet Nutrition to develop a craft meat protein for its product portfolio.
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Today, the Bond team is producing batches of meat protein weekly in their Boulder Food Lab, with the aim of being market-ready after the completion of the FDA’s Center For Veterinary Medicine regulatory review.
The inspiration for Bond Pet Foods came to Rich twelve years ago when he and his wife moved to Colorado for a career opportunity. His background is in advertising, having spent decades working on some of the biggest brands in the world — everything from Kellogg’s to P&G, Facebook and Chevrolet.
Ironically it was Rich’s work on Burger King that changed his outlook on food and farming, well before Impossible Burgers were on the fast food giant’s menu. Diving into their business, the conversations opened his eyes to the challenges that are attached to conventional agriculture and the procurement of meat-supply chain security, safety, farm animal welfare, sustainability, and more. All of this stuck with him and ultimately, he became a vegan working on BK.
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A few years later Rumples, a shelter pup, came into his life. Rich knew that meat could be a valuable part of her diet but wrestled with the tension of feeding it to her daily, and he began to consider — could there be a better way of giving our pets the nutrition they need without harming other animals and the planet?
While he was stewing on this thought, start-ups on the human food side were beginning to make hay about being able to produce meat and meat by-products through biotechnology; he was fascinated by it and quickly connected the dots to do the same in Pet.
Here, at the cross-section of burgers and biotechnology, Bond was born. Now, in Colorado’s Front Range, a high-powered, growing science, technology and nutrition team is mastering a new craft of meat making. One that will ultimately bring more responsibility and integrity to pet food bowls around the world.