There has been quite a lot of fascination with lab-grown meats, such as the “impossible burger” [Correction: whoops, the impossible burger is, of course, made from plants. Wired has a recent article on the lab-grown kinds].
There is still a long way to go with them to become economically and gustatorily viable.
However, that’s not deterring expansion into the pet food market. And we aren’t talking chicken feed. There was around US$75 billion in sales globally last year (in the US alone the market pet food is worth nearly US$30 billion). NZ’s pet food sales are just under $400 million.
A company called Wild Earth is moving into lab-grown food for pets. They too want to make “ethical” fodder. That reinforces the trend that some owners consider pets are people too, and copy human food fads for their fur children.
At this stage the lab-grown product Wild Earth is working on is just a fungal derivative, with different added flavours to create a variety of high protein nibbles.
True food of the dogs though, if you believe that ambrosia, the food of the Greek Gods, was also fungal – derived from the fly agaric toadstool Amanita muscaria (the red and white one that will be popping up around pine trees fairly soon).
However, they are working on culturing mouse cells too, to eventually produce cat food. And then maybe move into the lab-grown meat for humans market.
An article on Neo.Life notes, though, that this approach could harm the reputation of lab-grown meat for human consumption if people start to associate it with pet food.
The bigger picture is that new technologies are increasingly being applied in the pet sector, a very lucrative market. Stem cell therapies and other advanced biotechnologies are already making their way into veterinary practices.
One final thought. If we treat cats and dogs like humans, is it really a very much bigger step to treating robots in the same way?