British dogs are set to be served the world’s first 100pc lab-grown meat for dinner.
Retailer Pets At Home is working with start-up Meatly to introduce the first “cultivated meat” food for pets, which will hit shelves next year.
Most pet food contains a mix of meat or fish, eggs, milk, vegetables, cereals and salt, according to guidelines laid out by the National Research Council.
But the company promises to offer pets “sustainable, tasty and nutritious meat” which does not come from an animal.
The “cultivated meat” is initially created from cells taken from a fertilised chicken egg, which are “fed” with a cocktail of vitamins and proteins in a container similar to those used for making yoghurt or beer.
The lab-grown substance can then be used to make pet food. Meatly hopes to expand to sell its “meat” in the US and Canada within the next two years.
Any product “adheres to vegan ethics”, the company’s website states, and the meat does not contain antibiotics.
A spokesman for Pets At Home said: “Earlier this year, we invested in Meatly, a cultivated meat company specialising in the pet food sector, and we believe this will be one innovation that could help reduce the environmental impact of pet care, while ensuring the nutritional needs of pets are met in an affordable way.
“If we can replace some of the meat and fish used globally in pet food with a more sustainable alternative, that would be a real step change for the industry.”
The British start-up is not the only company racing to offer the first lab-grown product on the pet food market.
Czech company Bene Meat Technologies became the first company globally to be licensed to produce and sell lab-grown meat for pet food earlier this year. Its products are due to launch in the EU in 2024.
A Bene Meat spokesman said: “The cultivation process needs to be extremely tightly controlled and monitored for it to work. All ingredients going into the culturing process are commonly used natural foodstuffs. So cultured meat will be really safe to eat.”
Yvonne Taylor, vice president of corporate projects at animal rights campaign group PETA, said the lab-grown alternative would fit the bill for those who want to feed their dogs meat without harming animals, provided it is safe.
She said: “If in vitro technology is kinder to animals, can help mitigate environmental damage, and can make the food supply safer, everyone should support it.
“Of course, tasty vegan dog food fortified with the amino acids dogs need already exists and offers a meaty flavour without involving cruelty, but for people who still want to feed their dogs animal flesh without harming animals, lab-grown meat would fit the bill.”
However, some animal experts disagreed.
Anna Webb, host of podcast A Dog’s Life, said it was unclear if the lab-grown meat would have the same nutritional value as meat from animals.
“You’re making fake meat, which doesn’t sit right with me,” she said.
“It’s quite an experiment to put your dog on this feed. There’s no guarantee that they’re actually going to be getting the nutrition that the marketing suggests.”
Owen Ensor, chief executive of Meatly, said: “We have not released any product yet, but we’re incredibly excited for when we do. Meatly is real meat, and as such, has all the same nutrients of traditional meat.”
The exact nutritional information for the lab-grown products has not yet been released. Pets at Home was approached for comment.