Connect with us


Pet food startup backed by Peter Thiel making lab-grown mouse meat



dog getting fedShutterstock

  • An animal-free pet food startup called Wild Earth
    recently scored $450,000 from tech mogul Peter Thiel.
  • The company’s current products are made with koji, a
    type of fungus, but Wild Earth has plans to make pet food from
    cultured mouse meat.
  • That idea worries the founders of other cultured
    meat startups
    , who say marketing cultured meat as dog food
    could destroy its appeal for human consumers.

Entrepreneur and scientist Ryan Bethencourt doesn’t like the idea
of feeding his foster dogs ingredients that he wouldn’t eat
himself. So the long-time vegan, who previously founded the

Silicon Valley biotech startup hub IndieBio
, created a
startup called Wild Earth that’s making animal-free pet food
using koji, the same organism that gives miso soup and sake their
pungent kick. 

The company attracted the attention of tech mogul Peter Thiel,
who on Thursday announced he is investing just under half a
million in Wild Earth.

Bethencourt claims the company is also working on making pet food
from cultured meat — the same kind of meat that
half a dozen Silicon Valley startups are betting on
to save
the meat industry and protect the planet. At its most basic,
cultured (or “lab-grown”) meat involves making meat — real meat —
from animal cells. Only instead of brewing up flesh from the
cells of cows or chickens, Bethencourt wants to use mice.

“People who don’t have cats think this is crazy, but cat parents
think it’s super cool,” Bethencourt told Business Insider. 

Other startups in the cultured meat space aren’t thrilled about
Bethencourt’s stated aims. Marketing cultured meat as dog food
could destroy its appeal for human consumers, executives from two
leading startups in the food tech space told Business

“Would this jeopardize clean meat or make people associate it
with lower quality food? Possibly,” Didier Toubia, the
co-founder and CEO of an
Israeli clean meat startup called Aleph Farms
, told Business
Insider. “People won’t want to eat food that’s for pets.”

Bethencourt disagrees, noting that he thinks clean meat for
humans will arrive first. He believes that part of the transition
to eating more sustainable food includes making sure pets are
eating more sustainably too. And that includes cultured meat.

“In the same way there’s plant-based protein for humans and
cultured meat for humans we want to make sure that’s also the
case for our pets,” Bethencourt said. “We will do koji; that’s
one of our primary protein sources, but we want to have other
proteins available for our customers too.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job