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Will Lab-Grown Cat Treats Change the World?

Because, Animals is a startup company debuting its new lab-grown mouse meat. The founders hope their product will usher in a new way of thinking about pet food.

The company already sells plant-based dog and cat treats.

The idea for Because, Animals’ newest product is to harvest cells from an anesthetized mouse and then feed and grow the cells in a bioreactor.  The end product is 100 percent meat, with no mice killed in the process, that can be used for its Harmless Hunt Mouse Cookies for Cats.

Video Spotlight:  

This post is based on the Green Matters article, Startup’s Lab-Grown Mouse Meat Cat Treats Could Change the Pet Food Industry, by Sophie Hirsh, August 26, 2021; the Disruptors for GOOD podcast 117, The Future of Sustainable Pet Food, by Grant Trahant and Shannon Falconer, November 2, 2021; and the YouTube video in the Spotlight. Image source: Shutterstock/Susan Schmitz.

Discussion Questions:

1. In what phase of the product life-cycle is lab-grown mouse meat?

Guidance: This product has just completed the research and development and is about to enter the “introductory” period of the product life cycle.  During this phase, a company needs to market and educate consumers about a product with which they are not familiar.  The company will need to alert consumers to this new option, obtain shelf space at key distribution points, and make the case that this product is superior to traditional cat food.

2. When may consumers see this product on the shelf?

Guidance: The wait at this point will be for the supply chain to be fully in place, and then Because, Animals hopes to test market the product outside the U.S. in February 2022.  If all goes well with the U.S. approval process, American consumers many see the cat treats on store shelves by the end of 2022.

3. How can Because, Animals forecast demand for its new line?

Guidance: With a product as innovative and unique as this, forecasting demand can be especially difficult.  While it can consider initial sales of its plant-based items for some guidance, this product is truly unique and it may be hard to gauge it popularity.  The test market may help some.  Also, Because, Animals is taking pre-orders from stores or individuals even now, which may help it to identify interest and forecast needed capacity.

4. What operational strategies is Because, Animals using?

Guidance: Many pet food companies use a mix of animal parts that cannot be sold for human consumption, including parts from chickens, cows, lamb, or fish that are leftover or diseased.  In some instances, companies may even use roadkill, zoo animals, or cats and dogs that have been euthanized.  Because, Animals wants to offer pet food that bypasses these typical ingredients.

Many companies sell plant-based alternatives. The competitive advantage here would be that pets could eat food that is more “evolutionarily appropriate” for them.  For instance, cats hunt for mice while dogs prefer squirrels.  By growing actual mouse meat, Because, Animals offers pet food that is potentially more “natural” for cats’ nutritional needs as well as being sustainable in terms of not harming animals.

Potentially, then, Because, Animals is pursuing differentiation strategies based on newness/innovation as well as quality and sustainability for its cat treats and foods.   Eventually it hopes to sell similarly crafted products suitable for dogs.

5. Are there any negative implications for this product idea from a sustainability standpoint?

Guidance: Interestingly, if this becomes a widely popular alternative pet food, it may cause problems for processors of meat for humans as well as the rendering plants that have traditionally purchased from them.  What a company does with rejects or leftovers/unusable parts of its manufacturing process is a key issue, also related to sustainability.  It may be hard to find other similarly profitable ways to dispose of large amounts of animal byproducts which are currently being put to a useful purpose, albeit one that doesn’t sit well with some.

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