Ryan Bethencourt is a biotechnology expert who introduced his product Wild Earth, a line of vegan dog food, to polarizing opinions. Dogs are scientifically classified as carnivores and to put them on a protein diet without meat is a bold move that elicits extreme reactions from every sphere of society.
While it is established that a vegan diet for humans is ethical and sustainable, humans can also safely live on a diet free of animal products. This concept is controversial when applied to animals as some people believe it is in their nature to eat meat, and it is unethical to force a vegan diet on pets.
Bethencourt believes that dogs, like humans, can easily and safely be switched to a vegan diet using his dog food made out of Koji protein. Koji is used in Asian cuisines for the Umami flavor, and it is packed in enough protein to fulfill a dog’s nutritional requirement. Wild Earth is a biotechnology company that produces its own Koji to make clean dog food that, in their own words, does not cost the Earth.
While the company has its naysayers, it goes from strength to strength. In the latest information available, it has secured $23 million from all-star investors to disrupt the unethical pet food industry. The company is now looking to use biotechnology to introduce a range of beef, chicken, and seafood cell-based dog and cat food ranges.
Wild Earth is a major Shark Tank success story as it provided an ethical alternative that a lot of people thought was irreplaceable despite its catastrophic effects on the environment.
How Did The Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Bethencourt walked into his Shark Tank pitch with two dogs, a great move on his part as the Sharks were instantly interested in the presence of the furry friends. Bethencourt introduced his background in biotechnology and asked for $550,000 for a 5% stake in his company.
The Sharks instantly picked up the company’s valuation and looked shocked at the optimism on display but decided to play along as they were interested.
Bethencourt introduced the Sharks to Koji protein and how his pet food brand was ethical and sustainable. He emphasized that it was essential to be mindful of what goes in the pets’ diet for the sake of their health as well. Conventional pet food was leading to issues like obesity in pets. His pet food provided the answer to environmental and health concerns, making it a choice of the future in the pet food market.
Bethencourt’s then demonstrated how the dogs loved the food by feeding them in front of the Sharks. His pitch was assured and outlined all the salient points; however, the concept of vegan dog food was proving to be a bit difficult to swallow for a few Sharks. Kevin O’Leary was incredibly skeptical of forcing the animals to be vegan as he believed dogs needed meat. Bethencourt argued that just like humans, dogs could live safe, fulfilling lives on plant-based foods. He cited his partner’s scientific pedigree as proof that they had objective evidence for the efficacy of vegan pet food.
Bethencourt then revealed that the dog treats were not out on the market yet, a fact that elicited groans of horror for the Sharks. They were already wary of the valuation, but it had no backing now that it was revealed that the products were not on sale yet. The Sharks wanted to know where the valuation stemmed from; Bethencourt answered that they had done a lot of research and development. This answer seemingly did not satisfy the Sharks, who looked even more doubtful.
O’Leary backed out of making an offer as he was doubtful about the entire premise of vegan dog food.
Lori Greiner appreciated Bethencourt’s scientific background but could not justify the valuation, given that the entire concept of vegan pet food was not proven. She also backed out of making any offers.
Matt Higgins felt that Bethencourt had trapped himself due to his valuation, and investors would be hard pressed to find a justification to invest that much money. He declined to make an offer.
John Daymond also pulled out of negotiations citing his issues with the company’s valuation.
This left Mark Cuban, who claimed that he saw the potential in the business and was not even mad at the company’s valuation. However, he had an issue with the size of the equity on offer. He made Bethencourt a counter offer of $550,000 for 10% equity.
Bethencourt looked apprehensive initially, and Cuban refused to be flexible on his offer. The biotech entrepreneur thought about it and then accepted Cuban’s offer. The two sealed their deal with a handshake.
Our Review of Wild Earth
Wild Earth is a fascinating product with a whole array of advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, it is the customer’s discretion to choose vegan food to feed their pets.
Pros of Wild Earth
- Lessens the carbon footprint of the meat industry
- Sustainable so uses less energy
- Ethically sourced in a lab
- Cures allergies in dogs
- Contains the ten amino acids essential in a dog’s diet
- Natural ingredients, so no preservatives or chemicals
- Taste designed especially for canine taste buds
- Introducing a range of cat food as well
Cons of Wild Earth
- Dogs cannot tell you if they enjoy vegan food; therefore, you might be forcing the food on them against their will.
- Pricing might be too steep for ordinary families to switch their dog’s diet
- Ingredients are not organic or non-GMO, which means pesticides harmful to the environment might have been used to grow the plants used in the production
- Owned by a corporation known for animal cruelty, casting question marks over the product’s ethical claims.
Who Is It For?
This pet food is specially designed to win over the environmentally conscious demographic seeking to lessen its carbon footprint in any way possible. Animal activists are also a part of the target demographic as they would switch to this food as a way to kill fewer animals.
Are There Any Alternatives?
A bustling vegan pet food market is aiming to take over the mammoth that is the pet food industry. Therefore, there are several alternatives to Wild Earth that provide vegan pet food. Some of them are:
Wild Earth is a polarizing product but raises fundamental questions about modern consumption habits. However, there is no conclusive evidence on whether a vegan diet is as beneficial to pets as claimed by these brands.