Sustainable Pet Food for the Future

Koji, an ancient food and a modern protein.

by Ernie Ward DVM, Drea Burbank MD, Ron Shigeta PhD, Abril Estrada PhD

Veterinarians, food scientists, ethicists, environmentalists, and pet lovers realize there has to be a better way to feed our dogs.

The pet food industry takes a toll on the environment. A 2017 UCLA study estimated that dog- and cat-food consumption is responsible for 64 million tons of carbon dioxide per year released into the environment. Pets eat an estimated 30 percent of all meat in the United States, making them equivalent to the fifth largest country in the world in terms of meat consumption.

Along with ingredients, pet food safety is an increasing concern. Pet food recalls have risen dramatically over the past decade, revealing serious problems with manufacturing, ingredient sourcing, and pharmaceutical and bacterial contaminants of meat sources, such as the recent recall of 107 million cans of dog food contaminated with the veterinary euthanasia drug pentobarbital.

Koji for Dogs

Nutritional data that shows koji is an excellent source of protein, as it boasts over 45 percent protein by weight (compared to 24 percent in steak), has a balanced amino acid profile and is a source of other essential nutrients such as omega fatty acids.

In vitro tests that simulate the digestive system of dogs show that digestibility was higher than 80 percent in gastric (stomach) testing and higher than 76 percent in intestinal testing.

Koji is grown on-site in fermentation stacks. This means reduced cost and environmental footprint compared to conventional pet food proteins. Furthermore, koji consumes simple sugars and creates minimal waste with an even smaller ecological footprint per pound of protein.