Pet Food Information
The pet food manufacturing process is similar to the production of food for humans. It is government regulated to assure safety and nutritional value, and the industry is continually adding to its offerings. The process doesn’t vary much between companies, nor is it very complicated. However, there are processing nuances between brands that affect taste, shelf-life and quality in general. There are three primary types of pet food, including dry, semi-moist and canned. In addition to the products for your pet’s regular diet, which is the focus here, there are countless varieties of treats on the market. As a result of these many product variations, the production equipment and processes must become more flexible and continuously evolve.
Ingredients of Pet Food
All pet foods manufactured in the U.S. must meet the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), as well as the USDA and the FDA. Together, these guidelines assure that the ingredients used will provide all your pets’ nutritional requirements, and the manufacturers will deliver products that are free of harmful toxins.
The quality raw ingredients include chicken and beef meals, fat and a variety of grains, which are combined based on one of the many formulas in use today and transformed into the food in your pet’s bowl.
Manufacturers generally use the extrusion process to produce dry kibble. The ingredients are mixed into a dough and heated under pressure. The food is cooked and pressed through a die plate with holes in it, much like a cookie press. After the food is cut into the desired shapes as it exits the extruder, it is then sent to a dryer to remove the excess moisture. Vibratory conveyors are used in the drying process to separate any dust or clumps from the product as it moves toward the packaging area. At this point, manufacturers will often add a coating to the kibble to enhance the flavor. Then, the food is packaged according to the weight on the label and prepared for shipping.
The production process for semi-moist food is very similar to that of dry kibble. The difference is that it is cooked under less intense heat and isn’t dried as much afterward. During the coating process, the addition of water and chemicals helps the product to retain its moisture and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Then, it is refrigerated to preserve its texture and packaged in moisture-proof bags.
With wet food, the process is even more straightforward. The ingredients are mixed after being ground in a commercial hammer mill, then placed in containers, sterilized to kill any bacteria and vacuum sealed. After the packages are cooled, they are labeled and ready to distribute. Canned pet food processed this way has a shelf life of two to five years if stored correctly in a cool, dry environment.
The variety of pet food and treats on the market today is wide. As a result, manufacturers are continually modifying and upgrading their equipment to accommodate the different sizes, shapes, and blends of food. On a small scale, this wouldn’t be as difficult to manage, but in mass production, it can be a challenge. The equipment on the lines needs to be quickly and easily adaptable to producing multiple products, in order to maximize efficiency and revenue. It’s also good to know which food is for which pet.
Production of food and treats for your cats and dogs is not unlike the manufacturing of food for humans. It is subject to approval by the regulatory agencies to ensure that the products meet nutritional and safety guidelines. After high-quality ingredients, including meat, grains and fat, have been mixed into a dough, dry food is cooked, shaped, cooled and packaged for distribution. The production of semi-moist and canned foods go through a similar process, but with varying degrees of cooking and cooling. Advances in modern equipment continually improve the manufacturing process to accommodate the vast array of products on the market today.