Have you ever wondered how your furry friend’s food is made? This article covers the manufacturing of dry pet food and wet pet food.
How Kibble/Dry Pet Food Is Made
While there are many ways of creating kibble, the most common is done by extruding. Extrusion is used to produce human foods such as puffed breakfast cereals. Extrusion is a process which involves a few unit operations including mixing, cooking, shaping and forming. Kibble can be cooked and shaped in a machine called an extruder. This machine can produce large amounts of shelf-stable dry pet foods in an efficient way. The extrusion process begins by mixing the raw dry and wet ingredients. After it forms a dough-like consistency, it is fed into the expander and cooked through specially shaped and sized holes - this is also where the dough is cut into smaller pieces by a knife. Then, it is transferred to a dryer to remove the remaining moisture. It has now been turned into kibble, which is coated with natural flavours and sprayed with fats, minerals, vitamins and oils. Once cooled, it is ready to seal in packages.
Almost all dry pet foods are made the same way, so it doesn’t matter whether you buy the most expensive brand or the cheapest one. The most important things to take into consideration when buying pet food for your pet are the ingredients the pet food companies use, the pet food recipes, their quality control measures and their recall histories. Some recommended brands of pet food are Nutrience, Absolute Holistic and Taste of the Wild.
How Canned/Wet Pet Food Is Made
Unlike dry foods, canned foods are made using different machinery. The main difference between kibbles and canned pet foods is the moisture content. Canned foods generally contain between 70 and 80 percent, while kibbles contain 10-12 percent moisture. Generally, canned foods have few preservatives compared to kibbles. After cooking and adding any thickeners or gels, canned foods are poured into cans. Then, the cans are vacuum sealed and sterilised in a retort. This sterilisation process is effective at killing bacteria in the products. According to Made How, the cans are quickly cooled to about 38°C and then labeled.
Pet Food Ingredients
Pet food manufacturers must comply with the rules and regulations which set by several agencies at the federal and state levels, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In general, the main ingredients in pet foods are meat or by-products of meats, poultry, seafood and feed grains. Just like human foods, ingredients are carefully selected based upon their functional contribution to producing products that offer complete nutrition for our pets.
The animal parts used for our pet foods may include bones, organs and damaged carcass parts. Cereal grains that are often used to minimize the cost of raw materials and to improve the consistency of the product are corn meal, soybean meal, barley and cracked wheat. Liquid ingredients in pet foods may include water, blood or meat broth. Stabilisers, gelling agents and preservatives are commonly found in the ingredient list of pet foods. The purpose of adding gelling agents is to control the moisture and also allow greater homogeneity during processing. Examples are bean and guar gums, carrageenan and other thickeners.
Meanwhile, the palatability of pet foods can be enhanced with fat, protein, yeast, protein, sweeteners or concentrated flavours called "digests". Most pet foods are supplemented with vitamins and minerals to assure that products provide total nutrition and remain wholesome during distribution and in storage.
Unless pet owners are making homemade foods for their pets from scratch and serving the foods immediately, preserving pet foods in some way is necessary. While the use of preservatives are essential, there is a difference between artificially created preservatives and naturally occurring preservatives. To help prevent spoilage, only FDA-approved preservatives are allowed to use in commercially prepared pet foods.
Typically, artificial preservatives are not used. Commonly used artificial preservatives in pet foods are Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and ethoxyquin. According to petMD, these artificial presevatives are extremely effective at preventing fats from turning rancid and can extend the shelf-life of products. Artificial preservatives are less expensive than natural preservatives, however, they have been linked to various health issues such as cancer. Fortunately, there are natural preservatives that can perform the same function and keep our pets healthier. Common natural preservatives found in pet foods are mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E), rosemary, citric acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). Some canned food brands that do not contain artificial preservatives are Aatas Cat, Kakato, Kit Cat and Absolute Holistic.
Canned foods usually contain less preservatives as the canning process is a way to preserve foods in itself.