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Pet Food Production, Production Technologies And Feed Additives


Miguel Lopez

Pet food advisor-Evcil Hayvan Yemi Danışmanı
www.mlopez.mx

A wide variety of pet food options are available in the market; It is very easy to go to the supermarket, price clubs, distributors, and even the corner convenience stores to get food products that our dogs and cats will enjoy.

Complete food and treats can currently be found in these places; ranging from the typical dry pet food, through soft moist products, baked treats (milk bones) and moist foods (packaged in cans or pouches). Frozen dry pet foods are also currently available.

PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGIES
-Extruded pet food
Extruded pet foods are by far the ones who remain the most common choice found in the market shelves in terms of manufactured products. Their formulas have mostly dry ingredient flours and animal fats (tallow or chicken oil). The technology used for its cooking is the extrusion.

Most common equipment layout is composed of a preconditioner with a double or single shaft, a single or double screw extruder, a dryer either vertical or horizontal, a fat and flavor applicator either drum (the most common), disc or vacuum type applicator. This layout ends its process with a cooler.

Some companies may apply in the preconditioner not only water and oil but also fresh meat. This type of technology requires a strict quality control and a very thorough food safety program; in order to be able to implement this practice, major adaptations in the configuration of the extruder screw are recommend.

The extruder technology can regularly produce dry-type pet foods and additionally with some adaptations in formulation and equipment can manufacture soft-moist pet foods and treats.

Moist pet foods
Most moist commercial pet foods may be found as pate or stew types.

The pates are manufacture with a special equipment named cutter; the cutter will chop and mix the fresh raw materials (mainly meat and vegetables); liquids and additives are then, added to the formula. Cutters produce a soft pate that is subsequently canned or packaged in stand-up pouches. Subsequently, the product is heat-treated (retorting) in order to ensure its total safety.

The stew type pet foods are manufacture using the technology named steam tunnel. The recipes designed for these type of products include various types of fresh meat and liquid and powder additives. The layout of this production technology consists in a mixer followed by a simple extruder that rather than cooking, forms a type of rope made out from the dough. Subsequently, these ropes or strips will enter into another equipment known by the name of steam tunnel, where the temperature of the product will increase rapidly to reach around 90 oC. Product strips are cut into uniform pieces which will be cooled in a belt and later will be mixed with a previously prepared gravy with or without vegetables, and packed in cans or stand-up retortable pouches. The endpoint of this process, as all the wet pet foods is sterilization through heat.

Baked goods
The technology of baking applied to the pet food is mainly used to manufacture biscuit type treats (milk bones), not exactly 100% complete and balanced dog or cat pet food.

Frozen dry
This type of technology has the great advantage of manufacturing products that retain their nutritional characteristics for a great amount of time. By means of vacuum low-temperature dehydration, are accomplished products that will be used dipped into water in order to regain their initial physical characteristics. This technology is very expensive and is still not widely used in the pet food industry.

FEED ADDITIVES
Mostly all pet foods are prepared with various types of additives that bear the following characteristics: preserve and increase shelf life, modifiers of the physical characteristics of the products, flavors and compounds that contribute to the pet health (nutraceuticals).

All the types of pet food have in their formulation additives that relate to conservation and increase shelf life. Of course, depending on the market segment to which the product belongs, the pet food will use different type of these additives. Artificial antioxidants are included in pet foods that belong to the commercial and economy segments, while the premium and superpremium products use natural antioxidants like vitamin E and tocopherols.

Other additives of this type are antifungals and other type of preservatives. Organic acids as well as sorbates are good examples of these type additives.

The modifiers of the physical characteristics of the products are mainly included in the soft-moist pet foods. They control the water activity of the pet food so the softness of the particle remains for more time.

Thickeners also modify the texture of the moist pet foods and are included in the formulation of gravies.

Most of the flavorings that are included in pet foods come from hydrolyzed chicken or pork liver. In some countries, the addition of artificial scents in pet food such as bacon or beef is common.

Pet food industry worldwide avoids the use of antibiotics into the formulation of their products.

Finally, a very common practice done by the pet food industry is the inclusion of Nutraceuticals. These substances are additives that contribute to specific health issues for the pets that consume them.

Examples of some Nutraceuticals are chondroitin and glucosamine as protective substances of the pets joints, and collagen as a promoter of resistant skin and nails.

Pets, unlike livestock must reach elder ages with the best possible health. In order to achieve this, the pet food industry community is constantly working to offer better solutions for offering constantly better quality products to the pets community.

We also suggest you to read our previous article titled "Unleashing the potential of the European insect production sector: market and regulatory perspectives".

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