Pet food processing has had to evolve in recent years. Pet owners these days expect the highest possible standards of nutritional quality from the food they feed their companion animals. Alongside this, the demand for sustainable manufacturing and pet food packaging have put new demands on pet food manufacturers. Luckily, however, developments in technology have enabled pet food manufacturers to rise to meet consumer demand, with faster, more efficient production lines and environmentally-friendly pet food packaging options.
The pet food manufacturing industry is held to very high regulatory standards, with legislation in place to ensure the safety and quality of food for animals. EU Feed Hygiene Regulations cover all stages of pet food processing, from pet food processing equipment to storage, logistics and so on.
Microbiological testing is required, both on the finished product and on all pet food processing equipment, and manufacturers must use relevant manufacturing equipment, such as metal detectors and x-ray machines, to check for the presence of foreign bodies.
Pet Food Processing and Packaging Steps
There are two main types of pet food for cats and dogs: wet food and dry food (kibble).
Wet cat and dog food processing
First, the ingredients are carefully weighed and measured before being minced together. This will usually include a protein source (meat) along with grain or rice, and vegetables.
Once mixed, the mixture is cooked. There are a few different methods of cooking used for wet pet food, using pet food processing equipment such as heat-exchange or steam-heating machinery. Following this, the mixture may pass to another machine for cutting (depending on whether it is to be chunks or mousse). Next, the food is mixed with gravy or jelly, then filled into a container.
The containers are sealed and cooked at a specific predefined temperature, optimised for safety and freshness. Once cooled, in a cooling machine, the pet food is then packaged and prepared for distribution.
Dry cat and dog food processing
As with wet food, weighing, measuring and mixing happens first. With dry food, however, the next phase involves adding water and steam to increase the mixture’s temperature and create a malleable dough.
The dough is passed through a type of pet food processing equipment called an extruder. In the extruder, it is fully cooked - using its own friction and heat within the machine to do so - before being pushed through a die plate which gives the kibble its shape. This is like a ‘cookie cutter’, so the kibble can be made to look like anything from little hearts or bones to just spherical pellets.
The shaped kibble is then dried to reduce moisture. At this point, it may also be coated with gravy or animal fat for taste. Once cooled, the pet food can then be packaged.
If you are interested in finding out more about pet food processing equipment, visit PPMA Show at Birmingham NEC - now taking place in from 28 to 30 September 2021