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The pet food industry is able to develop tailored pet food formulations that meet the nutritional requirements of pets due to their nutritional expertise.
In the R&D centres, manufacturers, nutritionists, biochemists, microbiologists and veterinarians study animal nutrition. They also measure the nutritional value, palatability and digestibility of feed materials used in the formula, which constitute the basis of production. To help manufacturers, FEDIAF has prepared nutritional guidelines for cats and dogs based on the best available science.
Please see our video on how pet food is made. You may also wish to see our factsheets on this topic.
COMPOSITION OF FEED MATERIALS
To achieve the right balance of nutrients, pet food manufacturers blend mixtures of ingredients including meat, fish, cereals and vegetables or are supplied in the form of supplements. The industry can use meat by-products, poultry pieces or leftovers from the fish filleting industry that are mixed with vegetable materials (cereals, legumes...). Materials of animal origin come from abattoirs and animals, which have been passed as fit for human consumption by the official veterinary services.
The nutritional value and bacteriological characteristics of the feed materials are prerequisites. All pet food plants using raw materials of animal origin must be under the control of the veterinary services and manufacturers conduct analyses on all the feed materials as soon as they enter their plants.
The industry has developed a "quality strategy" which begins well before the production stage and ends with the consumer.
At the beginning of the cycle, suppliers of cereals, meat or fish must be approved by the manufacturer. The choice is made on the basis of specifications where bacteriological characteristics of the product as well as freshness, nutritional quality and digestibility predominate. Quality controllers at the production site then check that the materials comply with the specifications. They measure the level of protein and the percentage of fat. Foodstuffs are then integrated into the manufacturing process, which is under continual monitoring. Fully automated production lines in the factories assure optimum precision in the dosing of ingredients, eliminate all risk of human error and avoid any physical contact of the operators with the materials and food.
The industry goes a step further than the official veterinary controls. Manufacturers have their own control systems whereby samples are analysed every hour on the production line. The supplier of packaging is responsible for quality. He delivers cans, pouches, trays, cardboard boxes and paper bags that match the manufacturer's specification.
Even if the role of the manufacturer ends in theory when he delivers his finished products, members also conduct an information policy with distributors and consumers. It covers, among other things, storage conditions and implementation of hygiene standards that guarantee the wholesomeness of the product. Guidance on how to use the product and how to store it is also given on the packaging.
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES FOR CANNED PRODUCTS
After thawing, the meat products are pre-chopped and stored in silos containing no more than half an hour's production. Then as soon as they enter the production chain, the ingredients required for the recipe are dosed and ground. An endless screw collects and weighs the components.
The resulting mass is then sent to the thin pre-cutters and mixers. At this stage, minerals, cereals and vitamins as required are added to ensure a balanced diet for the cat or the dog.
The product is then packed in cans, trays or pouches and then sterilized using human food processes.
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES FOR DRY PRODUCTS
The ingredients required for a given recipe are first measured, ground and mixed.
Production is achieved through a special technology called cooking-extrusion. This involves exposing the mixture of animal and vegetable materials to the combined effects of pressure and temperature for 12 seconds. This process makes the product highly digestible as it ensures the complete cooking of the starch.
Dry foods may then be sprayed with fat in order to complete their composition and increase palatability.