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Dog food 101: How is pet food made? Print E-mail
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Dog food 101: How is pet food made?

June 29, 3:05 PM · Courtney Taylor - Denver Dogs Examiner

Photo: Clextral.com

When opening the can, ripping the bag, or browsing the aisles of the pet store, do you ever wonder how pet food is made? How do some companies create a potpourri of bones, circles, and triangles?

Dry Food

First, the animal ingredients are added to a large vat. This may include quality ingredients such as beef, lamb, or chicken meat. Or, ingredients may be comprised of horses, euthanized pets, by-products, etc. All material is then ground, cooked at a temperature between 220° and 270° F for up to an hour, then spun to remove the fat in a process called rendering.

The rendered material is mixed with cereal grains, flours, meat or bone meal, etc. to gain the desired consistency. Preservatives may also be added at this time. This doughy material is fed into a machine called an extruder where it is subjected to high heat and pressure and squeezed through a mold. As the substance exits the mold, a spinning blade rapidly cuts the strand of dough into small pieces.

The hot doughy pieces are exposed to normal air pressure which causes them to expand or "puff" into the intended shape. After it dries, many manufacturers will spray the food with animal fat, sweeteners, or other flavor agents, known as "digests" to increase palatability.

After the food cools, it is ready to be bagged.

Some dry foods are not extruded. Instead, they are cooked at a temperature of at least 500° F. A hard, crunchy "sheet" is formed which is then broken into several irregular pieces. Generally, food produced in this manner does not need added digests as the food is relatively palatable.

Although most bacteria is killed during the heating process, the food can become contaminated during the cooling and coating process before it is packaged. For this reason, some experts caution pet owners against wetting dry food with canned food, water, milk, etc. When the liquid is applied, bacteria may multiple on the food's surface causing pet illness.

Wet Food

The food's ingredients are combined and ground. A special extruder may be used to form chunks, if necessary.

Many companies cook their food before canning. The cans make their way into a heating chamber, also called a retort. They are exposed to 250° F for about 80 minutes to sterilize the cans. Some food manufactures actually cook their food in the can during this process.

The canned food is then cooled quickly and dried. The containers are now ready for labeling and packaging.


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Courtney Taylor is an Examiner from Denver. You can see Courtney's articles at: "http://www.Examiner.com/x-8279-Denver-Dogs-Examiner"
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