You may have wondered at some point, how your dog’s food is made. If you didn’t, your dog might have been curious, but couldn’t ask you, intelligently, anyway. Well, I’m going to help both of you with this article. It’s really an amazing process. Let’s get cooking, shall we?
Dry dog food requirements
Dry dog food processing is a little more complicated than, let’s say, semi moist or wet food. Let me try to explain the process in simple enough terms. First let’s start with who sets the standards for dog food. An organization called the AAFCO, or Association of American Feed Control Officials. This is the organization that sets the minimum standards for all pet foods. They are very strict with the minimum requirements to be included in dog food. Anything that does not meet the minimum nutritional requirements to be called ‘dog food’ must be labeled as either a treat or supplement. You want to make sure you look for the AAFCO approval on any pet food you buy, to ensure it contains the minimum nutritional contents.
Dry dog food processing
First, the meats, vegetables and grains are shipped in bulk to a processing plant. Next, they are combined and ground to a ‘flour like’ consistency. This makes blending an easier process. Once this is done, then liquids and fatty acids are added to the flour like mix until it becomes a doughy substance. This next goes into an expander where the mixture is heated at very high pressure and high temperatures to cook the kibble before the extrusion process. Next, the mixture will go in to an extrusion process, whereby this doughy mixture is squeezed through narrow holes, kind of like the playdoh machines we had as kids. It squeezes the dough out into strips which are then cut up into smaller pieces, which will be the kibble end product. These pieces are then slowly dried to extract any excess moisture, which can cause bacteria and also to prevent over cooking which will make the kibble too hard to chew and digest. The kibble is next sprayed with fats and oils to make it pleasing to your dog’s wet nose and palate. It is then cooled carefully to prevent condensation when packaged. There are also quality control checks at each of these stages to ensure proper production.
Semi moist dog foods
Semi moist dog foods start off much the same way as dry kibble, but to a lesser extent. The extrusion process, for instance, is different from that of dry kibble in that the food is extruded and cooler temperatures and lower pressures in order to retain more of the natural moisture in the mixture. This mixture is then tumbled in large containers along with water and humectants which attract and help to maintain the natural moisture before the cooling process. Did I say humectants? Yes, much the same as you would find in skin care, beauty and shampoo and conditioner products. Not to worry, they are merely ingredients that help to attract water molecules, like a magnet, to retain the moisture in the food. Sometimes other ingredients may be added to protect against mold and bacteria due to the extra moisture in the food. Semi moist foods will, therefore, have a shorter shelf life than dry kibble due to the extra moisture, so make sure you take note of the shelf life when purchasing these types.
Wet dog food – chunks and pate
Wet dog food is made from fresh and frozen meats sent to the processing plants in bulk. They will probably contain some things that we, as humans, wouldn’t want to eat. These meats come from farms and slaughter houses, but contain bits of organs and fatty tissues. These parts and bits are actually higher in nutritional value than the typical muscle meats that we prefer to eat. The meats and parts are then ground and vitamins and minerals are added in proper proportions in large vats and mixed at great length to ensure the right distribution of calories and then heated slowly. The slow heating allows for the meats and starches from the ingredients to produce a more gelatin like consistency. This makes the final product more palatable and much easier for digestion for your dog. Many varieties may contain grains or even starchy vegetables. These varieties need to be cooked at higher temperatures to allow the starches to be fully cooked out of them. This mixture is then, either left in the pate form, or turned into chunks where a gravy or jelly is added. If they are turned into chunks, they are then broiled to make a more complex texture and flavor. This mixture, whether it be pate or chunks, is then canned and sealed while it’s still hot. As the food cools in the can, it forms a natural vacuum in the cans. The cans then go through a final sterilization process with high heat to get rid of any excess bacteria before being labeled and shipped out to stores.
I hope I have you a little insight as to how dog food is made to help you and your dog.
As I said at the beginning, it’s really an amazing process I figured you might be interested in. If you’re not interested, perhaps you should let your dogs read this article and decide for themselves. A great deal of time, effort and quality control goes into making your dog’s food. Now, it’s up to you. I have always said, make sure to read the labels whether it is dry food, semi moist or wet canned food. Make sure the packaging has the AAFCO approval and read the ingredient’s list. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity contained in the food, as is with human food packaging. If you find it important to read your own labels, you should also find it important to read your dog’s food labels. Again, pay closer attention to the ‘sell by’ dates, especially on semi moist and wet foods. Good luck to you and your furry children!