How Are Dry Pet Foods Made?

Vladimir Negron
Dec 17, 2010
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Have you ever wondered how your pet’s kibble is made? Whether they are formed into little balls or squares, or cut into fish and chicken shapes, just what goes into these formulas to create the flavored and colored food that your pet eats every day? The process of creating dry kibble is called extrusion; but first, let’s begin with the ingredients.

How the Ingredients Come Together

Walk down the pet food aisle of any large grocery or pet store, or browse your favorite pet food supply website, and you will see that you have dozens, even hundreds of brands to choose from. Each of these products is based on a recipe that has been formulated by the pet food company. The recipe is then handed off to an animal food manufacturer, where the food is mixed, baked and bagged for sale.

While each brand has its own individual recipe, there are standards they must all adhere to, standards that are regulated by Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). All foods, regardless of brand, origin or recipe, are required to be complete and nutritionally balanced, so that all of the animals nutritional needs are being met by the ingredients included in the recipe. These ingredients include protein sources like beef, chicken and eggs, as well as grains, cereals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These ingredients are mixed together and pulverized in order to make a consistent dough that can be cooked.

The Extrusion Process

Dog biscuits and cakes have reportedly been around since Roman times, and have been made commercially since the early 1800s. In modern times, the process of creating dry pet food is done by either baking or extruding. Originally created to produce puffed breakfast cereals, the machines that are used for the extrusion process are an efficient method for manufacturing large quantities of nutritious, shelf-stable pet foods. This process begins with the dough -- a mixture of raw dry and wet ingredients that are mixed together until they form a dough-like consistency. This dough is then fed into a machine called an expander, which uses pressurized steam or hot water to cook the ingredients.

While inside the expander, the material is under extreme pressure and high temperatures. The dough is then forced -- or extruded -- through specially sized and shaped holes (called die), where it is cut off by a knife. This process must be done while the dough is still compacted from the high pressure, since once the dough pieces have lost the effects of the high pressure, they puff up.

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