Data's Role in High-Meat Pet Food
Pet owners want the very best for their best friends. The new trend in pet food is products with a high- meat percentage. With this trend comes its own challenges. High-meat inclusions of various kinds require specific attention, including sanitation and maintenance of the machine due to the meat percentages.
Automation and AI are adapting pet food production, making the process more efficient. Data plays a role throughout the entire manufacturing process by sharing the parameters of each step from procurement of ingredients, production, packaging, shipping, and finally, into the customers’ hands. The continual sharing of data between the machines (IoT) allows the manufacturer to ensure the safety and quality of the product.
Once the ingredients have arrived in the facility, data aids in sorting them. Raw meat can contain all kinds of foreign material that need to be removed. Optical sorters have double-sided lasers, enabling sorting according to color, structure, and biological characteristics that detects the containments.
In the past, pet food companies only produced a limited amount of different formulas. However, today’s product various lines are evolving to meet consumer demand. “Several trends have emerged in the pet food industry, which has caused equipment manufacturers to either amend or enhance their technology and educate the market on their abilities to process,” states Sharon Nowak, business development manager for industrial equipment manufacturer Coperion K-Tron USA. For example, the increase of formulas that can be breed, age, gender, or health condition-specific, increases the complexity of the manufacturing processes.
To be considered high-meat pet food, the product must meet standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The pet food industry and AAFCO have agreed that dog food with at least 30% protein can claim to be “high protein.” And, for cat food, the protein levels should be 26% for adult maintenance diets and 30% for growth and reproduction-focused formulas.
Automatic measuring, mixing, and balancing of the various ingredient quantities and specifications for the high-meat product relies on the data generated by various sensors. When it comes to ingredients, pet food deals with several materials that have different densities, consistencies, and flow rates. Maintaining the right balance can be a challenge. Gilles Maller, vice president of sales and international for Clextral, states that high-meat pet food “requires an understanding of the meat ingredients, special handling and storage, a focus on hygiene, and modifications in extruder parameters as well as upstream equipment.”
Automated extrusion controls are equipped with multiple sensors across each zone to measure temperature, pressure, and steam. This data is then used to automatically adjust for raw material variations and aid technologies to efficiently mix various ingredients.
“Extrusion systems must be able to process higher levels of meat and to effectively and efficiently process recipes containing many ingredients that were not included in recipes in the past or cannot or will not be used in the future,” says Galen Rokey, director, process technology, companion animal division for Wenger. “Many of these ingredients are heat and shear sensitive, so the extrusion process must be able to employ operating parameters that maintain the functionality of the ingredients.”
An important aspect when dealing with high-meat products is hygiene and the prevention of pathogens in the product. Moisture control is essential when dealing with the quality and hygiene of the product. Sensor data help maintain the proper balance for each formulation and is key to controlling durability, palatability, texture, and shelf-life.
Petsource, a freeze-dried ingredients arm of Scoular, opted to utilize UV technology for maximum sanitary design inside its newest plant. The facility, which was designed and built by Gray, utilizes UV technology inside a custom-modified tunnel designed to kill bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungus that may be present in the food.
Shipping out the Door
As with the similar processes that are used to monitor the ingredients coming into the facility, GPS sensors, RFID, and lot number tracking supplies the product data to increase traceability down to a specific package and more transparency as the food makes its way to the stores and their customers. Smart contracts can automatically send data between vendors.
Efficiency is crucial, with manufacturers seeking various ways to ensure high-meat mixes don’t slow production down. Automation and AI streamline production, but data is the backbone that the machines and manufacturers rely on. Through the complete process of making high-meat pet food, data ensures that the product that customers want for their pets is the best quality and provides pet food manufacturers the knowledge to produce it efficiently and effectively.