U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysts estimate that every year 30-40% of the United States’ food supply is wasted. Reducing that inefficiency would decrease pollution, habitat loss and water use, along with hunger. People preserve foods, both for themselves and as pet food ingredients, to avoid this waste while also retaining foods’ nutrients.
However, the process of drying ingredients also uses energy, land, raw materials and other resources, potentially creating waste and pollution. The twin needs of energy efficiency and resource conservation drive innovation among producers of dried pet food ingredients and equipment manufacturers.
“Every step we take towards a more efficient and environmentally friendly machine is a step in the right direction,” Blair Kibblewhite, sales and marketing manager for equipment manufacturer Cuddon Freeze Dry, wrote in an email.
Co-product drying for sustainable pet food ingredients
Duynie Ingredients makes plant-based pet food ingredients from co-products of the human hood stream. This process, sometimes called upcycling, uses items rejected or discarded by human food processors and distributors. The fruits and vegetables may be unusable for cosmetic reasons, such as crooked carrots, or may be parts of the plant not used by humans, like sugar beet pulp. Many of the vegetables are harvested near Duynie’s facilities in the Netherlands, while bulk products, like potato co-products, come from all over Europe.
“We are part of the circular economy,” Suzanne Benders, marketing communications specialist for Duynie Ingredients said.
Duynie uses waste heat from a nearby biomass energy production facility, that burns wood and other plant matter to produce electricity. The power plant’s waste heat allows Duynie to reduce their own energy usage to produce dehydrated pet food ingredients. Their production process is now climate neutral, meaning it doesn’t create greenhouse gas pollution. The company is working on switching its transportation fleet to electric trucks.
For example, Duynie Ingredients researchers estimated that one metric ton of their potato co-product ingredient, PotaPure, saves 1.6 tons of carbon dioxide, 260 gallons of water and 9,790 square feet of land, when compared to a conventional potato ingredient.
Energy-efficiency of freeze-dried pet food ingredients
A literature review in the journal Foods concluded that, although freeze-drying of plant-based ingredients retains an optimal amount of nutrients, freeze-drying also used four to ten times more energy than conventional hot air dehydration, which may make it more expensive and resource intensive.
“With steady growth in the pet food sector, pet food manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint including the types of equipment available to them while still providing a premium product,” Kibblewhite said.
“There are innovations around the efficiencies and environment factors that go into the manufacture of a freeze dry machine - like the types of ice trap, refrigeration and vacuum systems used, but the biggest area of focus for OEMs right now is around refrigerant gases and the recent global initiatives to reduce global warming caused by these gases,” she said. “There is a move towards refrigerants with lower potential to contribute to global warming, especially naturally occurring gases such as ammonia and carbon dioxide.”
Pet food ingredient producers and equipment manufacturers continue to develop technologies that reduce resource use and pollution. This helps ensure that the pet food industry will be able to sustain production of nutritious, high-quality products. Resource efficiency helps reduce a company’s contribution to climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and other threats to the ecosystems that human economies depend on.