Novel protein science at Petfood Innovation Workshop

Topics included protein properties, shelf-life and sensory experiment results, and potential uses for chemicals derived from African spotted hyenas.

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Photo by Debbie Phillips-Donaldson
Photo by Debbie Phillips-Donaldson

To help brands meet dog and cat food buyers’ demand for high-meat pet foods, participants learned about advances in pet food nutrition research and explored new technology at the Petfood Innovation Workshop and Kansas State Pet Food Experience. Topics included protein properties, shelf-life and sensory experiment results, and potential uses for chemicals derived from African spotted hyenas.

One-hundred and six research scientists, industry leaders, faculty and students came to the Manhattan campus of Kansas State University (KSU) for the workshop from September 13 to 15.

Upcoming pet food industry learning opportunities

The next edition of Petfood Innovation Workshop will take place April 3 at the KSU Olathe campus, in conjunction with Petfood Forum 2017. A new Petfood Technology Workshop Mexico debuts December 5-6, 2016, in Ensenada, Mexico. In late fall 2017, the Petfood Innovation Workshop at KSU-Manhattan will focus on the use of grains in modern pet food in response to the current demand for grain-free products.

Topics of the 2016 Petfood Innovation Workshop

In one demonstration, participants prepared exotic proteins for freeze-drying while the experts explained the process.

Faculty from KSU also shared information about:

  • resistant starches,
  • safe methods for processed meat product production,
  • models to identify unique compounds found in co-products of the human foods industry and
  • process effects in extrusion with leading grains like sorghum.

The key note was offered by Jeff Gill with Tallgrass Brewery who provided the audience lessons he’s learned from starting a new company in the craft-brewing industry and shared some of the parallels to the landscape in the pet food industry. Posters from graduate students were on display featuring work from a variety of laboratories in pet nutrition, processing, sensory studies, engineering and others. The participants also were treated to campus activities and participated in a hands-on pet food extrusion workshop featuring new technology in the production of high meat foods and introduced various novel proteins in new applications.

Workshop presenters

Gordon Smith, PhD, head of the grain science and industry department opened the session and John Floros, PhD, dean of the college of agriculture provided context about the university, the state and how they fit with the growth of the pet food industry. Starting the technical presentations, Greg Aldrich, PhD, pet food program coordinator, gave an overview of research from his laboratory regarding protein meal oxidation in processed pet foods.

Sirichat Chanadang, a PhD student in human nutrition followed with observations from human sensory panels from this same work. The conclusions from both were that oxidation of protein meals may not be as prominent an issue for the pet owner or the pet regarding taste and smell, but nutritional factors could play a bigger part.

Tona Melgarejo, PhD, from the human nutrition provided insights into his work with bioactive peptides such as cathelcidins from the African spotted hyena and how it might apply to man and companion animals.

James Lattimer, PhD, equine nutritionist from the animal science and industry department provided a comparative nutrition primer on the topic of resistant starch and how it may play into the gut health in humans and pets.

Liz Boyle, PhD, shared research and experience in the safe preparation of jerky, including the less than intuitive notion that there must be a period of moist heat to get a full pathogen control. Ben Katz of the KSU Biotechnology Core Facility shared some examples of how, using advanced analytical techniques, that new bioactive compounds of potential benefit to companion animals might be derived from overlooked raw material streams.

Closing out the afternoon session, Sajid Alavi, PhD, provided the attendees an interesting look into the microscopic world of protein bodies in sorghum and demonstrated how the structural integrity of these formations in the seed can be effectively disrupted to improve digestibility and processing in pet foods.

Meat and novel proteins at Petfood Innovation Workshop

For the portion of Petfood Innovation Workshop that was focused on meat and novel proteins, the day started with Laird Veatch, deputy athletic director at KSU. He provided insight into brand building and how to refine and hone the image of brands after they have been established.

Then the breakout sessions for the workshop split into six groups and each was able to experience first-hand the activities of the day in a full round-robbin affair. The workshops featured novel proteins like kangaroo made into jerky by Lorstcher Animal Nutrition and LV Lomas. Provisur used a forming machine to produce various shaped meat treat products. Dehydrating technology was shared by Scoular. High-meat extrusion technology was examined by Extru-Tech with specialty proteins from the Peterson Company.

Binders for chunks and gravy canned food applications using plasma were shown by APC. Rice Bran Technologies engaged participants in the use of rice bran derivatives in jerky products as a functional element in modern pet foods and treats.

Participants’ experiences

Participants came from Canada, Thailand, and 21 US states. A dozen self-identified themselves as part of the leadership in their company. A number of the participants were attending their first pet food industry meeting seeking information about technology, production facilities and new market ideas, potential collaborators and new hires.

On campus for the two-day event were 57 participants involved in KSU Pet Food Experience and the Petfood Innovation Workshop. Of those, 11 self-identified as the president, corporate officer or founder of their company. Supporting this effort were 20 faculty and program staff, 11 faculty, staff, and community speakers and 20 graduate and undergraduate students active in the pet food program. The latter served as hosts, volunteers and provided program content via posters and presentations. 

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