Criteria for choosing extruded dog, cat food ingredients

Certain criteria influence why pet food formulators choose specific ingredients for new recipes to be processed in extruders.

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(Andrea Gantz)
(Andrea Gantz)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Oct. 18, 2021

Certain criteria influence why pet food formulators choose specific ingredients for new recipes to be processed in extruders, Heather Acuff, Ph.D., director of research and development for pet food company Nulo, said in her presentation at Petfood Essentials 2021.

“First and foremost is nutrition,” she said. “We feed animals a complete and balanced pet food, so we need these ingredients to come together to provide the nutrition for the animal.”

Although that's the main reason, pet food makers also must consider how those ingredients will react inside an extruder. Some ingredients can make the extrusion process go smoothly, while others can be challenges.

“We don't necessarily put raw chickpeas into the extruder or just for the heck of it,” she said. “we're usually getting a chickpea that's already pre-processed and ground. A lot of times, these are blended with some of the other flours that we might include in the formulation.”

Other practical concerns include product uniformity and texture. For the pets themselves, flavor of the product matters, so palatability of certain ingredients must be considered. Other ingredients improve shelf life, such as antioxidants or other microbial inhibitors.

Marketing also plays a role, as some ingredients rise or fall in popularity with pet owners and as human food trends migrate into pet food.

“Sometimes the marketing team really thinks this is going to be the key seller for the product,” she said. “They want it in a product, and so the processors and the formulators need to take a look at how they can use that so they can get it into the product as a selling point.”

Ecological sustainability increasingly influences pet food ingredient choices too.

“Sometimes it may not necessarily just be about nutrition or marketability, it may be that it's a more sustainable resource.”

Nutrition, processability and other practical concerns, along with sustainability and marketability influence the choices pet food formulators make when developing recipes.

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