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When shopping for a new commercial dog food you probably take the time to read the label as well as the list of ingredients. But have you ever thought about how dry dog food, or kibble, is made? There are several different production methods used for dry dog foods and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article you will learn the basics about how dry dog food is made and you will receive some recommendations for healthy commercial dry foods for dogs.
Processes Involved in Making Dry Kibble
The process through which dry dog food is made is fairly complex and it involves several different steps. The three most common methods used to produce dry kibble include baking, pelleting, and extruding. All three of these methods involve the same initial processing methods, though the final pressing and cooking methods may vary. Below you will find an overview of the different steps involved in the process of manufacturing dry dog food:
- Raw Material Assembly – The first step in the process is to gather the raw materials. For dry dog foods, the main raw materials are meat, fat, and grains along with concentrated vitamins and minerals. These raw materials typically arrive at the factory in train cars or in semi-trucks in loads of 10,000 to 40,000 pounds. The concentrated minerals and vitamins often come in large bags weighing 25 to 50 pounds. The raw materials are stored in different holding areas until they are ready for processing.
- Grinding the Raw Materials – After assembling the raw materials, the pet food manufacturer must prepare them for use by grinding them down to the appropriate particle size. Not only does grinding render the raw materials into the right size, but it also help to break apart the ingredients so the nutrients they contain become more readily available. The most common piece of equipment used to grind raw materials is a commercial hammer mill which grinds the raw material into a coarse flour. It is very important that uniform particle size be attained for the sake of cooking and water absorption.
- Compounding and Mixing the Ingredients – The next step in the process is to compile and mix the ground raw materials at the appropriate rate. A large ribbon blender is typically used to blend the ground raw materials in batches up to 2,000 pounds at one time. During this stage in the process only the dry materials are mixed – they are then stored until ready for the next step.
- Extrusion – The process of extruding is very similar to that of bread making – the materials are mixed, kneaded, proofed, shaped, and sliced. To begin the process, a pre-conditioner is used to measure out the dry mix and to blend it with the right amount of liquid ingredients to create the wet mix before transferring it to the extruder. An extruder is a cylindrical barrel with multiple segments and a large screw that moves, mixes, and cooks the material before forcing it through a die where it is cut to the appropriate size.
- Drying and Cooling – After extrusion, the pieces of kibble will be soft and spongy due to moisture content. The next step in the process is to dry out the pieces of kibble and then to cool it – this process is closely regulated because if the product is tried too quickly it could break apart or if it doesn’t cool before leaving the dryer it could develop condensation and mold.
- Enrobing – The final step in the process through which dry dog foods are made is enrobing. In this stage of the process, a liquid or powder is added to the outer surface of the kibble to enhance the flavor and palatability of the final product.
By utilizing this process, pet food manufacturers can produce large batches of dry kibble at once. Different machines perform different roles along an assembly line with each machine playing its part in processing and cooking the final product. While different dog food formulas are made with different ingredients, the process through which those produced are blended and cooked are largely the same. After the product is ground, mixed, preconditioned, extruded, dried, cooled, and coated it then gets transferred to packages in precise amounts by weight and then sent to distributors for sale.
Recommended Dry Kibble Formulas
Dry dog foods come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors but they are all produced using similar methods. This being the case, it is a better judge of quality to examine the ingredients list for a dry dog food product than to consider the production method. Below you will find a list of recommendations for high-quality dry kibble formulas to consider for your dog:
Acana Classics Dry Dog Food
Acana produces several lines of dog food including both wet and dry food varieties. The Acana Classics line includes several formulas for small-breed puppies and dogs, large-breed puppies and dogs, senior dogs, active dogs, and overweight dogs. This line of dry dog foods is made with 55% to 65% meats like cage-free chicken, wild-caught fish, and whole eggs – it also includes sun-ripened fruits and vegetables. Acana Classics dry dog food is high in protein but low in carbohydrates, free from high-glycemic grains and inexpensive filler ingredients. The Acana Classics dry food diet is designed to mimic the natural diet of wild dogs and it is delivered fresh, not frozen, and made without any preservatives.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Food
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness line of dry dog foods comes in several formulas for different life stages including puppies, adults, and senior dogs. These dog foods are made with top-quality ingredients, designed to mimic the diet of wild wolves with high-protein levels and zero grains. Blue Buffalo Wilderness dry foods are made with novel proteins like bison, wild boar, duck and rabbit which makes them a great option for dogs suffering from food allergies as well. These dog food formulas are also made with LifeSource Bits which are manufactured separately from the main kibble and cooked at a lower temperature to preserve the nutritional content. These bits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support a healthy immune system, especially for older dogs.
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural
The Primitive Natural line of dry dog foods from Earthborn Holistic is designed to be rich in protein, low in carbohydrates, and packed with nutrients. This formula is made with high-quality, protein-rich ingredients like chicken meal, whitefish meal, and turkey meal as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure balanced nutrition. The Primitive Natural line of dry dog foods from Earthborn Holistic is free from gluten and grains, designed to promote lean muscle mass and a healthy bodyweight in dogs at all life stages. Earthborn Holistic uses high-quality ingredients and advanced processing technology to ensure maximum digestibility and excellent nutrient absorption. Other high-quality formulas available from Earthborn Holistic include Adult Vantage, Puppy Vantage, and both a small-breed and large-breed formula as well.
Canidae Grain-Free Pure Dry Food
The Grain-Free PURE line of dry dog foods from Canidae is made with top-quality ingredients like fresh meat and fish as well as whole foods like peas and sweet potato. This company doesn’t use filler ingredients or plant-based proteins like pea fiber and potato protein – instead, the company focuses on 8 to 10 key ingredients for each formula to ensure well-balanced nutrition. Not only is the Grain-Free PURE line of dry dog foods from Canidae made with high-quality ingredients, but it is free from common food allergens like corn, soy, and wheat as well as artificial fillers, hormones, and antibiotics. There are four adult formulas available including Elements, Sky, Land and Sea as well as special formulas for puppies. Canidae uses a variety of novel protein sources like duck, bison, and wild boar which makes it a great choice for dogs that suffer from food allergies.
When it comes to commercial dry kibble formulas for dogs, each brand has its own unique formula and list of ingredients. Production methods do not vary much from one company to another, however, except perhaps in the minute details. In order to judge the quality of a commercial dry kibble, then, you must consider the ingredients list and the nutritional value of the product.