A year or so ago I was aware that Royal Canin was using feathers in their pet food, to be honest at the time I thought it was an act of desperate cost saving, however it is a whole lot more clever than that!
So a little understanding of immune responses is essential here, basically the body is set up to detect and destroy evil foreign proteins(invaders). Sometimes however it goes wrong and recognises good (or normal) proteins as evil too. In food this causes Adverse Food Reactions, Atopic Dermatitis and so on. Now the immune response is also linked to the size of these proteins – the protein size is measured in Dalton’s which is the measurement for mass on an molecular scale – and the bigger the protein the bigger the response. This can be partly due to it being easier to “see” by the immune system.
The goal of Royal Canin was to produce a food with protein molecules that were less than 1kDa (1000 Daltons) in size to prevent the immune reaction. Now part of the Royal Canin philosophy is for sustainability and so they needed the protein but also a strong continuing supply of this. It took them years to find this, and in the end it was found that the proteins in feather hydrolysate were the correct size, and there is a plentiful supply. Now what this means is that the feathers are specially processed to release all the proteins (around 88%) and oligopeptides (around 12%). This is exactly the same kind of technique that is used with formula for babies that are allergic to milk.
The rest of the formula was adapted as well (72% of it is brand new) to ensure that no other ingredients were included that contained proteins. It took 4 years and 15 prototypes along with 300 palatability tests to come to the final product with a 10 year development time!
Now the production of this food is even more complex than most as its cannot contain even the smallest contamination from other proteins. To achieve this it is produced in only 2 Royal Canin factories in the world, and the production line undergoes extreme cleaning and DNA testing in each stage of the line after cleaning to ensure that it is properly clean!
Well today i finished my journey around 3pm, over 24 hours after i originally set out. I am here to attend a Royal Canin Student Ambassador meeting and my flights and expenses are being covered by them during the time I amhere. I will however as always continue writing uninfluenced by this and will be as factual and honest as I can. Without the support of Royal Canin to do this I would never be able to afford to do this myself and so I thank them for the opportunity!
There will be nearly 50 vet students from vet schools around the world (including Taiwan, Malaysia, most of Europe and South Africa) which is pretty cool and I am excited to meet so many new people. Royal Canin is one of the big brands of companion animal nutritional, yet I have no understanding at all of their products or company. The first day of the meeting will be consisting of lectures on different aspects of clinical nutrition before looking at the Royal Canin philosophy. This will be very interesting for me as so far in my studies as a vet student I have only done around 5 hours focused on dogs and cats!
This will be followed by a trip to the beach (it is the Mediterranean after all) which I am extremely excited about. It’s been a long time since I have been to a beach, and even longer since I have swam in the sea! Evening dinner will be a great chance to network and find out more about the world, and then on Wednesday we will be visiting the Royal Canin headquarters in Aimargues. We’re going behind the scenes through the research labs and the complete food production process (sadly for industrial security I cannot get photo’s of this) and also meeting the cats and dogs that help develop the food!
I will try and blog stuff from this as I get time! Its a very jam packed few days and I see myself very exhausted when it comes time to leave…
So today I am just a little excited, but full of dread too. Today is the start of my first ever visit to France, it is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit but never got round to as I keep getting busy with other things. Since I started my studies though it has been one of the those places I can’t afford to visit (I’ve not had a proper holiday in nearly 8 years now).
Luckily on this occasion Royal Canin are getting the bill in return for my participation as a Royal Canin Ambassador, and though the program is pretty packed they have been nice enough to include a afternoon on the beach (if the weather is nice that is)! Hence the excitement…
However my flight to France is from Vienna early tomorrow morning and there is just no public transport connections I can get that will make it in time, or without a big massive wait. So I’ve found a coach that gets me there for 6:30 this evening and my flight will be nearly 13 hours later… Ideas wanted to entertain oneself in an airport please!!!!
Apart from the dreaded journey I am really excited, Royal Canin have their world headquarters in Aimargues, South France. This is where I – along with 38 other vet students from around the world (I think the furthest is Japan!) are going. This not only has their research and development centre, but also one of their factories which I will be visiting.
These 3 days will hopefully be packed full of useful things I can come back and share! I will update you as soon as I get a chance