Sometimes out pets can be extremely fussy when it comes to food turning their nose up at specific flavours or types. It can get even more complicated when they are on a medically prescribed diet.
Where there are so many different types and flavours available it can be confusing to know what to feed and especially if your furbaby will like it before you buy it. However the internet is here to help you – not just for reading about different types of food or researching the nutrient requirements to match your pets age and medical status.
The rise of free stuff uk websites also give you the benefit of finding free samples of pet foods for dogs, cats, and even rabbits in some cases. These are often sent directly from the manufacturer or distributor in a smaller pack size of the food as a way to try and get you to start using them to feed your pet. However these are a great way to see if your pet likes the flavour and style of food.
For example you can try this free offer to try Wafcol dog food, in the past there have also been offers from Pedigree and other manufacturers. Sometimes also vet practices or rescues may offer free samples of different foods when you register a new pet with them.
In some pets such as rabbits it is especially not to make drastic changes in the food which can cause an upset stomach. For these animals it is often best to introduce a new food gradually.
Once you have found a food that they like it is important not to run out. In the UK you can even order pet food in bulk from amazon on a scheduled delivery so that you always have a good supply without having the last minute stress of finding something for them to eat.
A while back I happened to be at BSAVA at the same time as the Technical Manager for Supreme Petfoods, knowing very little about pet food manufacturing at this point in time I decided to ask as many questions as I could. Now I am going to try and explain the process (at least at Supreme Petfoods) to you!
Starting at the beginning of the process we have to consider the type of formulation process used. There are generally two types here:
Fixed formulation – Now fixed formulation is simply that, it means that every single time the food is made with the same ingredients. Take for example cranberry’s, if the formula says that 1kg of cranberrys should be used then 1kg of cranberrys is used. It doesn’t matter about the market price of the ingredient, if the cranberrys cost £1 or £10 they are still used in the same amount.
Dynamic (nutrient based) formulation – Now dynamic formulation is all about the end nutritional value of the food. This means that it just so long as the end nutritional values are correct whatever ingredients it takes to get there are used. Generally this could mean the cheapest possible ingredients are used, there is actually computer software that will calculate the recipe based on the cheapest prices at that point in time.
Now Supreme Petfoods use fixed formulation, this means that every time you buy a new packet of food it is exactly the same as the last time you brought that food. The upside to this is your rabbits not looking at you crazy for giving them a different food.
All these ingredients are then processed (whether it be by grinding or cutting) before they are all mixed together. This is then passed into something called an extruder, its basically a big machine that will squeeze the food out through a die for the correct shape and cut it into the correct sizes… Kinda like one of the old play dough machines but on an industrial scale.
This will then pass into a drying tower which will remove the moisture from the food using heat and time, before it then passes into a cooling tower to allow it to return to room temperature before then heading to a packing line where it is sealed in bags ready for distribution.
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!