Welcome to AFIA’s twist on “How It’s Made,” featuring animal food! Like many of the products made on the popular TV show, the making of animal feed is a multifaceted and methodical process.
It all starts with animal nutritionists, who can be considered the dieticians of the animal food world. Nutritionists formulate animal food to provide animals with the necessary, balanced nutrients for proper growth, development and maintenance. What is in animal food, you ask? More than 900 ingredients are approved for use in animal food in the U.S., including corn, soybean meal, citrus pulp and distillers grains – just to name a few!
The making of animal food can be summarized into four basic steps:
Create a formula
Nutritionists work side-by-side with researchers to formulate nutritionally sound and balanced diets for livestock, poultry, aquaculture and pets. This is a complex process, as every species has different nutritional requirements.
Receive raw ingredients
The feed mill receives raw ingredients from suppliers. Upon arrival, the ingredients are weighed, sampled and analyzed for various nutrients, for example, how much protein or fat is in the ingredient, and to ensure their quality and safety.
Once the formula is determined, the mill mixes and processes the ingredients to create a finished product. Just like human food, the final products can take on a variety of forms. The most common are meal, pelleted, crumbled, cubed and extruded (e.g., dog food kibbles).
Package and label
Manufacturers determine the best way to ship the product. If it is prepared to be sold and packaged, it will be “bagged and tagged,” or placed into a bag with a label that includes the product’s purpose, ingredients and feeding directions. If the product is prepared for large-scale use, it will be shipped in bulk.
Sounds pretty simple, right? These four steps are just the tip of the iceberg that is animal food production. Years and years of animal nutrition research and diet formulation go toward making sure animals have safe and nutritious food.
So next time you feed your cow, chicken or cat, you can feel confident that their nutritional needs are being met.