Pet food and treat extrusions generally produce much larger quantities than can be sold by small dogs, cats, or other animal food companies. However, as more pet food startups enter the field, smaller companies may continue to use ingredients produced on extruders. Likewise, as consumers demand pet foods that are similar to their artisanal food. However, the extrusion process tends to produce standardized cable and treatments that are clearly made in an industrial process. To address this, extruder operators can manipulate their machines to make mass-produced pet food look like it just came out of a small batch oven. Two experts in the pet food industry shared tips on using extruders to make artificial artisanal foods for pets and pets, during the Petfood Forum Connect-ED Q&A presentation by Will Henry, R&D for Extru-Tech.
“There are a few tricks we can do in the extruder type to give it a non-cookie-cutter look,” Henry said.
When Henry’s team helps customers develop new products at the company’s pilot facility in Manhattan, Kansas, USA, they often do the opposite and turn their artisan pet food or treat recipe into a working formulation. Part of this transformation involves preserving the sensory characteristics of the recipe produced in the mixing bowl.
Tricks to make extruded pet products look homemade
For example, to give texture to the outside of the product, extruder operators can install a powder feeder. On a current project, Henry’s team will attach a powder feeder to the extruder’s throat. The powder feeder will drop the steam-milled whole oats into the extruder.
“When the extruder comes out, you get a nice cookie shape, but it has texture with those steamy outputs as well,” he said. “It gives you the mass production you need to reach a wider market with a great economy, but still gives you the literal kind of look and feel of the product.
Another trick used by Henry’s team is to flip the knives in the extruder backwards. Instead of cutting the product flat, it becomes a little irregular. To create meat analogues, a different technology is used.
“If you want it to look like it’s just a piece of meat that you cut out of a cooked chicken breast,” he said, “we’ve made this kind of product with a few modifications on dying.” “Sometimes we flip the geometry of the mould, so instead of directing the product into a smaller shape, we funnel it down to give it an irregular stretching property.”
Extruded Pet Food Ingredients for Small Business
At a typical scale, pet food extrusions produce 10 to 12 tons an hour, Henry said.
“The extrusion process is really a very high-throughput cooking machine from starch,” said Greg Aldrich, associate professor and coordinator of the Pet Food Program at Kansas State University. “They are generally designed or engineered for large-scale production, so they may not fit directly into home-made or small-scale operations, and I’ll confirm that.”
For smaller companies that don’t need tons of kibble or sweets per hour, Aldrich said, extruders may play a role.
He gave the example of using an extruder to produce sorghum flakes that looked like puffed rice grains. And then those fries went into crafting something like a granola bar for dogs.