While the details may vary slightly from one brand to another and between different formulas by the same brand, most dry cat foods are produced using similar methods.
Dry cat food goes through a six-stage process starting with the raw materials and ending with the packaged product. Below you will find a brief explanation of each stage in the process:
- Assembling Raw Materials – The first stage in the process through which dry cat food is produced involves assembling the raw materials, or ingredients. The main ingredients used in dry cat foods are fresh meats, grains and fast as well as vitamin and mineral supplements. Once assembled, the raw materials are stored in separate holding areas until they are ready for stage two.
- Grinding the Ingredients – Step two in the process of producing dry cat food involves grinding the raw materials down to the right size. By grinding the materials into smaller particles, this process prepares the ingredients for cooking and it breaks them up to ensure that the nutrients they contain become more readily available for your cat to absorb.
- Compounding and Mixing – After the ingredients are assembled and ground, they are then compounded and mixed in precise proportions according to the specific formula. Dry cat food ingredients are often blended in very large batches up to 2,000 pounds after which they are stored until it is time to cook them.
- Extruding the Mixture – The extrusion process for dry cat food is the process through which the mixed ingredients are kneaded and cooked. Before extrusion, the ingredient mixture is often blended with a preconditioner to add the right amount of moisture. The mixture is then transferred to an extruder which mixes, kneads, proofs, shapes, and slices the product while heating it to a specific temperature.
- Drying and Cooling – After the product has been extruded it must then be cooled and dried out. This process must be carefully regulated because the product will mold if it isn’t cool enough before being dried and it might break apart if it is cooled too quickly.
- Enrobing the Final Product – Once the product is extruded, dried, and cooled it goes into the final stage of process in which a powder or liquid is used to coat the surface of the pieces, making them more palatable to your cat. Not all dry cat foods will go through this process but many pet food manufacturers coat their products with flavors.
The process through which dry cat food is produced typically takes place in large factories with assembly lines of various machines and equipment.
Using this assembly line, pet food manufacturers can produce batches of dry cat food weighing thousands of pounds. After those products are mixed, cooked, dried, and cooled they are put in packages and then distributed for sale.