By Elizabeth Wasserman for The Dog Daily
The process of making high-quality commercial dog food involves scientists, nutritionists, veterinarians and even dog-food tasters in a production more befitting the Food Network than Animal Planet.
“They’ve got as many Ph.D.s and doctorates on staff as any of the pharmaceutical companies,” says Dr. Katy J. Nelson, an emergency veterinarian who works on pet nutrition. “They’re trying to make a product that is going to be the sole thing that these animals are going to survive on, so they have to make sure they have everything in there that could possibly be needed to sustain life and enhance the well-being of these animals.”
Here’s how the dog food manufacturing process often goes, from start to finish:
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It can take years for a new dog food to progress from a concept to a food you can buy at your local pet store. In addition to keeping up with the latest nutrition and scientific research, pet food makers also work with dog owners to explore what would best meet the needs of particular dogs, beyond the basics. “Getting the idea is the easy part,” says Nelson. “Developing the food and making it into a great product is the hard part.”
Adds Dr. Amy Dicke, a Dayton, Ohio-based veterinarian who has worked with teams of nutritionists and researchers: “Innovative nutrition starts with research.”
Here’s how the different stages of developing a new dog food usually progress:
Before new dog foods are sold, they must be complete and balanced and meet the nutritional adequacy expectations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which regulates pet food labeling in the United States.
Pet food makers are always looking for volunteers to help test foods. “A lot of companies feel like in-home usage gives you more realistic information about how pets are going to do on this diet, because it incorporates the stresses of everyday life -- both good and bad,” says Nelson.
Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.