Preventing foreign materials from reaching the end of the processing line is a battle that producers and renderers of pet food must fight on two fronts. On one front are the incoming raw materials, which almost always contain unwanted objects; on the other, the processing line itself, where unwanted materials can accidentally fall into the product mix. Some foreign materials are big and easy to see, some so small they’re almost invisible - but whatever their size and wherever they come from, all must be removed. No exceptions, no excuses.
The importance of these battles has intensified in recent years because pet food buyers are becoming more discerning in their choices and less forgiving of imperfections. The market’s move towards premiumization is clear evidence of this, with more shoppers demanding pet foods that contain near-human-grade ingredients. But even the buyers of inexpensive pet foods expect that product quality will be flawless when opening a can or bag for their furry friends. Any pet food that’s visibly blemished - or, worse still, potentially harmful to animal health - can cost the producer dearly in product recalls, reputational damage, and lost business.
These battles have to be fought whether the pet food is dry or wet. Biscuit residue used as an ingredient for dry kibble can contain plastic or cardboard from wrappers and boxes. And animal by-products rendered either into bone- or feather-meal or frozen blocks can contain all sorts of debris.
Animal by-products from poultry, pork or beef can bring various types of debris into the rendering facilty. These can be plug fingers, belt parts, chocolate paper, gloves, metal, and glass. Whereas some foreign materials are removed via metal detectors or by visual controls, most will end up as tiny fragments in the meal stream.
Battling these stealthy foes might sometimes seem like mission impossible, but the recent introduction of new technologies to the pet food industry can now ensure mission success. In just the last two years, TOMRA Food has begun providing its advanced sorting solutions to the renderers of by-products from animal food ingredients also used by pet food producers. TOMRA has done this by recalibrating optical sorting machines previously designed to ensure human consumption purity.
TOMRA’s world-class sorting applications can detect-and-eject unwanted materials according to their color, shape, structure, and even their biological characteristics. This means it is now possible for pet food manufacturers to remove tiny particles of foreign materials from dry meat and bone meal, ground frozen meat, biscuits residue, and dry kibble. As an added bonus, at the same time that the sorting machines automatically ensure food safety, they can enhance the price fetched by the product by ensuring greater protein content, and optimize yields by minimizing food waste. This means the best-equipped pet food renderers and processors emerge from battle victorious.