food on a bowl for dogs

How is Dog Food Made?

Have you ever looked at your pet’s food and wondered how it was made? Or maybe you are curious about what your pet is really eating because you want to meet their dietary needs or help cure a newly discovered allergy.

Making pet food is a long process that starts way before manufacturing even takes place. Many things must happen before the actual food is made. Recipes need to be formulated, ingredients must be sourced, and packaging needs to be ready to go before any pet food can be made!

If you have ever been curious to know how pet food is made, read along in the article and we will discover all the steps from start to finish. You will learn how your pet’s food is formulated, sourced, manufactured, labeled, and tested!

Becoming Established Pet Food Manufacturers

Dog Eating Food from An Established Dog Food Manufacturer
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Pet food manufacturers create pet food all across the United States and there are many manufacturers worldwide as well. 2 out of 3 American households have pets, that is a lot of food that needs to be made! Because of this enormous amount of fur babies, the pet food industry brings in over $31 billion dollars per year!

There are over 300 pet food manufacturers in the United States with more being built each year. Dog food manufacturers must go through many steps in order to have a successful pet food brand.

Manufacturers must create and market their brand with a memorable name and logo. They must appeal to their niche market in order to receive trust from their customers. A trusted manufacturer creates products that their audience knows have been proven to be safe.

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Create a Pet Food Blueprint

Once the manufacturer is established, their next step starts with a food engineer who puts together the blueprint for the new food to be made. This blueprint will include the recipe and target nutritional value that the pet food will have. This blueprint helps the manufacturers know which pet food has been made and what needs to be created.

Since there are many different individual needs of each animal, the person responsible for creating the formula will need to take that into consideration while creating various recipes.

For example, they may need to make it grain-free for pets with allergies or they may need to add more meat and protein for highly active puppies. There are recipes for older pets as well as specific breeds. Whichever type of pet you have there is a formula available for them.

Find a Pet Food Processing Plant

The processing plants are chosen once the brand knows where they are going to distribute their food and the formula has been finalized. You can’t choose a processing plant until you know what your needs are, for example, if you need to make pet food that is being sent out to stores in the Midwest, you want your plant to be nearby.

Animal food processing plants have increased in numbers across the United States in the last decade. More Americans have pets than ever before, this includes cats. Because of the increase in the number of pets we have, more food needs to be made. That is where the need for processing plants comes in.

Pet food production is highly scrutinized at federal and state levels. Americans spend billions of dollars on their pets and they want to be sure that the quality of the food their pets are consuming is up to par with what they would feed themselves. Pet food is not for human consumption, but it is processed similarly to the foods that we consume.

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Source Quality Ingredients

Dog Food Quality Ingredient
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Once you know which ingredients will be used in the pet food it is time to source the ingredients. Many brands will outsource some or all of their ingredients to other countries, one of the largest sources being China.

A lot of pet owners want ingredients sourced only from the United States and because of that many brands are now sourcing 100% of their ingredients in America. In order to receive a 100% USA label, all of the ingredients used must be sourced from the United States.

Knowing the source of your pet’s food is very important. Companies that outsource to other countries may not be getting ingredients that are safe and healthy for your pup. You always want to know where your dog’s food is sourced from.

Slaughterhouse Vs Rendering Plant

When it is time to source meat for a pet food brand, manufacturers have two choices. They can buy their meat directly from a slaughterhouse where tho while animal is already precut and ready to be cooked or they can get it from a rendering plant.

Many products that dog food manufacturers source are already rendered. When making kibble, the meat must be ground prior to the final cooking process which makes rendered meat an easier option. Rendering plants use high pressure to separate the dead animals into separate materials. During this process, the animals are separated into fat, meat or bone meal, and wastewater.

Inspect and Separate the Ingredients

Inspected Quality Ingredient
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There are many steps when it comes time to prepare the pet food ingredients. Many people must inspect all the ingredients to ensure they are safe for consumption. Both the dry ingredients and wet ingredients are thoroughly examined before they can be moved to the next stage of preparation.

This is where the Association of American feed control officials gets involved. The American Association of feed control officials examines the ingredients and gives a guaranteed analysis that each food is balanced with vitamins and minerals for all life stages.

Any ingredients that are not suitable for the next steps are separated from the good ingredients and disposed of properly by the inspectors. Pet foods can contain ground meat, gelling agents, fatty tissue, soybean meal, meat broth, bone meal, and corn gluten feed. These ingredients don’t have a long shelf life before being cooked and must be examined closely before moving to the next steps.

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Weigh the Ingredients

Natural Ingredients
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Once each ingredient has been sourced and inspected, it must be weighed and sorted to match the accurate percentages. For example, if a particular pet food calls for an 18% poultry by-product meal, it must be weighed accordingly so that the product can contain the correct amount.

The blueprint will give accurate measurements in the formula. To better understand, think of it like making a cake, if the formula calls for 2 cups of flour, 1 stick, and 1 cup of sugar to be 150 calories per slice and have 2 grams of fiber, then you must add the exact amount for it to match the formula. Anything more or less would not match the nutrition content on the label.

Obviously, the pet food is prepared in large quantities because they are making it in bulk to be sold across the world, but a formula is still accurately followed.

Prepare the Final Product

Dog Food Final Product
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Once everything is weighed out and ready to be cooked, it is all combined together. The meat, ground meat meal, other dry or freeze-dried dog foods, fat, gelling agents, added minerals, vitamins, and preservatives are combined and cooked with steam at high temperatures. They are then forced through small holes and trimmed down into bite-size morsels that we know as kibble.

This cooking process is actually called extrusion. Extrusion is the process of using a machine called a die. The die helps cook and mold the pet food into its finished product. The increased pressure and heat help remove excess moisture from the pet foods.

Wet pet food is not made by extrusion. The wet pet food cooking process is a little different than making dry pet food because it has a higher moisture content. For wet pet foods meat, fat, and other ingredients are heated in a large machine at high temperatures, then a gravy is made that has added minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Both the meat product and gravy are then mixed together and canned for the final product.

Spraying the Kibble

Once kibble has had time to dry and settle it is entered into a large drum to be finalized. The finalization process involves spraying the dry kibble with a flavor-enhancing coating. This coating helps give the food more meat flavor and appeal.

The coating isn’t only to enhance the dry food, but it also helps lengthen its shelf life. The added coating is also a preservative that helps prevent spoilage and bacterial growth. Once the coating has been applied the pet food is then mixed together allowing the coating to cover each piece.

Package the Final Product

Dog Food Packaging

Once everything is settled, it is time for the pet foods to be packaged. The pet food labels for dry pet foods clearly state the percentage of meat, fats, added minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Pet food labels are clear for the consumers to see what has been added to each formula to ensure that your pet’s dietary needs are met.

Wet pet food is packaged with pet food labels as well. All wet food labels will state which meat was used and if vitamins were added. Pet food of any type should be labeled not for human consumption, never under any circumstance eat any pet food. Pet foods can cause sickness or death in humans.

Inspection From Quality Control

Before the animal food can be sent out to stores and distributed across the country, it must be inspected one last time to be sure that the pet food labels are accurate, the meat is palatable, and the foods used were safe. All foods and treats must be inspected before distribution.

Distribute the Completed Product

Now it’s time to ship out the completed pet food. Pets around the world consume pet foods, but the number one consumer of pet food is the United States. More than two-thirds of American households buy pet food for their animals. Pet food is distributed in every state of the US and with over 600 pet food brands there is more than enough to choose from.

Pet food and pet treats are sold at pet stores, and grocery stores, and can also be found online.

Is Dry Dog Food Good For Your Dog?

dry dog food ingredient quality
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Whether or not we should allow our pets to have dog food is up to the owners. While it is not safe enough for human consumption, highly regulated and established brands are generally recognized as being safe and good for pets.

Pet food companies are visited by American feed control officials who test all the ingredients before, during, and after the cooking process. They give a guaranteed analysis of the quality of meat, amount of nutrition, and if the food is safe for your pet to eat. Always remember to keep your dog food away from moisture as it helps prevent spoilage of the pet food.

What Are the Best Dog Food Brands?

As we know, not all pet food companies are created equally but the brands listed below have stood the test of time and proved to be trustworthy and good for our pets to eat.

Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo

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Blue Buffalo dog food is owned by General Mills. All of their dry foods are made and sourced in the United States. Blue Buffalo makes premium pet food that is full of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that are a crucial part of your dog’s dietary needs.

Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care recipes don’t contain any chicken, eggs, beef, corn, wheat, soy, or dairy for pets with food allergies or sensitivities. The Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Salmon and Potatoes food is a highly rated natural pet food.

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Iams is a well-known brand that has dry kibble available for dogs at all life stages. Their pet food contains essential nutrients, many vitamins, and minerals, as well as fats and a protein-rich formula.

Iams has wet pet food and dry foods available for your dog. The Iams Proactive Health Minichunks formula made with real chicken meat and whole grains is great for dogs of all sizes. It is made in the USA with ingredients sourced from around the world.

Purina One

Purina One

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Purina One pet food is another brand that contains essential nutrients for your beloved pets. Purina One pet food has many recipes that are high in protein and antioxidants to aid in supporting your dog’s immune system.

Purina One Natural Dry Dog Food is a highly rated formula that is made with lamb and rice. This formula contains tender morsels of meat and prebiotics for additional gut health. Purina has pet foods available for cats, too!

Natures Logic

Natures Logic

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Nature’s Logic is a premium pet food brand that offers grain-free pet food that is not made with legumes, potatoes, or peas. It is 100% natural with added probiotics for digestive support. Nature’s Logic uses American-raised chickens and other ingredients sourced from the USA.

Nature’s Logic Canine Grain Free Chicken Meal Feast is the perfect choice for pets of any breed, size, and age. It is highly rated and features whole foods like meat and vegetables that your dog will appreciate! They even have the formula to help your pet with weight loss!

Alternative Pet Food Options

If you want to choose another way to feed your dog you can opt for pet food that is made by you. But, be sure that you meet their nutritional requirements and use quality products when making your dog’s food at home.

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Homemade pet food options include a carnivore diet of meat and fish. Some owners serve the meat raw while others prefer to serve it grilled or baked. You can also do an omnivore diet with a blend of meat, fish, and vegetables. If you do opt to make your pet food at home always consult with your veterinarian first, they will give you advice and let you know if your down has any specific nutritional needs.


The pet food-making process is well thought out and planned. Many companies across the United States are making healthy pet foods and treats with premium ingredients sourced from within the country. Pet food makers are creating dry foods, wet foods, and treats for dogs and cats that offer vitamins and minerals. The dog foods that your pets are consuming are full of nutrition and are made with your pet in mind.

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