The pet food industry has several characteristics that make tight process control a requirement for profitable feed production.
A key aspect to modern pet food production is the requirement to meet labeled specifications for each product. The nutritional label is based on proximate analysis of the pet food. Fulfilling this requirement is complicated by production of many different recipes and products per feed mill, with some pet food mills producing over 150 distinct products.
The second key aspect of modern pet food production is the variety and high cost of the incoming ingredients. These relatively expensive raw ingredients can show significant variations in nutritional quality batch to batch and across various ingredients.
Near-infrared (NIR) technology has been used in the food, feed, and agriculture industries for over 50 years as a way to analyze for properties such as moisture, protein, fat, fiber, ash, amino acids, and more. NIR testing is fast (analysis in seconds), accurate, safe, usually nondestructive and requires minimal sample preparation with no reagents. NIR is extremely flexible and can be configured for the analysis of solids, liquids, oils, slurries, and suspensions. Accuracy is often equivalent to the wet chemical methods that it replaces. Its precision is almost always better.
NIR is an important quality tool used in the pet food industry. Accurate proximate analysis of incoming raw ingredients provides a reliable input for least cost formulation systems. Analysis of incoming raw materials, in-process intermediates, and finished products can help to ensure product quality and minimize re-work. Finally, NIR analyzers will accurately analyze dry, finished pet food for moisture, protein, fat, and ash ensuring compliance with labeled specifications. Timely, accurate analytical data will provide the pet food plant manager with the inputs needed to optimize the process and maximize profits.