Dry dog food, also known as kibble, is made through a series of steps involving ingredient selection, mixing, cooking, shaping, drying, coating, and packaging. Here's a detailed overview of the process:

1. Ingredient Selection

The process starts with selecting high-quality ingredients. These typically include:

  • Proteins: Meat, poultry, fish, or meat meals.
  • Carbohydrates: Grains like corn, wheat, rice, or alternatives like potatoes and peas.
  • Fats: Animal fats or vegetable oils.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: To ensure nutritional completeness.
  • Additives: Preservatives, flavors, and colors.

2. Grinding and Mixing

The selected ingredients are ground into a consistent meal. This ensures that the kibble has a uniform texture and nutritional content. The ground ingredients are then mixed together in large batches according to specific recipes designed by pet nutritionists.

3. Pre-Cooking (Optional)

Some ingredients, like certain grains or starches, may be pre-cooked to enhance digestibility and ensure proper texture in the final product.

4. Extrusion

The mixed ingredients are fed into an extruder, a machine that cooks the mixture under high pressure and temperature. During extrusion:

  • Cooking: The combination of heat, moisture, and pressure cooks the mixture, making it safe for consumption and improving digestibility.
  • Shaping: The cooked mixture is forced through a die plate, shaping it into the desired kibble size and shape.
  • Cutting: A rotating knife cuts the extruded product into bite-sized pieces.

5. Drying

The shaped kibble pieces are then passed through a drying oven. This step removes excess moisture, ensuring the kibble is shelf-stable and preventing spoilage.

6. Coating

After drying, the kibble is often sprayed with a coating of fats, oils, vitamins, and flavors. This coating enhances palatability, making the food more appealing to dogs, and can also improve nutritional content.

7. Cooling

The coated kibble is cooled to room temperature. This ensures that the coating sets properly and that the kibble is safe to handle and package.

8. Quality Control

Throughout the production process, samples of the kibble are taken for quality control tests. These tests check for consistency in size, shape, moisture content, nutrient composition, and the absence of contaminants.

Each manufacturer may have variations in their process, especially when it comes to ingredient choices and specific formulations to meet different dietary needs. However, the core steps of grinding, mixing, extrusion, drying, coating, and packaging remain consistent across the industry.