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What is the Pet Food Industry?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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The pet food industry is a manufacturing industry concerned with producing food for pets. Many companies also make food for livestock and working animals and may be part of larger companies producing other veterinary, as well as human products. Like other industries involved in producing food, it is subject to government regulation for health and safety reasons.

Commercial pet food was a development of the 19th century. Prior to this point, people fed pets with the food they had available at home. In the early 20th century, several companies started producing and marketing pet food on a mass scale, promoting it for health and convenience and creating a growth industry. The pet food industry today includes a mixture of companies offering an array of products including organic, raw, and vegan pet foods of varying qualities. Some companies also manufacture prescription pet food for animals on special diets.

Manufacturers use research personnel to develop and test new flavors. Researchers work on a variety of topics from balanced nutrition for pets to identifying new areas of the market. Veterinarians can also play a role in the pet food industry, as they may participate in product testing and they also recommend food to their clients. Prescription foods are often sold exclusively through veterinary offices and the pet food industry works to maintain good relationships with veterinarians and other animal care professionals.

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Production of commercial pet food includes wet, soft, and dry foods, along with treats. Many companies produce a range of products at different price points to appeal to consumers, with a focus on offering foods for different life stages and needs. Companies in the pet food industry source raw ingredients for their products in a variety of ways. Historically, companies made pet food with discarded material from slaughterhouses and rendering plants, and the quality could be dubious. Some companies continue to use inexpensive and discarded meats, while others may source their meat through other venues for premium products.

Typically, pet food also includes fillers like wheat, corn, and vegetables. By law in many nations, pet food must meet basic nutritional requirements, as it may be the sole source of food for an animal and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals could pose a health risk. Pet food is also subject to inspection for contaminants ranging from toxic chemicals to bacteria, and can be subject to recall if people identify safety concerns with a given batch of food.

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