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Korean foods inspire fermented chicken dog snacks

Fermented chicken could serve as a functional ingredient in dog treats and snacks. Korean scientists drew on their own culinary culture to inspire their work developing a method to ferment mechanically deboned chicken meat (MDCM) for use in dog treats. The dog treat they developed resisted pathogenic bacterial growth and improved dogs’ digestion, although palatability may be a challenge.

“We are accustomed to fermented food such as kimchi, jeotgal, doenjang, soy sauce, cheonggukjang and gochujang,” Eunchae Lee, PhD, animal sciences researcher at Konkuk University, Seoul, said. “We know that fermented food is very beneficial to our health. It motivated our development of a snack for companion dogs.”

Much of the fermentation process used to make the dog treat mirrored that used for human foods, Lee said. Some of the ingredients appear in kimchi or jeotgal. Likewise, aspects of the mixing and storage reflected the fermentation of traditional Korean foods. However, while those foods can take days to months, Lee’s team developed a process for fermenting MDCM dog treat ingredients in 24 hours. The dog treat recipes included 52.8% MDCM, 35.2% chicken breast meat and 9.7% corn starch. Unlike traditional foods, the researchers fermented the dog treat mixture at 37 degrees Celsius, and they inoculated the mixture with lactic acid bacteria, Pediococcus acidilactici and P. pentosaceus. During fermentation, the mixture’s pH dropped rapidly and reached a point that would inhibit the growth of other organisms. Another batch of the recipe was not inoculated and fermented.

“The fermented snack must be sterilized in the manufacturing process for distribution and storage because of activity of lactic acid bacteria,” Lee said.

Effects of fermentation on dog treats, digestion and palatability

Following fermentation, the MDCM-based snack had in vitro pepsin nitrogen digestibility that was higher than the non-fermented recipe. After 14 days of storage at room temperature, bacteria grew slower on fermented dog treats than non-fermented snack samples.

However, dogs preferred non-fermented treats in a palatability trial that included seven Maltese. The dogs ate less of the fermented snacks, spent less time at them and were reluctant to eat. Strong odors or high acidity likely reduced palatability, but fermentation may have given digestive health benefits to the MDCM-based dog snack. The same dogs participated in a 12-day-long feeding trial. The ammonia content dropped in the dogs’ feces, although fecal lactic acid content increased.

“Due to the low pH, palatability for dogs may be somewhat decreased,” Lee said. “So, dog treat makers may need to use natural flavors, but not necessarily…Dogs and human may have diarrhea when they eat a lot of fermented food, but I think that is not a big barriers to its use as a snack.”

The Journal of Animal Science and Technology published the research.

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New ingredient data shows pet food’s value to US economy

The U.S. pet food industry uses 8.65 tons of animal- and plant-based ingredients for dog and cat food annually, contributing US$6.9 billion to the country’s agricultural economy. That’s according to a new report, “Pet Food Production and Ingredient Analysis,” jointly funded and released by the Institute for Feed Education and ResearchNorth American Renderers Association and Pet Food Institute (PFI).

I imagine many people will join me in considering this very welcome and long-needed information. At Petfood Industry, we often receive questions from pet food professionals about the usage of various pet food ingredients – data that has always been difficult to find. (With the exception of commodity ingredients, if you have the knowledge and time to dig through pages and pages of data from the US Department of Agriculture.) So I congratulate these organizations on undertaking this research and sharing it freely with the industry.

Top pet food ingredients by volume, value

The research and analysis of pet food ingredient usage was conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions, an economic research and analysis firm. Besides its own research, it used a base of pet food sales data purchased from Nielsen, resulting in an overall picture of the market at US$30 billion and 9.8 million metric tons in retail sales in 2018. Not surprisingly, dry dog food was the largest category in both value and volume sales that year, at US$11.2 billion and 5.6 million metric tons, respectively.

Highlights of the ingredient research include:

  • Pet food made in the U.S. uses 542 standardized ingredients (taken from retail product labels), with 164 of those ingredients used in both dog and cat food.
  • Aggregated into overall categories by ingredient type, farm and mill-based products had the highest usage, at just over 4 million tons and representing a value of US$1.4 billion. (This category is quite broad, comprising grains and oilseeds, processed grain and oilseed products, dairy products, egg products, forages, fruits, herbs, nuts, root crops, sweeteners, tree oils and vegetables.)
  • While animal protein products appeared the most frequently on pet food labels, with nearly 6,000 listings (more than 2,000 over the next category, fruits and vegetables), when analyzed by specific source for volume, meat and poultry products ranked second at 2.1 million tons. But because of their higher cost, their value was highest at US$3.2 billion.
  • Next were rendered protein meals at 1.5 million metric tons and US$563 million, followed by animal and poultry fats at 289,037 tons and US$153 million.
  • Fish products ranked fourth overall, at 198,671 metric tons and US$893 million. Other categories included broth ingredients, water and minerals. (Note: The study did not include other additives such as vitamins, preservatives, colors or flavors; the organizations said that while those additives are important to pet foods, their volume is very low.)
  • Breaking down the ingredient sources further by weight, whole grains ranked first at 1.87 million metric tons, followed by chicken (854,988 tons), meat and bone meal (635,652 tons), corn gluten meal (476,599 tons) and soybean meal (437,251 tons).
  • By value, beef ranked first at US$1.22 billion, followed by lamb (US$691 million), chicken (US$650 million), salmon (US$430 million) and chicken broth (US$353 million).
  • The top five states contributing ingredients for pet food are Missouri, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio, USA, with Missouri alone contributing nearly US$1 billion worth.

Pet food’s contribution to U.S. economy

While many people and pet food businesses will find this ingredient data very interesting and useful, there is more meaning behind the research, and one of the motivating factors for why the three organizations funded it: further proving the worth of pet food to the U.S. economy. According to the report, 519 pet food manufacturing facilities are located in 42 of the 50 U.S. states. This contributes to what the sponsoring organizations called “upstream” volume and sales.

“The purchase of these products from farmers and farmer-product processors stimulates additional upstream economic activity to other related agricultural industries via the multiplier effect,” read a press release on the report. “The exchange of pet food ingredients leads to the purchase of an additional US$5.3 billion of important materials and services for farmers and farm processors, such as crop inputs, machinery and labor. In addition, those suppliers buy an additional $4.1 billion in services, equipment and labor to meet related needs.”

Dana Brooks, president and CEO of PFI, stated it this way: “This data is an important step in helping to quantify the economic value this industry brings to our economy and all of U.S. agriculture. As pet lovers, we’ve known the value that pets bring to our lives, but can now further confirm the significance of the entire pet food industry.”

During a webinar about the report, Brooks also pointed out the sustainability role of pet food ingredients liked dried distillers grains from the brewing and liquor industries, rendered protein meal and other animal proteins like organ meats. They use leftover or unwanted ingredients from the human food industry (also known as by-products) that would otherwise go to waste.

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3 tips for achieving work-from-home life balance

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned “business as usual” on its head. Social distancing is now all but a mandate, entertainment-related businesses are closing, and more and more people are abruptly discovering what it’s like to work from home.

2 tips boost pet food industry remote work productivity

Finding personal productivity hot spots and learning to use tech effectively can help pet food industry professionals adapt to remote work.

At WATT Global Media (parent company of Petfood Industry), we work under a ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment; a human resource management strategy developed by the founders of CultureRx) system that, among other things, allows us to work any time, anywhere, setting our own hours and our own workspace as long as our business goals are met. As a result, the vast majority of us have been telecommuting for quite a number of years, putting us in the position of being able to share our insights now.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we cover how to adjust your workflow and productivity expectations for maximum success. In this, Part 2, we’re going to cover the unique challenges of work-life balance when your office and your home are the same place.

  1. Take care of yourself physically

There are now options within your reach that you might not have at work: a kitchen full of your foods and your coffee, for example. It’s easy to become a grazer when you work from home, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing — but snack wisely. Keep a glass of water on your desk and mind your coffee or tea intake, particularly if caffeine is your co-pilot.

All those tips about getting up from your desk and walking around to keep the blood flowing and prevent the aches and pains that come with sitting at a desk all day, every day? They still apply when you’re working from home, and guess what — you now have access to your neighborhood, your back yard, your balcony, your patio; whatever connection you have to the great outdoors, make use of it. Set an alarm to remind you to take breaks and head outside for some fresh air.

It’s not just that clearing your head is good for productivity; these are stressful times and getting out of your house while being socially responsible is going to be key to avoiding cabin fever. You’re not hurting anyone by being in your yard or going for a walk around the block (as long as you stay the recommended distance away from anyone else who might be doing the same).

It’s hard to tell just how long all of this will last, but if you feel like investing for the potential long haul, stationary bike and treadmill desks allow you to work and work out at the same time. Different desks provide ideal workspaces for different tasks, so do your (online) research to find one that suits what you do most. For example, some find that recumbent bike desks can provide a smoother platform for typing compared to treadmills and tend to be more comfortable for longer stretches of work than upright bikes. Others find electric treadmill desks help them to keep walking while working, whereas stationary bikes require you to set the pace.

  1. Get your schedule situated with others at home

Now is the perfect time to practice setting some boundaries. It can be easy to get distracted with other family members or housemates around all day, each of you trying to adjust to your new normal. But there are some simple ways to make sure everyone gets what they need.

First, set clear definitions as to where work space and time begins and ends. Do you have a home office you’ll be using? Close (and lock, if necessary) the door to head off interruptions. Are you commandeering your kitchen table? Set a perimeter and make sure everyone knows to steer clear. Use headphones to drown out noise and face away from the main living space if it will be a visual distraction. Do you have a window you can set up by so you’re not staring at a wall? Do whatever you need to do to make sure you aren’t distracted when you need to focus. If you have a meeting or otherwise absolutely cannot be disturbed, put up a sign or share your schedule so everyone around you is on the same page.

When you take a break, use some of that time to interact with your family/housemates/pets. Eat meals together. It’s important to spend time with the people you can be around, because everyone’s world just got a lot smaller.

  1. Special tips for dealing with children at home

If you have kids, odds are pretty good they’re at home now, and will be for the foreseeable future. Whether due to daycares closing down or schools shutting their doors, your children are now for all intents and purposes hanging out in your office space, and you’re going to be disrupted — be prepared.

If you have a partner at home with you, have a family meeting ASAP to figure out how to divide your time and conquer your household. Compare work schedules. Be ready to compromise. Be flexible. Parents are already pros at tag-teaming; you’ve been training for just this sort of situation. Now is your time to shine.

Do you still have nap-takers? Nap time is your friend. You will be surprised at how much work you can get done when you know you have exactly one hour and forty-two minutes to complete four hours of tasks.

If you don’t have a no-screen policy for your kids, there are plenty of streaming services ready and willing to entertain them while you get your inbox under control. If they’re school age and doing online schooling right now, set up and work next to them. Let them know you’re all in this together. If they’re not quite school age or are but without a defined learning plan, there are many, many academic facilities, zoos, museums, concert halls, etc. offering free online learning resources for education and entertainment.

Do you have a laptop and a back yard? Move everyone outside and let kids do what kids do best while you keep watch and get some work done.

Briefly: Stave off feelings of isolation … with your pet!

In a recent survey conducted by the Consortium on Social Isolation and Companion Animals:

  • 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely.
  • 85% of all respondents believe that interaction with companion animals can help combat loneliness.
  • 76% of all respondents agree that interacting with animals can alleviate social isolation.

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2 tips boost pet food industry remote work productivity

Supermarkets look like zombie movie sets. Arenas and stadiums stand empty. Airports idle. Worldwide people have prepared their homes to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken thousands of lives. Many pet food industry professionals find themselves suddenly working from home to avoid coronavirus contagion. Although ingredient and equipment factories, testing labs and kennels need people, many jobs can be done from the disinfected comfort of home. Finding personal productivity hotspots and learning to use tech effectively can help pet food industry professionals adapt to remote work.

3 tips for achieving work-from-home life balance

The current pandemic is necessitating huge disruptions in the way we work — here’s how you can make things easier.

Even without a pandemic, many of my colleagues and I work from our computers most days. The parent company of Petfood Industry, WATT Global Media is a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), a human resource management strategy developed by the founders of CultureRx. Basically, the ROWE strategy means we are evaluated on our productivity, not the amount of time we stare at a glowing rectangle. We don’t have to work any specific daily schedule, as long as our work is done well and we help others when needed. A ROWE encourages employees to use time efficiently and discourages procrastination, since wasted time during work just means less personal time afterwards. A ROWE gives freedom, but requires responsibility. Along with that, it creates technology challenges. Learn from our experiences with these tips.

  1. Find ideal productivity times and places

Contrary to what cynical intuition may say, most people seem to be more productive while working outside of an office and free of direct, physical supervision. Instead of slacking, I found myself working more hours, since there was never a clear end to the workday. So, I determined hours when I would work with pre-determined stops at certain points. My personal work schedule deviates widely from the nine to five, allowing me to follow my natural productivity rhythms. Throughout the day, I found that some tasks flowed more easily than others did at specific times of the day. Try to find your own work times that suit your natural patterns. Similarly, the spare bedroom might not be your ideal work environment. Various spaces may prove conducive to concentration, while others make mindless tasks fly. Migrating throughout the day helps me keep on pace and reduces monotony. Once you establish those productive times and places, use them to develop routines to structure your days. Family and housemate’s schedules play into this as well. When you need to make phone calls, host meetings or focus on a project, aim for a tranquil time around the homestead.

In a sudden shift to remote work, the days have suddenly lost their familiar rhythms. During that transition period especially, prioritizing tasks avoids blowing precious time on trifles while a major project curdles on the back burner. Keep crucial, but long-term, objectives in mind when planning your calendar.

  1. Use tech to organize and communicate

When starting remote work, your calendar suddenly seems an amorphous suggestion as you transition from office habits to forging your own patterns. Conquering your company’s organizational planner, perhaps a shared Outlook calendar, also helps keep your most productive times safe from meetings. I schedule blocks of time on my company calendar during prime productivity times so meetings won’t be scheduled during that time, or at least I’ll be less likely to be invited to them. Meetings can proliferate when working from home as dispersed co-workers try to keep tabs on a flock of cats. While remote work depends on frequent communication, large group meetings aren’t always the answer, especially when depending on every person’s internet link and computer to behave while using GoToMeeting or similar programs. Instant messaging systems, like Skype, e-mail, text messages and calls can facilitate keeping individuals up to date on details, while keeping several avenues of communication open if a battery dies. No matter what digital platform you hold a meeting on or otherwise use to communicate, be sure you understand how to use it well before you need it. Becoming a power user of digital communication media definitely helps out in remote work. Learning to find tutorial videos can compensate for a natural lack of cyber savvy.

Communication tech, including social media, should help you organize your day and boost productivity, but it can become a pestering parrot squawking, or tweeting, in our ears. Turning off email, social media and other notifications silences that bird and lets you focus. To avoid a missed emergency, establish with your team the best means to contact you in a crisis. Use that method, such as an unplanned phone call, only when it is serious and someone seems otherwise incommunicado.

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COVID-19 questions confronting pet food, other businesses

As pets all over the world have increasingly become full-fledged members of their families, the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting them, too. While we all hunker down at home to help stop the spread of the virus, our pets are providing much-needed comfort, and I imagine they’re happy to have their people around more.

Though completely oblivious to what’s happening in the outside world, my cat, Deacon, is aware of and seemingly content with our suddenly full house. I normally work from home, but with all business travel currently canceled, I’m now here all the time; and I’m joined by my husband working from home for the time being and our daughter abruptly returned from her service in the Peace Corps. Instead of one house buddy all day long, Deacon now has three, and that happened overnight!

Which is the new normal in these unprecedented times, with developments in the crisis coming at warp speed. (I realize this situation is not completely unprecedented if you consider the 1918 flu pandemic, but I don’t think most of us were alive then.) I even received an email from our veterinary hospital announcing a new protocol for pets that absolutely need to be treated: When an owner arrives in the parking lot, they are to call the clinic, and a vet technician will come out to get the pet and take it inside.

Prospects for pet food ingredient supply chains?

Kudos to the vet hospital for trying to protect everyone from contagion while still serving its customers. After all, every business needs to figure out how to stay afloat; for pet food companies, that means ensuring that all those pets keeping us company at home still have healthy pet food to eat. With this crisis affecting the entire globe, supply chain disruptions are a concern and likelihood for every industry, including pet food. I’ve read that some human food companies are worried about food shortages due to lack of farm workers to pick or process crops, livestock and other foodstuffs. How might that affect pet food ingredient supplies?

And what about other ingredients needing to move across borders, as more and more countries and regions close theirs? I know governments are trying to keep trade flowing, but if movement of people is being restricted, having fewer workers could affect movement of goods, too. Do picking crops, processing livestock, transporting cargo and goods, and similar work qualify as “essential activities” in places where lockdowns or shelter-in-place orders are in effect?

In the U.S., a coalition of organizations, spearheaded by the American Feed Industry Association, has sent a letter to state governors urging them to consider animal feed businesses, including pet food companies and facilities, as “essential businesses” needing to stay open even during lockdowns. And, with some good news for pet food, the Pet Food Institute announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released additional guidance on March 19 about essential businesses relating to the COVID-19 crisis, and pet food facilities are included.

Can pet foods get to the consumers who need them?

Similarly, another coalition of pet-related organizations has sent an open letter to federal, state and local government officials asking them to include pet stores as part of the “critical infrastructure” that needs to remain open and accessible. For pet food, concerns are arising about finished products getting to consumers, many of whom are turning even more to e-commerce as they stay put at home.

“Online sales have surged 52% from the year-ago period, and the number of online shoppers has increased 8.8% since the outbreak began, according to SaaS platform provider Quantum Metric report,” read a recent article on Yahoo Finance about overall e-commerce sales. It added that during a 10-day period from late January to early February, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, domestic online retailer experienced 215% year-over-year growth in online grocery sales.

Yet that doesn’t mean manufacturers supplying the products can keep up with the demand. The Yahoo Finance article also noted that retailers like Amazon, Instacart and Walmart offering same-day and next-day delivery services have cautioned about “limited delivery availability” as some shoppers hoard products. Indeed, while Amazon announced recently that it is adding 100,000 workers to ensure shipment of orders, it is also temporarily prioritizing “household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so we can more quickly receive, restock and ship these products to customers,” according to a company blog. Does pet food qualify as a household staple?

And, on which many U.S. pet owners rely for their pets’ food and other necessities, has a notice reading, in part: “Current delivery times are running longer than usual.” I’ve heard anecdotally that people trying to order from the site are finding items out of stock.

Yahoo Finance reported that “44% of retailers expect production delays due to the coronavirus and 40% expect inventory shortages in the near term, per a Digital Commerce 360 survey.” This could affect brick-and-mortar retailers, too, including those offering pet food.

Speaking from personal experience, while stocking up at my local retailers, I noticed that the pet food aisles at Kroger were full of shoppers. I didn’t happen to venture by the same aisles at Walmart, but I did come upon an endcap fully stocked with cat litter. (And yes, I bought a container – we did need it!)

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2nd pet dog tests positive for COVID-19 coronavirus

A second dog tested positive for coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong, reported the South China Morning Post. Doctor’s diagnosed the dog’s owner with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Health officials analyzed oral and nasal swabs from the dog, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, and another dog from the same home in Pok Fu Lam, a residential district of Hong Kong. The German Shepherd’s results confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, but the dog remained asymptomatic. The other dog’s tests came back clean. The dogs remain in quarantine. Hong Kong’ Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department health officials told the South China Morning Post that they believed this to be another case of human-to-dog transmission.

First case of dog testing positive for coronavirus

In late Feb., another dog in Hong Kong, a Pomeranian, tested positive for the presence of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the first worldwide. Health officials used real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to find signs of the virus’s genetic material. This dog also showed no symptoms of COVID-19.

The results were described as a “weak positive” by Hong Kong’ Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The American Veterinary Medical Association stated in a FAQ that no evidence suggests dogs or cats can become sick from this coronavirus. Likewise, the Centers for Disease Control, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organization have no evidence that pets can be a source of SARS-CoV-2 infection or spread COVID-19 to people.

“There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick…,” according to the OIE Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). “While there is no evidence of a COVID-19 infection spreading from one animal to another, keeping animals that test positive for COVID-19 away from unexposed animals should be considered best practice.”

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Feds deem pet food industry vital during COVID-19 pandemic

United States Department of Homeland Security officials defined some dog, cat and other food industry professionals as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic. With that, the federal agency deemed pet food, ingredient and packaging facility workers as necessary for “ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security,” wrote Christopher Krebs, director of U.S. Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in a memorandum released March 19.

“All decisions should appropriately balance public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions,” Krebs wrote.

The memorandum defined and enumerated infrastructure workers needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal memo was not an order or directive. Instead, Homeland Security intended to advise and guide State, local, tribal and territorial governments in their own response strategies.

Pet food processing and other workers needed during pandemic

The Homeland Security memorandum listed various professions related to the pet food industry:

“Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees—to include… pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food… and the production of food packaging.

“Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport…

“Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc…”

2nd pet dog tests positive for COVID-19 coronavirus

A second dog tested positive for coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong, reported the South China Morning Post. Doctor’s diagnosed the dog’s owner with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Health officials analyzed oral and nasal swabs from the dog, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, and another dog from the same home in Pok Fu Lam, a residential district of Hong Kong. The German Shepherd’s results confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, but the dog remained asymptomatic. The other dog’s tests came back clean. The dogs remain in quarantine. Hong Kong’ Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department health officials told the South China Morning Post that they believed this to be another case of human-to-dog transmission.

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