LINCOLN, NEB. — Around 90 pet food industry representatives attended a two-day raw pet food workshop, held March 15 and 16 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Innovation Center. The workshop, sponsored by Hiperbaric, Universal Pure, Parker Freeze Dry and the UNL Food Processing Center, focused on highlighting high pressure processing (HPP) and freeze drying technologies used for the production of raw pet food and treats. The goal of the event was to bring together industry experts to discuss the latest trends, innovations and best practices in raw pet food processing.

“We are thrilled with the response and participation we received for this workshop,” said Grace Danao, Ph.D., UNL research associate professor.

Participants represented 41 companies and organizations from the pet food industry including pet processors Mars Petcare, Nestlé Purina, Blue Buffalo, Stella & Chewy's, Steve's Real Food, The Farmer's Dog, OC Raw Dog, Spot & Tango, and Green Juju.

“It was a great opportunity for industry professionals to come together and share their knowledge and expertise in the field of raw pet food processing,” said Roberto Peregrina, director for Hiperbaric USA.

Attendees of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Innovation Center raw pet food workshopSource: University of Nebraska-Lincoln 

The workshop covered topics including HPP, freeze drying, water activity, product shelf life, food safety regulations, market trends and best practices. Tony Moses, Ph.D., director of product innovation and fellow at Kansas City, Mo.-based CRB, opened the workshop with a presentation about industry trends including information from CRB’s Horizons: Pet Food report. Vinicio Serment-Moreno, Ph.D., HPP applications and food processing specialist at Hiperbaric, highlighted HPP technology and how it’s used in pet food processing operations. Matt Graunke, sales and marketing manager with Winsted, Minn.-based Parker Freeze Dry, discussed freeze drying fundamentals.

“The conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn from the leading experts in freeze drying and HPP and to test HPP feasibility with our products using the pilot plant equipment,” said Reed Taylor, vice president of manufacturing for Spot & Tango. “These learnings will help us with innovating new high-quality products for our customers.”

Later in the day, following technology demonstrations in the Food Processing Center, Steven Moore, Ph.D., vice president of food safety, quality and innovation at Petsource by Scoular, shared how his company is utilizing HPP as a core component in its freeze-dried pet food operation. Tom Woodward, chief commercial officer at Universal Pure, highlighted the opportunities the HPP service provider offers pet food processors to outsource HPP for raw and freeze-dried pet food.

Other presentations during the workshop included “How Water Activity Benefits the Pet Food Industry,” presented by Zachary Cartwright, Ph.D., food scientist and isotherm application specialist with AQUALAB, and “Process Validation and Shelf-Life Studies” presented by UNL’s Danao and Franklin Sumargo, research technologist.

In addition to ample networking opportunities, lectures and pilot plant demonstrations in UNL’s Food Processing Center, the workshop included the opportunity for some attendees to visit the Petsource by Scoular pet food plant in Seward, Neb., and the Universal Pure HPP tolling plant in Lincoln. Visitors who attended the tours were able to see the technology featured in the workshop firsthand.

“The UNL Pet Food Workshop was jam-packed with thought-provoking presentations,” said Nicole Lindsley, owner of Steve’s Real Food. “Not only did the sessions kickstart some new ideas for our organization, but it opened us up to networking opportunities that will help us improve efficiency and put new practices in place.”

All workshop materials, including recorded presentations, are available to attendees on NU Advance, the University’s course delivery platform for online non-credit and professional development offerings. Anyone who did not attend the workshop, but is interested in accessing the information, can enroll for $300.

Read more about pet food and treat industry events.