Food safety was the top priority when this Canadian manufacturer built its first United States pet food facility in Auburn, Ky. in 2016.
As the maker of ORIJEN and ACANA premium pet food brands, Champion Petfoods made food safety the guiding principle for its DogStar kitchen, built in 2016 as the company’s first United States processing facility, in Auburn.
From Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification in its first year of operation to winning the first-ever Global Markets Award from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) to receiving a national design-build award for Lexington, Kentucky-based Gray from the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) to winning the Kentucky Governor’s award for global trade, the accolades keep flowing as does the pet food and treat production at the 371,000-sq.-ft. facility on an 85-acre site, of which 30 acres are devoted to kitchen operations.
To produce a high volume of pet food and treats safely, Champion implemented a long list of design parameters and safety protocols, some of which are not typically seen in companion animal manufacturing facilities.
To start, no street shoes are allowed in the plant. Company-provided shoes stay at the plant for employees and guests are issued shoes when touring the facility. Plus, separate work boots are provided for those entering and exiting the fresh/pre-cook ingredient area. Physical entry and exit barriers between zones require hand washing and automated shoe sanitation.
Fresh ingredients for both freeze-dried products and kibble enter the fresh ingredient area, which is maintained at a specific low temperature. All ingredients, whether fresh or dry, are tested before they are unloaded. In the temperature-controlled pre-cook room, rows of totes with fresh protein ingredients are ready for batching. Large mixers blend the fresh ingredients for each batch.
Champion’s strict adherence to maintaining pre-cook and post-cook separation throughout DogStar drove a unique custom feature in the extrusion room in which the extruder barrel extends through the wall. The space where the extruder barrel passes through the wall is protected by a boot that clamps down on the pipe and seals the pre-cook room from the post-cook room. The section of pipe that passes through the wall can swivel out to be cleaned.