Petsource by Scoular offers a one-stop shop for freeze-dried production.
In 2019, Scoular introduced plans for a new $55 million manufacturing facility in Seward, Neb. The resulting facility became Petsource by Scoular, a wholly owned subsidiary. The facility boasts extensive capabilities, including procurement, blending, meat processing, freeze drying and finished product packaging, making Petsource by Scoular a true co-manufacturing powerhouse for freeze-dried pet food ingredients.
Production starts with frozen proteins and dry ingredients, which enter the receiving area of the plant. Petsource uses beef, poultry and fish within its pet food ingredient products, which are mostly sourced from Midwest suppliers located within 200 miles of the facility. Localized sourcing and production helps ensure high quality and aids in Petsource’s quick process.
Production begins with raw materials and ingredients entering the plant, which are pre-weighed for raw processing and blending following extensive pathogen testing. Product is extruded into casings and later packaged and shipped offsite for high pressure processing by Universal Pure, located just 30 minutes away from Petsource.
Once Petsource receives product back from Universal Pure, chubs are placed into coolers until they reach the appropriate temperature. Then product is removed from casings, conveyed to the grinder , and pumped into the forming system to be dispensed into various shapes.
Following forming and dicing, product is then conveyed to a spiral freezer and later discharged into totes before moving onto the next stage: freeze-drying. Petsource strives to minimize operator product handling to ensure quality and safety.
Product from these totes are then deposited into hoppers and weighed before discharging them onto freeze-dryer trays. Operators then enter the picture, hand-loading each tray onto trolleys and then loading them into the final freeze-dryer. Once the final freeze-drying stage is complete, trolleys then move product on to packaging.
To ensure food safety throughout production, Petsource is divided into two sides: one for raw, colored red, and another for ready-to-eat (RTE), colored gray. Color-coding is represented throughout every aspect of the facility, from the flooring to the clothing operators wear. Worker areas are also color-coded to prevent any possible product contamination.
The freeze-drying process protects the nutrition and taste of pet food ingredients while also extending shelf-life and food safety of the formula without relying on added preservatives. This creates a format that is growing in popularity among consumers who are seeking more nutrient-dense, high-protein, raw formulations.
Each freeze-dry cycle is unique to the product’s formula designed by Petsource’s research and innovation team, which includes Amy Tesinksy, research and innovation manager, pictured here. Tesinksy provides Petsource with pet food R&D expertise from her career experience in product development and animal nutrition.
Petsource by Scoular’s facility features six main production lines: raw meat blending, ingredient blending, forming and dicing, freeze-drying, bulk packaging and retail pouch packaging. The facility is home to 63,000 square feet of processing space, 5,000 square feet of packaging space, 25,000 square feet of warehousing space, seen here, and 12,000 square feet of office space.
Customers are given the opportunity to work with Petsource’s innovation team to fine-tune existing recipes or develop new ones from scratch. To develop formulations, Petsource relies on its food safety, quality and research and innovation teams, which operate an R&D lab and scaled-down test kitchen.
Lab technicians develop and test new recipes in a scaled-down laboratory, which features a small-grinder, mixer and mini freeze-dryer, so product can be fully tested and analyzed before being scaled up for full production. The lab also analyzes nutrient content to ensure AAFCO guidelines are followed.
Just one year after Petsource began its operations, Scoular announced plans for a $75 million expansion. An additional 60,000-square-feet will be added to the existing facility, tripling its freeze-drying production capacity in order to meet growing customer demand. Operation for the expansion is expected to begin in late spring of 2023, with full capacity production estimated by mid-winter 2023.