Product Quality

One of the most frequently asked questions in our business is around our supply chain. Our products contain an array of different ingredients, from different sources. In this article we discuss what ingredients are used in pet food, the regulation around using different ingredients, how wild products are harvested to ensure ingredient quality is high and how customers can be confident that our food processing regulation and operations ensure high quality through the production process.

HOW PET FOOD IS REGULATED IN NEW ZEALAND

Producing pet food is a regulated activity within New Zealand and there are laws in place that govern how it can be manufactured and who can manufacture it. The regulator responsible for enforcing this is the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). In addition to complying with any laws and MPI requirements, Raw Essentials and our suppliers are members of the New Zealand Pet Food Manufacturers Association (NZPFMA), which through collective effort helps to ensure all producers are held to a high standard to protect the reputation of the industry both domestically and internationally. Our customers (and their pet’s) can be confident that Raw Essentials products are manufactured to a high quality and are subject to these strict regulations, including: ingredient traceability, sanitation, cleanliness, inspection for quality, staff training, temperature control, bacterial contamination and so on.

NOT JUST ANY INGREDIENT CAN BE USED IN PET FOOD

Both ourselves and our contract manufacturing suppliers are required by law to have full product traceability, and to only procure product from regulated suppliers (for example, procuring from abattoirs who are also registered and regulated by MPI). This means that all product coming into our sites as an ingredient comes either from a regulated meat plant, or from a registered hunter (and is then in turn processed in a regulated meat plant). This all makes sure that when a raw material is used as an ingredient in pet food production, it has originated from a source that is subject to regulatory scrutiny (i.e. operating rules, audits etc).

The vast majority of our product is coming in as human grade (>75%) with the major item that isn’t technically human grade being the harvested wild animals (and this is because wild harvested product regulation differs in pet food vs human food consumption, although often the operators are producing for both markets). The other type of product that comes from non-human consumption sources is product direct from pet food only operators - this product typically is tripe from a regional abattoir (which has no human consumption market, therefore the plant is not regulated as such). However, nothing sold as pet food is allowed to be marketed as ‘human grade’ even though it is what is being sold in a human grade setting (for example, butchers and smallgoods manufacturers will often blend hearts into sausages).

RULES IN PLACE TO ENSURE QUALITY IS MAINTAINED WITH WILD PRODUCTS

MPI, in conjunction with the NZPFA, has developed the “Operational Code for Petfood Processing: Harvesting and Processing of Hunted Animals”. This document fully outlines the requirements in place to ensure that only poison-free wild animals are used as ingredients in pet food. This is available on the MPI website. In addition, MPI and the NZPFA have jointly developed a booklet, “Harvesting Hunted Animals for Petfood Training Booklet”, which is based on the requirements in that Operational Code and expands on the requirements described in the Code. An overview of the requirements (to ensure product safety to the consumer) includes:

Audit / Training

  • Anyone intending to harvest wild animals for pet food must study both publications and have had to pass an examination “Harvesting Hunted Animals for Petfood Examination” that demonstrates their knowledge of wild animal harvesting legislation in New Zealand.
  • As part of regular audits of pet food operators, MPI is particularly focused on ensuring paperwork is accurate and all processes have been followed.

Traceability

  • All harvesters are required to obtain a signed “Landowner / Manager Poison Use Statement – Petfood”, which requires the Landowner or Manager of the area to be harvested to attest to the use of poisons in that area. When there are new poison drops our hunters will have to stop sourcing wild product from specific areas. There are also buffer zones in place, where there is a margin of safety for harvesting any wild animals, around poison drop zones. All harvesters (hunters) are also required to sign a “Hunted Animal Material Supplier Statement – Petfood” that confirms that these poison-free requirements have been met.
  • Both these forms must accompany the harvested wild animals when delivered to the petfood operator. GPS of where the animal was killed is required and the pet food plant will then check paperwork against known ‘no kill zones’ for pet food (for example, in areas known to contain TB)

Maintaining ingredient quality

  • Wild animals must be gutted as soon as possible after shooting. A processor will not accept a gut-in animal. This ensures sanitation of the animal and prevents bacteria spreading
  • Wild animals must be cooled as soon as possible after harvesting – if the air temperature is > 10 degrees then they must be refrigerated within 4 hours. If it is lower the hunters have 12 hours to get the carcasses to refrigeration
  • If refrigeration is between 0-7 degrees then the product must be at the processor within 72 hours, however if it is frozen (to -12 degrees) then hunters have a longer time allowance. Note that in many areas our suppliers (or their hunters, depending on their level of professionalism) will set up freezer or chiller units in the backcountry, so that harvesting and storage can occur over a number of days.

Meat inspection/Disease

    • At the processing plant, the organs must be left in the animal and an inspection takes place to confirm how the animal died and if it was healthy at the time of death (i.e. no poisons, disease). All processors of wild animals must have staff inspecting the animals who are post and ante mortem qualified (an Assure Quality standard) and this includes specific training on how to inspect an animal for poisoning and diseases such as tuberculosis (TB).
    • As an example TB control in wild animals is something that requires management:
      • TB control in pet food is essentially the same as human food (the disease can be present in wild animals such as deer and possums), with two exceptions: a) pet food has an added control of a vector restriction on where animals can be hunted from; b) for human consumption a vet is required to do the carcass inspection, whereas in pet food the carcass inspection takes place by a qualified inspector.
      • Pet food inspectors are required in all primary processing plants and typically a company has these skills within their team. The pet food inspection qualification is through Assure Quality (Post and Ante Mortem) and requires annual check ups and ongoing training.
      • TB should be easy to spot in the organs of an infected animal. The presence of the disease itself does not mean the rest of the carcass needs to be wasted - with human consumption wild product the impacted area of meat can be cut out and the rest of the carcass sold provided the inspection is passed on the rest of the carcass (whereas the whole carcass would be discarded in the case of pet food).

WHAT INGREDIENTS DO WE USE?

The above graphic simply captures our philosophy around ingredient selection and pet food formulation. Raw feeding our cats and dogs involves emulating a prey meal as closely as possible. At Raw Essentials, we aim to provide meat, bone, organs and green tripe in approximate prey proportions relative to them eating whole prey. Typically this is in the form of minced mixes and whole raw meaty bones. We recommend a good variety of prey sources, at least 3-4 different species per week. You can read about balancing a raw diet here.

One of the most commonly asked questions we get from customers is: “what is the difference between Raw Essentials product and processed products on the shelf in the supermarket or a specialist store? Don’t you use the same Chicken, Lamb etc?”

The main differences boil down to ingredients and processing.

  • Real Meat vs. Meat Meal: At Raw Essentials we use whole meat like chicken and lamb, with bits you can actually see. Processed food often uses "meat meal," a leftover product from rendering various animal parts (you can read more about rendering here).
  • Fresh vs. Cooked: We keep things minimal, leaving the ingredients raw. Processed food gets cooked, canned, or extruded, which can affect the nutrient quality of the food and how well your pet absorbs the nutrients.
  • Simple vs. Packed with Extras: You won't find additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients in a Raw Essentials product. Processed food might contain these extras for shelf life, palatability or texture.

Most main brand (including many ‘premium’) pet foods sold in New Zealand contain some form of Meal in their products - check the ingredients label. It’s also worth checking labels for additives, preservatives, gelling agents and other synthetic ingredients in your pet’s food - none of which you will find in Raw Essentials products.

The advantage of this approach to ingredient selection and processing is:

  • More Natural Diet: Mimics what pets would eat in the wild (the evolutionary approach to nutrition); and

Better Nutrient Absorption: Less processing means more natural vitamins and enzymes are available for your pet.

WILL MY PET BE SAFE EATING RAW FOOD?

We recommend following our principles of raw feeding and here are our food safety tips to help avoid the potential pitfalls of raw feeding. Whilst our food is not sterile, our ingredient quality and food handling minimises any potential pathogens.

SUMMARY

There are a number of checks and balances in place with regard to pet food regulation within New Zealand. But adherence to the established rules along with a desire by manufacturers to keep lifting the game in regard to quality and standards within the processing plant and the ingredients used in manufacturing pet food is something consumers need to assess and ‘look beyond the marketing’. In addition, if a product is being imported from a foreign country, consideration for conditions in that country and the source of the ingredients needs close scrutiny from pet parents. Choosing a brand with a local, transparent supply chain is a great defence against potential uncertainty.

Cart

You have no items in your cart, add some on the products page.