The Diamond Pet Food factory in Dumas runs around the clock. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, hundreds of workers process meat, grains and vegetables into dog kibble, bag the finished product and load it by the ton into semi-trailers awaiting pickup. Trucks rumble through the plant’s front gate day and night to haul Diamond products from this Arkansas Delta town to shelves across North America.
The production of dog food never stops, even in a pandemic. Though dozens of the plant’s roughly 200 employees have fallen ill with COVID-19 in recent months, workers say plant management is committed to maintaining business as usual and has never paused or slowed operations.
Diamond is the largest employer in Dumas, a community of about 4,200 located some 90 miles southeast of Little Rock. Like many towns in the Delta, Dumas has suffered from decades of economic decline and outmigration; the population has shrunk by more than a third since 1980. Unemployment is high and stable jobs are scarce.
Workers at the Dumas plant say Diamond pays decent wages and provides good benefits, a rare thing in a county where 25% of people live below the federal poverty line. But many also believe the company’s approach to COVID-19 is putting them at risk.
“I don’t think they’re really stepping up to the plate,” Eddie Madden, a production supervisor, said in an interview last fall. “It’s sad to say, but right now, they’re putting dog food over everything.”
Many workers said they were not notified when new cases appeared inside the plant, creating a climate of uncertainty and fear about who has been exposed to the virus. “We’re all just on pins and needles because we don’t ever know,” said one woman who works at the factory and is in a high-risk group for COVID-19. “I feel like they’re playing Russian roulette with our lives.” Like many people interviewed for this article, she agreed to speak to a reporter on the condition that her name not be used.
Other workers said plant leaders were reluctant to let them quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19, including two who said they were fired for doing so. Some who became ill said management pushed them to return to work before they fully recovered. And six workers said the plant’s human resources manager obtained their private health information from a local hospital, Delta Memorial, without their permission.
Diamond Pet Food did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Plant manager John Farmer hung up on a reporter when reached by phone.
Over the last four months, the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network interviewed more than a dozen current and former employees at the Dumas plant. The workers occupy roles in many departments: production, shipping, maintenance, sanitation, quality control and management. They are young and old, male and female. Most, but not all, are Black.
One former manager said the Diamond facility was “doing stuff that’s morally wrong” regarding COVID safety. The manager, who resigned in the fall, said Farmer and other plant leaders often would not notify exposed employees when they found out about new cases. Nor would they notify the rest of the management team, he said.
“They would conceal [cases],” he said. “I would know that people [had been] sick when they came back off of quarantine. Or, I would know they had been tested when they came back and told me. … And I’m like, what is going on?”
‘Workers are really on their own’
The Arkansas Department of Health attempts to track clusters of COVID cases in the workplace, publishing a twice-weekly report listing the locations of businesses with five or more active cases. (The Dumas plant appeared on this list twice, both times in October.) But the health department has limited capacity to keep up with such tracking, raising the question of how accurate its occupational data really is. In its most recent report, the department identified just five workplaces in all of Arkansas with five or more active cases. That same day, Jan. 28, there were 17,547 active cases statewide.
The health department has recorded 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the plant as of Jan. 22, according to department spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill. All of the cases are closed, she said, meaning the patients have recovered.
Matt WhiteDELTA TOWN: The Diamond plant is the largest employer in Dumas, a town decimated by decades of economic decline.
However, the former manager said the facility had already surpassed that number by the time he left his job, around three months ago. At that point, he said, the plant had seen 30 to 40 cases in total.
So far, the Dumas factory has been spared an explosive outbreak on the scale that has afflicted some manufacturers, such as many meatpacking plants. (In Arkansas, at least nine poultry processing plants have seen more than 200 cases each since the pandemic began, according to a tracker maintained by the New York Times.) But the experiences of Diamond workers illustrate a broader concern about workplace health and safety standards during the pandemic: Employers largely have been left to do as they please.
State and federal health authorities have issued reams of guidance for employers, covering everything from mask usage to social distancing to quarantine policies. Enforcement, however, is another story. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Trump administration did not issue specific rules for most employers to follow regarding COVID-19, according to Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA official under President Obama and a director at the National Employment Law Project.
OSHA “essentially shut down as an agency” when the pandemic began, Berkowitz said, performing only a tiny fraction of the number of workplace inspections in 2020 that it normally would. “So, workers are really on their own,” she said.
OSHA may take a different tack under the new administration. On Jan. 21, as one of his first acts in office, President Biden signed an executive order directing the agency to increase its enforcement efforts and consider establishing new COVID safety requirements for employers.
In the absence of federal requirements, 14 states have issued what Berkowitz and the National Employment Law Project deemed “comprehensive worker safety protections.” Arkansas is not among them, but Governor Hutchinson has issued executive orders directing Arkansas businesses to follow the state health department’s directives. The health department’s policies for employers include guidelines for how long an employee should quarantine if they have had close contact with an infected person and the process for an employee returning to work after testing positive.
But it is not clear those guidelines are consistently enforced. Health department officials have limited ability to make employers follow its directives, and the state does not inspect most workplaces for compliance. “We seek to inform and educate employers and can consult with anyone to address questions,” McNeill, the health department spokeswoman, wrote in an email in December. The department has never imposed a penalty on a manufacturer for not following COVID guidance or directives, she said.
Kept in the dark
Founded in 1970 in Missouri, Diamond is among the largest manufacturers of pet food in the country. It generated $1.5 billion in revenue in 2019, according to a pet food industry website. Diamond operates five plants (two in California and one each in South Carolina, Missouri and Arkansas) and sells its products under brands such as Taste of the Wild, Professional and Diamond Naturals. It also manufactures pet food sold under labels owned by other companies, including Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland.
Diamond bought the Dumas plant from another pet food manufacturer in 2014, overhauled the facility and began production two years later. The factory now churns out more than 600 tons of pet food every day, according to workers.
Most employees work 12-hour shifts in a massive warehouse where the food is batched, bagged and prepared for shipping. (The kibble itself is milled in a separate building and transported to the main warehouse by conveyor belt.) Unlike in a poultry plant, where workers are often packed tightly together in a line, production workers at Diamond are typically stationed at individual machines spaced more than 6 feet apart, and most parts of the warehouse are well-ventilated, workers said.
Still, occasional face-to-face contact is hard to avoid. Machines often require servicing by the factory’s maintenance crew. Quality control inspectors regularly visit individual workstations. Supervisors and other leaders interact with many workers over the course of a single shift. Sanitation workers rove the building throughout the day and night.
Matt WhiteMADE IN DUMAS: Dog food produced at the plant is distributed across North America, workers say.
One man who tested positive for COVID-19 last summer said plant management failed to tell many of his coworkers that they may have been exposed. “No contact tracing, no precautions or nothing,” he said.
The worker was hospitalized for several days due to complications related to COVID-19, he said, and took it upon himself to contact his coworkers directly while he was there.
“I was texting everybody on that shift when I was in the hospital, saying, ‘Yes, I am positive,’ because I knew [the plant leaders] weren’t going to tell them,” he said. “They should have told everybody. They should have got everybody checked.” The worker said he believed at least three others at Diamond became infected because they were exposed to him before he received the positive test.
When a person tests positive, contact tracers working with the state health department attempt to communicate with the person’s close contacts. But that process is sometimes limited or delayed by a shortage of staff, who at times have been overwhelmed by the massive volume of cases in the state. Contact tracers may not always be able to get in touch with the infected person, and the person may not always provide detailed information about their close contacts. A directive issued by the health department last May requires businesses to “assist [Arkansas Department of Health] staff in conducting contact tracing in their facilities, in order to prevent an outbreak from occurring,” and the department contacts an employer if a cluster of cases is identified in a particular workplace. However, employers are not required to notify all employees in the workplace when a new case appears.
In the months since his positive test, the Diamond worker said, plant management has continued to withhold information about new cases from workers who may have been exposed. When he spoke to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network in early December, the worker said at least one person on the maintenance crew had just tested positive, potentially exposing workers all over the plant.
“The only way we found out was that the maintenance guys on night shift were telling us about it,” he said. “So, you never get [information] from the front office. … You get it from people from the floor.”
The former manager who resigned in the fall said the Dumas plant never developed standards for determining which workers should be notified after a coworker tested positive, resulting in a “totally ad hoc” system.
“They would pick and choose who to notify if at all,” he said.
Multiple workers independently described an incident in early December after the maintenance worker tested positive. Several machine operators who had had their workstations serviced by the worker asked to quarantine when they heard about the new case. Plant management told them to get tested but did not allow them to quarantine while awaiting their results, other workers said.
Madden, the production supervisor, confirmed this account. “The operators who were around [the maintenance worker] — some of them were told they could leave, go get tested and come back to work,” he said.
Others told similar stories. One man said he and four others in his department were told to “come right back to work” after being sent to get tested this fall.
The health department’s quarantine instructions rely on guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say a person who has been exposed to the virus should stay home while awaiting a COVID test result. That person would be placed under home quarantine for 7 days with a negative test, or for 10 days with no test, if they are free of symptoms.
The department directs people to quarantine if they have been in close contact with a COVID-positive person, meaning they were within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes or more. But that leaves plenty of gray area. For example, what if a worker was extremely close to someone for a shorter period of time, or what if the person was not wearing a mask? Employers and employees may not always agree about what constitutes an exposure.
Dr. Richard McMullen, the environmental health director at the health department, said employers and public health workers must balance many factors when trying to determine whether a person has been exposed. Two employees who work on opposite ends of a large building typically would not be considered close contacts, for example. If they eat lunch together every day, that changes things.
“You can’t just take the definition [of close contact],” McMullen said. “It’s a guide.”
Matt WhiteU.S. Highway 65 outside of Dumas
McMullen noted that workers are often alarmed to hear about a new case in the workplace and may wish to quarantine even if they had little or no contact with their infected coworker. The health department encourages anyone who wants a COVID test to get one, he said. But, he added, “if [a worker] just decides he wants to go get tested, that’s not an excuse to miss work, necessarily.”
Two Diamond workers told the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network they were fired for missing work due to concerns over COVID-19 exposure. Donnie Wayne Weston, 41, had worked for Diamond for almost three years as a shuttle driver, hauling empty semi-trailers to the production warehouse to be loaded with bags of food and full ones to be shipped out for delivery. The job involved face-to-face contact with workers all over the plant, he said, as well as with truckers picking up the newly loaded trailers. Last summer, when Weston’s manager told him other employees had tested positive, he decided to quarantine for 14 days against his employer’s wishes.
“I watch the news every morning, and it tells me that there’s people dying from this,” he said. “I took matters into my own hands because they wouldn’t do it.” When Weston came back to work on Aug. 3, he was surprised to find that he’d lost his job. “I feel that I was let go wrongfully,” he said.
Darren Pullings, 32, who worked night shifts as a loader, was fired in late August. Pullings said he missed work because he was feeling unwell and knew of cases among workers he’d had contact with. Like many, he said he believed Diamond was concealing cases, “just so people would keep coming to work.”
Madden, the production supervisor, acknowledged that some workers may try to get out of work by claiming repeated exposures. “You have people who are going to abuse the system,” he said. “Every time someone comes up positive, they’ve been around them, you know?”
But Madden said he’d rather his shift be understaffed than run the risk of spreading the virus. Other supervisors and managers have different standards, he said, sometimes telling employees to keep coming to work even with a fever.
“I’m gonna err on the side of caution. I’d rather be safe than sorry,” he said. “If I’m short, if my crew’s short — at the end of the day, it’s dog food compared to human life.”
Testing and privacy
Six workers said they were first informed of their COVID test results in a phone call from Annette Clark, the HR manager. The workers expressed dismay that their employer seemingly had obtained their personal medical information without their consent. All said they were tested at Delta Memorial Hospital, the only hospital in Dumas.
“They called and told me what my results was,” one worker said. “And I asked the question, ‘Now, how you gonna know before me?’ ” According to the worker, Clark told her that someone at the hospital had called and relayed the test result to Clark.
When reached by phone, Clark refused to comment and said the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network should direct all questions to Diamond’s corporate office. A spokesman for Diamond did not respond to questions about the company’s policy regarding workers’ health privacy.
Another worker said he preemptively told the hospital to not share his test results with Diamond. “When I went in [for a test], they asked me if I wanted my place of work to get that information, and I told them no,” he said. Yet Clark allegedly notified him of his test results by phone each of the multiple times he was tested (all were negative).
“I just think she’s got a friend over there at the hospital,” he said.
Two employees who tested positive for the virus this fall also said Clark notified them of their results. “I got a phone call from her, Ms. Annette Clark, before the hospital called me,” one said, adding that he never signed a release of information.
Delta Memorial Hospital CEO Ashley Anthony said the hospital required patients to sign a release form before sharing information with their employer. “I am unaware of any circumstances of not following this policy,” Anthony said in an email.
When asked about health privacy and COVID testing, the state health department referred a reporter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A spokeswoman for the HHS Office of Civil Rights said in an email that privacy laws allow medical providers to disclose a person’s medical information to an employer without authorization “in very limited circumstances.” The HHS website says that a medical provider must give the worker “written notice that the information is to be disclosed to his or her employer.”
Matt WhiteTHE HOSPITAL: Several workers who were tested for COVID-19 at Delta Memorial Hospital said they were notified of their results by plant management.
Dr. Robert Harrison, an expert in occupational medicine and workplace health standards at the University of California, San Francisco, said patient privacy rules around COVID testing fall into a gray area because the situation created by the pandemic is so extraordinary.
“Employers do have a responsibility to ensure a safe workplace,” he said. “So if they send one of their workers to get tested, the employer does need to know if that worker is positive.” In the absence of clear standards from federal agencies such as OSHA and the CDC, he said, companies have been largely left to make their own rules regarding COVID testing and how results are communicated to the employer.
Still, Harrison said, a medical provider should not send a person’s results to their employer directly. “They should be telling the person first about their test results,” he said. “Workers should not be hearing about their results from their managers first.”
‘I’m not feeling no better’
Several workers who became sick with COVID-19 said plant management wanted them to return to work before they had fully recovered. Nathan Ray, 30, a forklift driver, tested positive in early August and was off work for over a month. During that time, he said, he was pushed to come back to work by Clark, the HR manager, even though he was suffering from shortness of breath, dizziness and confusion. Ray said he refused to do so, partly because he worried he was still contagious.
“I’m like, I’m not feeling no better. I’m feeling worse,” he said in an interview in October. “I’m not fixing to get anybody else sick, because they got kids and wives just like I do.” (Ray returned to work in September.)
Another worker spoke with the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network while she was still sick at home with COVID-19 in the fall. “My headaches are so severe that I can’t deal,” she said. “I’m dizzy, I’m nauseous, I can’t talk loud, I can’t go nowhere.” But, she said, plant management was urging her to return to work. “They want us to do the 14 days and come back to work … no matter how you feel,” she said.
The worker said she was even contacted while she was hospitalized. “They were still calling and saying ‘Are you coming? What’s going on?’ And I was like, ‘I’m in the hospital!’ ”
According to the state’s guidelines, a person with no symptoms can return to work after 10 days have passed since the date of a positive test, but a person should remain isolated if a fever or certain other symptoms persist. For most of the pandemic, an employee was typically not supposed to return to work until cleared to do so with an official release letter by the health department. On Jan. 21, the department abandoned the release letter policy, and it is now up to employers to use the department’s guidance on isolation in determining their own return to work policies.
Berkowitz, the national advocate for workplace safety, said employers’ responses to the pandemic have varied dramatically.
“If you had a workforce that was high wage and unionized, like a lot of the auto industry or the aircraft industry, employers stepped forward and protected workers,” she said. In other industries, such as meatpacking and food processing, “the companies really did not step up in the way they needed to,” she said. Workers in such industries are more likely to be Black or brown, she said, adding to the disparate impact that COVID-19 has had on minority communities. The Dumas plant, like most workplaces in Arkansas, is not unionized.
Some workers noted that Diamond’s position as the largest employer in Dumas gives it leverage over workers, who have few other career options locally. “We’re in southeast Arkansas,” one woman said. “There’s a lot of failing communities about to drop off the face of the earth because there’s no jobs.” She believed Diamond didn’t feel the need to implement stronger safety requirements at the plant partly because so many people in the area are in search of work.
“Don’t dangle my livelihood in the air because you’re not doing right and you want me to be quiet about it,” she said.
McNeill, the health department spokeswoman, said she was not aware of any complaints sent to the health department by Diamond employees. After the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network contacted the health department with questions about Diamond in October, she said, the department reached out to the company and concluded the Dumas plant was “taking appropriate precautions.”
‘Nobody even cares’
Although Diamond has not responded to repeated emails and phone calls from the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, management at the Dumas plant is aware that reporters are asking questions. One Diamond employee shared an email sent by Farmer on Dec. 10 to managers and other staff warning them not to speak to the media. (Most of the interviews conducted for this article were conducted in October, November and early December, before Farmer sent the email.)
“If someone has something to say about how Diamond, Annette or myself are handling the Covid-19 situation, please have them contact Annette or me directly,” Farmer wrote. “We will be glad to share what we are doing and how we handle things in general.”
More than one Diamond employee described feeling disappointed or hurt that the company seemed to be prioritizing production over the safety of its workers during the pandemic.
“You know, being a man, it personally bothers you,” said the worker who was hospitalized for COVID-19 over the summer. “I’m giving my all out here to make this company successful, and then nobody even cares.” He spoke highly of Diamond, noting that it provided excellent benefits and recently paid employees a $1,000 Christmas bonus. But, he said, he felt the company was indifferent when he became sick, despite the fact he’s worked at the plant for many years.
“That’s what’s getting everybody kind of riled up,” he said. “Because it’s like we don’t matter. … It’s like they let you know you’re expendable.”
The former manager who resigned last fall said he was disturbed by what he saw as the lax approach to the pandemic from Farmer, Clark and others running the plant. “I don’t know what their motives were,” he said. “But my opinion is they’re [thinking] ‘Hey, let’s keep the plant running, hell with these people. I ain’t got time to shut down this shift or to bring somebody else in. I ain’t got time for all that shit. Let’s just run this thing.’ ”
Madden, the production supervisor, said he felt “let down” by the company’s response to COVID-19. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “I love my job, love the people I work for.”
He described a conversation he had with Farmer, the plant manager, when cases first started to appear. Madden said Farmer asked him to tell workers that everything was going to be all right at the plant.
“I said, one thing’s for certain and two thing’s for sure: I’m not going to lose the trust I developed with these people over all these years over a lie,” Madden said. “I’m worried about the people out here taking it home to the older people and parents and kids and things of that sort. … This stuff is real.”
This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.
Insect-based pet food news: Mars, Ynsect and Enviroflight
Like the insects themselves that pop up in the spring, the insect-based animal feed ingredient suppliers and the products they use have been active lately. Mars Petcare plans to launch an insect-based cat food, Lovebug, in the UK.
“We source our black soldier fly larvae from Protix in the Netherlands,” a Mars Petcare representative wrote in an email. “The insects we use and the process that the insects and pet food are passed through are all designed to produce safe and nutritious food for your cat. Protix attaches great importance to improving animal welfare. This starts from the breeding phase to the final processing phase. The larvae are well cared for, protected and allowed to express normal insect behavior. Protix is committed to the principles of animal welfare: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or illness, freedom to express normal behavior, freedom from fear and need. “
In addition to taking into account the insect’s well-being and agricultural impacts on ecosystems, Lovebug insect-based cat food packaging aims to reduce resource consumption.
“Lovebug packaging is made of paper and can be recycled through paper recycling streams,” she said. “Paper is collected for recycling through the vast majority of the recycling services provided by the UK Council. Just make sure the bag is empty before you put it in the trash. This guide currently only applies to the UK. “
Latest news on insect-based pet food ingredients
On April 13th, Ÿnsect announced the takeover of Protifarm, a Dutch manufacturer of ingredients for mealworms in Ermelo, east of Amsterdam. The Ϋnsect systems in France produce Protein and oil from mealworms (Tenebrio molitor), which can be used in the pet food industry.
On April 14th, EnviroFlight of Darling Ingredients announced plans to develop a research and development and business center in Apex, North Carolina, USA. The facility will focus on black soldier flies and their larvae. Those responsible at EnviroFlight are planning to start construction in April. They expect the research center for insect-based pet food ingredients to be up and running in early 2022. The facility will conduct research to expand the knowledge base for alternative uses of fly fly larvae (BSFL) in animal health, animal nutrition, cosmetics and other product development areas. EnviroFlight has its first manufacturing facility in Maysville, Kentucky, USA.
The emerging insect-based pet food industry looks at ecology
From previous reports:
Ecologists suggested that insect farms focus on developing ideal sustainability practices before then Ingredient for insect-based pet food The industry is growing too big to change easily. In the meantime, arthropod farmers want to do just that insects fully automated pilot plant in France, where the company produces Protein and oil from mealworms (Tenebrio molitor).
“Why not great from the start?” Åsa Berggren, professor of ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciencessaid. “Think about sustainability now because it is easier than once [insect farms] are already built. “
Berggren and her colleagues wrote a paper identifying areas where emerging insect farming needs more research to establish best practices for sustainability. Trends in ecology and evolution published the paper.
Native insects as a source of protein for pet food
For one, insect farms should be wary of possible environmental impacts from refugees, she said. Faulty insects can become invasive species.
Cattle, carp, horses and pigs started out as domesticated animals in the US but are now causing environmental damage in areas where they have escaped captivity. These invasive species and many other alien plants and animals cost the United States nearly $ 120 billion each year Ecological economy.
“The problem is having non-native insects in abundance,” Berggren said. “So if they escape, they could do serious harm.”
Using native insect species would be a safer choice for farms than raising species that could escape and compete with native insects, she said.
For example, insect and oil producer insectnsect breeds yellow mealworms on an insect basis. These arthropods are native to France and many other regions where they have been bred as fishing bait for decades, said Constant Motte, manager of business development at Ynsect.
Even for native species, escaped insects could cause problems of literally biblical proportions (locusts are edible, by the way).
Thousands of escaped native insects would still cause sudden environmental shock and could cause localized environmental damage, Berggren said.
In the case of mealworms, the age of the insects limits their chances of escape.
“We raise them in narrow buildings and our insects, mostly in the larval phase, cannot escape their shells,” he said. “It’s a fantastic insect that likes to be raised in a high-density social setting and that cannot fly or jump in the larval phase because it has no wings or legs. The risk of escaping from this closed building is insignificant. “
Energy consumption in insect breeding
Raising native insects with maximum security could still harm the environment if the energy used to maintain these facilities comes from fossil fuels. In January, conventional livestock breeding in a Lancet Commission report The environmental and health costs of animal protein production were determined. Instead, the report called for greater consumption of plant-based proteins. Animal welfare advocacy groups such as the American Feed Industry Association rejected the report.
Beyond the debate, however, the resources used to produce protein from animals have an impact on both the environment and the economy. Insects can offer a solution to this dilemma because of their potentially much lower resource requirements than mammals and poultry. At the same time, insects can provide a healthy selection of proteins and amino acids, as well as other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids.
“Some studies have been done and insects are much better than cows and pigs,” Berggren said. “We can eat anything for the insects tested, in contrast to cows where we eat more or less only half the animal … Insects can eat things that humans and other animals cannot eat.”
Still, the resources used to raise insects need further study in order to find the optimal way to produce the most insect-based pet food ingredients with the least amount of fuel and feed, she said.
Ϋnsect grows mealworms on safe, controlled plant by-products that are not primarily intended for human consumption, Motte said.
“Insect expertise includes mealworm physiology to develop a specific diet blend that allows as little food as possible to be used for every kilo of mealworm,” he said. “The Molitor are known to be very energy efficient and retain protein from nutritious feed.”
Ϋnsect also tries to use as little energy as possible when processing these mealworms into protein and oil.
“The energy used to process the insects is very similar to making premium fishmeal,” said Motte. “The main differences are the protein source and the extraordinary freshness of the transformation process, as our insect larvae are transformed immediately after the bleaching process. similar to the shrimp industry.
“An important advantage of our technology is that there is no waste,” he said. “The whole larva is used.”
Even the excrement of the insects, called frass, can be used.
Renewable energy and fertilizer from the production of insect proteins
As Mad Max found out in Beyond Thunderdrome, pig manure can be used to generate energy from biogas.
Insect food can also be fermented into methane biogas, said Motte.
While methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, fully burned biogas can be climate-friendly as it does not release methane that is stored in old reservoirs.
“There is currently strong support in the EU for generating more biogas and bioenergy,” said Motte. “Frass could be used in this regard.
“The other option is to use Frass as a great organic fertilizer to bring organics back into the soil. We can then store carbon and create a stable humus that is needed for the fertility of agricultural soils.
“Ultimately, the use would depend on the energy mix in each country,” said Motte. “In France, where energy is heavily decarbonised by nuclear and hydropower, the use of fertilizers makes a lot of sense. In other countries where coal is the main source of energy, it could be environmentally relevant to use a mix of biogas and fertilizer applications. “
In view of this and other environmentally positive potentials of insect breeding, Berggren said she did not want to beat the industry. Instead, she is calling for more research to make sure the burgeoning bug business starts on the right foot, or in this case, half a meter.
Source * www.petfoodindustry.com – * https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/10196-insect-based-pet-food-news-mars-ynsect-and-enviroflight
Canada tops US pet food exports 2020; China, Mexico up
Canada imported the Great Dane’s share of pet food from the US in 2020, with the value of any other country more than double that. U.S. pet food exports to Canada topped $ 800 million for the first time in 2020 and rose from around $ 600 million in 2015. Victoria Broehm, communications director for the American Feed Industry Association, shared this and other data on the U.S. Census Bureau -Pets with food exports.
Top 6 US Pet Food Export Markets By Value
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
Overall, U.S. pet food exports increased 5.6% in 2020 compared to 2019, from $ 1.62 billion to $ 1.7 billion.
“While US pet food exports increased in 2020, growth was slower than in 2019, when exports increased 11%,” Broehm said.
This growth in 2019 and 2020 continued the trend of increasing the export value of pet food over the past decade. In 2010, US pet food exports were $ 1.1 billion. While the pandemic may have changed the growth trajectory of pet food exports, this long-term growth trend could continue.
“As economies begin to recover and unemployment begins to fall, the rate of growth in US pet food exports could pick up somewhat,” she said. “Pet food is viewed as a luxury item in many countries, especially those where pet ownership or feeding complete pet foods are relatively new.”
In Mexico, as in other Latin American pet food markets, the humanization of pets continues to drive the premiumization of pet food, and U.S. pet food exports to Mexico have steadily increased in value over the past five years. Last year, US dog, cat and other pet food exports to China increased under the US-China Phase 1 Economic and Trade Agreement signed in January 2020. Under the deal, US pet food exports to China increased 197% from $ 10.9 million to $ 32.6 million.
Export of pet food in phase one
For China’s estimated 55 million pet dog and 44 million pet cat market, the Phase 1 agreement lifted an ingredient ban for ruminants and a related requirement for their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. The deal lifted a ban on products containing certain poultry ingredients. It can also reduce delays in registering pet food businesses in China by removing an audit requirement. However, China is maintaining US pet food tariffs and the complexity of product registration remains.
On June 15, a protocol to the US-China Phase 1 Economic and Trade Agreement, which the two countries signed in January, entered into force. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Phytosanitary Inspection (APHIS) and their Chinese counterparts have reached an agreement on the certificate language for U.S. pet food entry into the Chinese pet food market. This agreement enabled the development of a set process for exporting US pet food to China.
Developed by APHIS, this protocol facilitates the export of US pet foods containing ingredients derived from ruminants, a relic of the fear of the prion disease, mad cow disease. In the event that another animal disease breaks out, the protocol contains provisions on how poultry products can continue to be safely used in animal feed in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza or Newcastle disease. The trade agreement also removes procedural barriers such as questionnaires and facility audits.
Steps to Export U.S. Pet Food to China
US pet food companies will benefit greatly from the trade deal, said Peter Tabor, vice president of regulatory and international affairs for the pet food institute. He outlined three steps U.S. pet food companies can take in the short term.
- Review the trade agreement and APHIS protocol
- Schedule an APHIS inspection and get approved
- Start the product registration process in China
He recommended pet food companies act now if they want to export to China as the registration process is likely to take months. There can be a steep learning curve with the first products, but it should be much smoother than before once companies get the hang of it.
‘New’ Natural Balance’s first moves may offer market clues| PetfoodIndustry.com
When JM Smucker announced in December 2020 that it was selling its Natural Balance pet food business to investment firm Nexus Capital Management, I suspected (I’m sure it’s a super premium, traditionally animal specialty brand) didn’t quite match Smucker’s others Pet food brands featured on many channels.
In a recent interview with my colleague Tim Wall, Brian Connolly, now CEO of Natural Balance, confirmed this impression. “We’re targeting the pet specialty channel,” Connolly said. “That species got a little lost when it was owned by a large consumer goods company that was used to having brands that were widely used. Natural Balance in the Smucker portfolio was a bit orphaned in that sense. ”
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Connolly’s comments was, “We have absolutely no intention of going into the masses with this brand. This is a specialty brand for pets, and this is where we will continue to put our investments and energies. ”
Given how pet food distribution channels have changed and blurred over the past five to ten years, it is remarkable for an established brand to plant its flag and focus primarily on one channel, particularly one that traditionally is the The core or even the only home of Superpremium was pet food brands. Are there any indications of a possible resurgence of this channel, as well as other directions the pet food market could head?
The stationary pet specialty still has strong potential
Like most consumer goods companies, Natural Balance responded to the pandemic herd of many consumers on e-commerce and was successful in that channel too. In another interview with Dean Best of just-food.com, Connolly estimated that e-commerce now accounts for 25% to 30% of the company’s sales.
Nevertheless, the company also sees a robust future in the stationary pet specialty. To that end, Connolly’s new leadership team includes industry veterans with significant experience who work for retailers like Petco, PetSmart and Chewy, he said.
Connolly is a seasoned industry veteran himself. He founded Castor & Pollux, one of the first organic pet food lines in the world, and was a member of the board of directors of Merrick Pet Care after the acquisition of Castor & Pollux. Previously, he also held executive positions at Darford and Iams. So he knows the evolution of the industry and its brands and retail channels, which probably helps to gain insight into how the market will evolve further.
Connolly told Best that he believes pet food e-commerce “will continue on a structurally higher level than it would have without COVID-19,” but does not see the same level of online sales growth after the pandemic ahead. In-store shopping will be back in effect when life returns to normal (whatever that will be). “People who like to go out and shop and see different products and talk to the experts in pet stores will do that again,” said Connolly.
Hot pet food trends: herbal products
The new team at Natural Balance wasted no time introducing new products and launched a new Targeted Nutrition line for dog and cat food in early April 2021. The line consists of four formulations and meets many current trends and issues in pet food and functional ingredients. including prebiotics, joint and bone health, and overweight / obesity in pets. Connolly told Best that the company still has “ownership” of limited ingredient diets and identified Natural Balance as a pioneer in this category.
And in potentially another leadership position, Connolly said the company “has in mind the growing interest of dog and cat owners in plant-based foods.” In fact, Natural Balance has long had a vegetarian formulation for dogs, and Connolly said Best that when he and Nexus considered acquiring the company, they were surprised that sales were among the company’s highest for the three sizes of this product.
On that foundation and increasing customer focus, he said Natural Balance wanted to expand in this segment and join other pet food brands in order to stay ahead in a potential emerging segment.
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